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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

China biofuel policy may be in conflict with food security objectives

Platts Singapore (Platts)--28Mar2011/236 am EDT/636 GMT

The United States Department of Agriculture says China's food security objectives may clash with its energy independence and environmental objectives, limiting the development of biofuels, according to the latest publication by the US International Trade Commission.

The study, titled China's Agricultural Trade: Competitive Conditions and Effects on US Exports says the development of China's biofuels industry affects China's agricultural production mix as it diverts output away from human and animal consumption into use as a fuel and contributes to increased imports of feedstock sources. China is the world's second largest corn-producing country, using the grain primarily for animal feed, and ethanol production and prior to 2010, it imported very little corn.

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Biomass pellets drawing interest of farmers seeking to curb rising fuel costs

herald& (Decatur, IL) By CHRIS LUSVARDI - H&R Staff Writer Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 12:01 am Biomass pellets drawing interest of farmers seeking to curb rising fuel costs DECATUR - With the cost of fuel an increasing concern, farmers are among those looking for ways to save on expenses. One cost-saving method that has caught the interest of an increasing number of farmers is making biomass pellets to be used for heating purposes. A meeting organized by the nonprofit Decatur-based Agricultural Watershed Institute on Tuesday at Rock Springs Nature Center addressed how alternative fuel sources can benefit farmers in particular. "We've got some good processes in place," said Andrew Clarkson, a Macon County hay producer who makes pellets as part of the Local Bioenergy Initiative. "We're going to keep plugging away at it." Read more

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Qteros CEO John McCarthy offers space in new Chicopee plant for biofuel start-ups

Boston Business Journal The Republican Published: Saturday, March 26, 2011, 1:34 PM Updated: Saturday, March 26, 2011, 11:35 PM By KYLE ALSPACH, Boston Business Journal With the major costs associated with proving out new biofuels technologies, John McCarthy says he’s seen a number of Massachusetts startups in the space enticed to do larger-scale work in other states. McCarthy, CEO of Marlborough-based cellulosic ethanol firm Qteros Inc., wants to help remediate that with his company’s new fermentation facility in Chicopee, expected to open during the second quarter. The company plans to use just about a third of the 15,000-square-foot facility for itself, and believes the rest should be developed for use by other Bay State biofuels firms - ideally with state government backing. Read more

Key plant traits yield more sugar for biofuels

University of California Riverside March 28, 2011 RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( -- New clues about plant structure are helping researchers from the Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center narrow down a large collection of poplar tree candidates and identify winners for future use in biofuel production. Led by Charles Wyman of the Bourns College of Engineering’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology at the University of California, Riverside, a research team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and UCR determined that the amount and composition of lignin in the plant’s cell wall interact in an unanticipated way to influence release of sugar from the plant. The research was published as “Lignin content in natural Populus variants affects sugar release,” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more

Biological Nanowires expedite future fuel production

Arizona State University March 28, 2011 Scientists in the UK and US, including researchers at Arizona State University, have been awarded $10.3 million to improve the photosynthetic process as a means of producing renewable fuel. This award will permit four transatlantic teams, one directed by ASU’s Assistant Professor Anne Jones in the department of chemistry and biochemistry, to investigate methods to overcome the limited efficiency of photosynthesis. This will lead to ways of significantly increasing the yield of important crops for food production or sustainable bioenergy. Ensuring a stable energy supply is the central challenge of the 21st century. Read more

Report aims to increase biogas use

The Business Journal (Milwaukee) Date: Monday, March 28, 2011, 11:37am CDT The Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative Monday released a new report that explores options to increase electricity production using biogas, a renewable fuel produced from manure crops and food waste. There are 31 operating biogas digesters in Wisconsin and 151 nationwide, according to the report. The digesters convert waste into a gas that can be burned to generate electricity. Beyond being a renewable energy source, converting manure from Wisconsin’s herds into biogas reduces odors, produces ammonium, a primary component in fertilizer, and could improve cleanliness of state waterways, the report stated. Read more

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Auto lobbyists want less ethanol allowed in gasoline

USA Today Mar 25, 2011, 08:33 AM By James R. Healey, USA TODAY A lobbying organization representing foreign-brand car companies has asked the government to require that E10 fuel continue to be sold, even though the feds have approved E15, a blend of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. Automakers and power-equipment companies say the higher concentration of ethanol -- usually made from corn -- can damage engines over time and that government tests showing otherwise weren't thorough. Some environmentalists also object to diverting grains from the food chain for use as fuel. Read more

Brazil May Import U.S. Ethanol After Rule Change, Folha Says

Bloomberg By Iuri Dantas - Mar 26, 2011 7:37 AM CT Brazil may import ethanol from the U.S. in the short term in a bid to contain rising prices, Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported, citing a decision by the oil regulator. Brazil’s oil regulator allowed an increase in the amount of water in ethanol to 1 percent from 0.4 percent, to conform to U.S. specifications and allow imports, the newspaper said. Brazil may import ethanol from the U.S. until April 30, when the sugarcane harvest begins, the newspaper said. Read story

Biomass-Powered Ethanol Plants

Biomass Power & Thermal By Lisa Gibson March 21, 2011 A growing number of U.S. ethanol plants are reaping the benefits of using biomass for power. The demand for ethanol with a lower carbon footprint seems to be spurring a movement in which ethanol plants are using biomass to power their operations. The lower carbon score of the manufacturing process can make the ethanol product itself more attractive, according to Mike Jerke, general manager of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. The Benson, Minn.-based ethanol plant produces about 46 million gallons annually and, when the price of natural gas is high, powers itself with corncobs and wood chips. The company is also in the process of permitting the system for sunflower hull feedstock. “If you can replace petroleum sources with something renewable, that gives you an end product that has more value in places like California, where they’re concerned about the carbon index score of the fuel they’re buying,” Jerke says. Read more

Monday, March 28, 2011

Using federal incentives to drive biomass supply chain dynamics

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Bryan Sims March 24, 2011

The idea of becoming an active participant in the biomass supply chain to provide feedstock for biorefineries and power plants may be difficult to grasp for many suppliers on the outside looking in.

Timothy Baye, a business development professor at the University of Wisconsin-Extension, is actively engaged in such contracts and will share his expertise at the 2011 International Biomass Conference & Expo, May 2-5 in St. Louis. Baye will discuss how relationships can work if both parties perform proper due diligence, and both are open to understanding how available federal incentives can be leveraged to gain maximum return on investment.

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Research into switchgrass rust resistance gene funded

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson March 24, 2011

Researchers at Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State University and Iowa State University have discovered potential rust resistant genes in switchgrass cultivars.

An assistant professor of horticulture at Virginia Tech has been awarded a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop and deploy rust fungus resistant genes and monitor the pathogen in switcghrass. It’s the second monetary award his research into rust-resistance has earned him.

Bingyu Zhao and his research colleagues at Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State University and Iowa State University discovered potential rust resistance genes in several switchgrass cultivars from their large germplasm. The researchers will now work to enhance their ability to genetically identify rust resistance genes and associate those genes with molecular markers. They will also develop a system for functional analysis of putative rust resistance genes in switchgrass; and analyze the DNA of the switchgrass rust pathogen to determine the structure and dynamics of rust populations across the country, according to Virginia Tech.

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Argonne National Lab, Nalco ink technology license agreement

Ethanol Producer Magazine By Bryan Sims March 25, 2011 The U.S. DOE's Argonne National Laboratory and industrial processing firm Nalco Co. struck a licensing agreement for a novel electrodeionization technology that can be integrated into biorefineries to convert biomass into fuels and chemicals. According to Seth Snyder, Argonne biochemical engineer whose group led the development of the technology, the patented separation technique allows for the deionizing, or the continuous removal, of charged products like organic acids, such as succinic acid or lactic acid, from aqueous streams and eliminates the requirement to continuously add neutralizing agents like lime. This, Snyder said, is a dramatic improvement over conventional bioprocessing technologies that typically require significant capital expenditure on energy-intensive steps to recover bioproducts, while generating large volumes of waste streams. Read more

China's search for clean fuel leads to W.Va. univ.

The Associated Press March 24, 2011, 10:33AM ET

China is turning to West Virginia University for cleaner, affordable, domestic option for transportation fuel.

WVU Chemical Engineer Elliot Kennel is leading a team that will be conducting experiments to convert biomass and coal to transportation fuel. The project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and using equipment donated by a Chinese energy business enterprise called Lu'an Group.

Officials with WVU's US-China Energy Center say China is planning to use coal-to-liquids technology to lessen its dependence on foreign oil. China has one of the world's fastest growing automotive markets.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Scientists earn their bread, discover a new yeast

By Jeanna Bryner
Managing editor
updated 3/23/2011 4:31:27 PM ET 2011-03-23T20:31:27

A new type of yeast sporting spores with rings around their centers, a la the planet Saturn, has come out of hiding in a cloud forest in Ecuador, researchers recently announced.

Yeasts are single-celled fungi that reproduce with various-shaped spores. The newly identified yeast now called Saturnispora quitensis was discovered growing on the fruit of an unidentified bramble collected from the Maquipucuna cloud forest nature reserve (also known as a fog forest), near Quito.

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Ethanol Groups Working to Replace VEETC with New Tax Credit

Wisconsin Ag Connection - 03/23/2011

Ethanol-related trade groups have shared a plan with federal lawmakers that would phase down the ethanol tax incentive after three years and replace it with a variable tax credit, which would be tied to the price of oil.

According to the Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance, the proposal comes as representatives from biofuel groups are meeting this week with the USDA to discuss their industry's next steps. An increasing number of legislators are calling for the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit to end, citing the need to reduce government spending.

As part of the proposal, ethanol industry groups have agreed to phase down the current 45 cents per gallon ethanol tax credit over three years and replace it beginning in the fourth year with a variable blenders' tax credit tied to the price of oil.

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Ethanol Prices May Delay Brazil Sugar Production, Kingsman Says

By Isis Almeida - Mar 23, 2011 12:36 PM CT

Sugar output in Brazil, the world’s largest producer, may be delayed by soaring ethanol prices and above-average rainfall, according to broker and researcher Kingsman SA.

Brazilian ethanol prices “skyrocketed” over the past week, jumping as much as 20 percent, figures from Lausanne, Switzerland-based Kingsman show. Rains this month may hurt sugar-cane yields in the main Brazilian producing region, said Patricia Luis-Manso, Kingsman’s ethanol analyst.

Sugar production in Brazil may only get under way in early May because of the initial concentration on ethanol, according to Fabienne Pointier, Kingsman’s sugar analyst. The bulk of the national cane crop is usually harvested between March and December in the Center South region.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lignol, Novozymes make progress on hardwood-to-ethanol process

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill March 21, 2011

Vancouver-based Lignol Energy Corp. announced that its subsidiary, Lignol Innovations Ltd., has successfully completed a 2,500-liter enzyme optimization run at its hardwood-fed pilot plant in Burnaby, British Columbia, using Novozymes’ specially developed enzymes. Novozymes has been collaborating on research and development with Lignol since June 2010. The companies are working to develop a cellulosic ethanol process that will produce the fuel for approximately $2 per gallon.

Lignol President and CEO Ross MacLachlan said the recent trial run was conducted to test the effectiveness of Novozymes’ latest enzyme strains and the modifications made to them to be compatible with Lignol’s substrate. Likewise, Lignol’s substrate needed to be tested against the enzymes. The emphasis of the test was on the effectiveness of the process rather than cost, he said, and the outcome of the test was positive. “It showed us we were right on track and, in some respects, even a little better,” he said. “We felt we exceeded our interim targets of what we were trying to achieve in terms of effectiveness.”

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New method to account for CO2 emissions from biomass combustion in bioenergy systems
Published on: 2011-03-22

CO2 emissions resulting from bioenergy production have traditionally been excluded from most emission inventories and environmental impact studies because bioenergy is carbon- and climate- neutral as long as CO2 emissions from biofuel combustion are sequestered by growing biomass. Its climate impact has not therefore been considered.

Cherubini and coauthors propose that CO2 emissions from biomass combustion for bioenergy should no longer be excluded from Life Cycle Assessment studies or be assumed to have the same global warming potential as anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide is emitted when biomass is burnt and the sequestration in the new vegetation can be spread for up to several decades in the case of slow-growing biomass, like forests.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Companies to Produce Edible Ethanol Co-Product
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – March 22nd, 2011

Two Illinois companies are working together to produce an ethanol co-product that has a variety of food, industrial and chemical product applications.

Prairie Gold (PGI) of Bloomington, and GTL Resources USA of Itasca, Illinois have agreed to collaborate on the construction of a zein protein production plant. Zein is a high valued co-product that can be produced from the corn ethanol process. Zein is a natural food-based polymer that can be used to make coatings for candies, gum, and pills, as well as confectioners glaze, flexible films, and biodegradable plastics and fibers. Zein is edible and in its pure form is colorless and odorless which makes it ideal for many applications in the food, pharmaceutical, and specialty chemical industries. It has already been used for many years in the pharmaceutical industry and as a textile fiber substitute, but interest in the product is growing because it is a natural substitute for existing fossil fuel based alternatives. However, until now zein has been too expensive to enter into high volume applications.

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BBI International to Publish Pellet Magazine

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Rona Johnson March 21, 2011

The European Union’s goal of having at least 20 percent of its energy consumption be produced from renewable energy sources by 2020 has led to an increase in the demand for wood pellets, which plants in the U.S. and Canada are eager to supply (see page 16).

In fact, an estimated 1.6 million tons of pellets were shipped from North America to the Netherlands, the U.K. and Belgium in 2010, which is double the amount that was exported in 2008, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review.

BBI International, publisher of Biomass Power & Thermal, is well aware of the increase in pellet use in the EU and the interest of many in North America and other countries to produce pellets for export and will be publishing a new biannual magazine called Pellet Mill Magazine.

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Biofuels trade groups agree on sunset for ethanol tax credit

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane March 22, 2011

In Washington, Rachel Gantz of OPIS is reporting that leaders of the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, the American Coalition for Ethanol and the National Corn Growers Association have agreed to a three-year sunsetting of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC).

They propose to replace the VEETC, in year four, with a variable credit tied to the price of oil, plus a requirement that 40 percent of all US cars be flex-fuel enabled and that a dedicated fund be set up to provide assistance for blender pump deployment. The proposed credit which would act like a “floor price” for ethanol, would provide assistance when oil prices are low, and eliminate that assistance when oil prices are high.

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Excalibur: Mighty Claims, Mighty Prizes, and the problem of myth in bioenergy

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane March 22, 2011

There are no shortage of reasons why high-yield biofuels, particularly microalgae, continue to fascinate practically everyone in the pursuit of alternative energy. Carbon fixation, water remediation, and local economic opportunity are among the many offered fruits.

But those exotic yields, and associated low costs of production, are the magnetic attractors of attention, drawing us towards companies and their claims like trumpets calling hounds to the hunt.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Accidental nano-breakthrough may be big for batteries, bioenergy

By Marie C. Baca at VentureBeat
Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:20pm EDT

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., have found a way to assemble nanoparticles into larger structures, a technique that could accelerate the development of battery and bioenergy-based technologies.

Argonne biophysicist John Bahns said in a press release that the research could be used to build cathodes with large surface areas, which could then be turned into high-energy batteries. His colleague Liaohai Chen said the technology could also be used to create miniscule imaging probes in biological systems, which would be useful for studying bioenergy applications.

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UConn reactor uses more efficient process to make biodiesel fuel
March 21, 2011 By Bret Eckhardt, Colin Poitras, and Tim Stobierski

Deep inside the University of Connecticut’s chemical engineering building in Storrs, Professor Richard Parnas and a team of students quietly monitor a murky brown emulsion bubbling inside an enormous 6-inch diameter glass tube like doctors carefully observing a patient undergoing surgery.

Moving among an array of flexible tubing and metal rods surrounding the nearly floor-to-ceiling device, Parnas keeps a watchful eye on a series of multicolored charts blinking on a nearby laptop. The display represents the real-time readings of a high-tech fiber-optic probe monitoring the chemical reactions taking place inside the tube. It helps Parnas, a UConn professor of chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering, maintain the precise recipe he needs to turn a mixture of methanol, potassium hydroxide, and waste vegetable oil into nearly pure, cheap, environmentally-friendly biodiesel fuel.

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Google Goes Green With Biofuel Investment
March 18, 2011

The folks at Google Ventures have been very active in the green venture capital space lately.

Following a $42 million investment in the extreme weather/climate change insurance start-up WeatherBill last month, the venture capital arm of Google is making its first foray into the biofuel space, leading a $20 million dollar investment into CoolPlanet Biofuels, a Camarillo California-based startup that has only been in business for 18 months.

CoolPlanet Biofuels is developing technology to produce fuel from inedible biomass such as wood chips, grass clippings, and crop residue. But instead of creating large-scale refineries where agricultural waste would need to be shipped to them via expensive, carbon-burning transportation like trucks or trains, CPB plans to use mobile refineries. These refineries will be packed into tractor trailers and will essentially be refinery plants on wheels, with the ability to move from site to site. The mobile plant will look something like this.

Read more Next Generation of Auto Fuel Could Literally Be Pure Garbage

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: March 17, 2011

Santa Monica, CA—Fueling up your car may one day be as easy as cleaning out the refrigerator or taking out the trash, says in its latest look at the new innovations in alternative fuels.

In “Weirdest Types of Car Fuel,” contributor Francis Soyer examines some of the new fuel alternatives that are looking to push gasoline off its perch.

“The government and automotive industry are making strides toward the new era of fossil fuel replacement,” says Soyer.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Governors Urge Change in Corn for Ethanol Reporting
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – March 17th, 2011

U.S. governors from Washington to New York to Texas are asking Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to change the way USDA reports the use of corn for ethanol production.

In a letter sent to Vilsack this week, the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition urged the change to reflect the fact that corn for ethanol usage produces livestock feed in the form of distillers grains in addition to ethanol. They argue that USDA’s current reporting methods distort the actual picture and provide ammunition for food versus fuel attacks on ethanol.

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Pennycress energy crop developments show real progress

Biorefining Magazine
By Luke Geiver March 15, 2011

As a dedicated energy crop, some might describe field pennycress as that old, clich├ęd saying, “too good to be true,” but companies such as Arvens Technology and Alion Science and Technology assert they have proof to show that such a nontraditional crop, planted during harvest time and harvested during the planting season, can provide real benefits.

During the 2011 International Biomass Conference & Expo, May 2-5 in St. Louis, the two companies will explain exactly why underutilized crops such as field pennycress can provide a tried and true advantage to farmers and alternative fuel producers. Peter Johnsen, CTO for Arvens, and Eric Hixson of Alion Science and Technology, spoke with Biorefining Magazine on the topic in advance of the conference.

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National Science Foundation Funds University of Missouri Research on Carbohydrate Movement in Corn
Date Posted: March 16, 2011

Columbia, MO—Plants harvest energy through the process of photosynthesis, using sunlight to produce sugars.

However, little is known about the genes that regulate the transport of sugars to build different parts of the plant.

Now, a University of Missouri researcher has received a $6.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to lead a research team to study the genes that control the movement of carbohydrates in corn.

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Bracketology: Which 3 of 6 will win in NABC drop-in fuels consortium cut-off?

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane March 18, 2011

The NABC drop-in biofuels consortium now six months underway, approaches a Fall 2011 decision point. Three technologies out of six will advance. Who will win, who might lose out? Make your own picks in our Digest NABC Bracket Contest.

Amongst the various projects that received support under the 2009 Recovery Act were an algal R&D consortium called the NAABB, and a drop-in biofuels R&D consortium called the NABC, of the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium.

The NABC’s $50 million, three-year mission: to explore new biofuels, to seek out new processes and new opportunities in yield and performance, to boldly go where no consortium had gone before.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

DOE’s Duff warns that Asian industrial buildup threatens “our way of life” if US does not reduce oil consumption

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane March 17, 2011

DOE’s Biomass Program Lead Engineer warns that, when it comes to biofuels, “it’s the economy, stupid”.
In Georgia, DOE Biomass Program Lead Engineer Brian Duff, keynoting the BioPro Expo in Atlanta, said that “dependence on oil is a throttle on the [US] economic engine, with the impact of oil reverberating throughout the economy, raising the prices of goods and services across the economy.”

He said that oil dependence was causing a massive trade deficit, turning the US economy into a captive market, held hostage to hostile regimes and volatile prices.”

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POET Utilizes Total Water Recovery System to Cut Water Use by Over 400 Million Gallons

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: March 10, 2011

Sioux Falls, SD—POET plants have reduced water use by a total of 411 million gallons of water per year compared to 2009 levels thanks to widespread installation of the company’s Total Water Recovery technology.

That savings means POET plants on average now use 2.77 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol.

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USDA calls March 21 meeting with major US biofuels trade association heads

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane March 17, 2011

In Washington, the USDA has called the heads of nearly every major biofuels association into a “friendly, open” discussion, but on an urgent timetable, to discuss opportunities to find common ground and synchronize biofuels industry policy.

The March 21 meeting, which will be led by USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager and senior advisor the the Secretary Sarah Bittleman, will include key execs at RFA, the National Biodiesel Board, BIO’s Industrial Biotech section, the Advanced Biofuels Association, the American Coalition for Ethanol and the National Corn Growers Association among others.

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Why make a $2 fuel when you can make a $5 chemical” – Cobalt CEO Rick Wilson

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane March 16, 2011

Cobalt CEO Rick Wilson challenges himself, policymakers, and the industry, to focus on the importance of cost advantage in establishing and financing an integrated biorefinery industry.

“Why make a $2 fuel when you can make a $5 chemical?” asks Cobalt CEO Rick Wilson, whose company was branded in the public eye as Cobalt Biofuels for several years, but has morphed towards “Cobalt Technologies” (its original name) and is squarely focused on the market for renewable chemicals for the time being. By any name, it’s a hot company, ranked #14 in the world in this year’s 50 Hottest Companies rankings.

“I’m not saying that any of the companies, including us, should not be pursuing fuels. The markets are huge and the molecules work. But the country has got all its priorities screwed up. Here we are chasing fuels, which is the hardest problem to solve, instead of incentivizing or supporting companies to get into business by solving some of the easier problems first, like chemicals or other bio-based products?”

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

BP acquires 83% stake in Brazil ethanol company

Commodity Online
Published on 2011-03-15 11:20:00

BP announced it would be able to produce 9 million barrels of ethanol per year with the acquisition of production facilities in Brazil.BP said it agreed to pay $680 million for an 83 percent stake in Brazilian ethanol and sugar producer Companhia Nacional de Acucar e Alcool and to refinance the company's long-term debt.

BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said the acquisition fits his company's strategy of expanding its low-carbon portfolio. "Low-carbon energy will play an increasingly significant role in meeting world energy demand," he said in a statement. "BP is committed to producing biofuels to help meet this demand."

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USDA opens application window for biofuel funding programs

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill March 14, 2011

The USDA announced March 14 that it is now accepting applications for three funding programs related to biofuel production—the Biorefinery Assistance Program, the Repowering Assistance Program and the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the funding provided through these programs— loan guarantees for new or retrofitted biorefineries, financial assistance for fuel switching from fossil fuels to renewable biomass, and payments to reward the production of advanced biofuels—will result in job creation and assist in the United States’ goal to become energy independent. “These investments will help spur new technologies that will enable us to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and build a strong renewable energy industry in rural America that will enable our nation to ‘out-innovate’ its competitors,” he said.

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Solar, Wind and Biomass worth $188 billion in 2010
By Dana Blankenhorn
March 14, 2011

The main renewable energy industries grew 35% last year, and revenues should double again this decade, according to the Clean Energy Trends 2011 report issued today by Clean Edge Inc., the Portland-based research company.

This boom has been going on for a decade and shows no signs of stopping, the report said. Since 2000 the market for solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind has grown 20-fold, with the price to install solar panels falling by nearly half, and the percentage of the country's venture capital invested in the space growing from less than 1% to last year's 23%.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wood, charcoal, viable energy sources - report
By Lusekelo Philemon
14th March 2011

  • New technologies can convert trees to liquid and gaseous fuel
  • 30 per cent of global energy to come from this source by 2050

Developing nations have an untapped resource that would enable them to fight poverty, create jobs, gain energy independence and adapt to climate changes.

A report published by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and made available to this paper urged such nations to take advantage of their dependence on biomass fuels such as wood and charcoal and move towards green economies in which the poor benefit from producing sustainable, clean energy.

The report pointed out that reliance on biomass fuels is set to treble from 10 to 30 per cent of global energy consumption by 2050.

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EPA to delay CO2 permits for biomass for 3 years

Westlaw News & Insight

WASHINGTON, March 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed on Monday to delay for three years rules requiring biomass-fired boilers to have permits for emitting carbon dioxide emissions. The EPA's decision affects facilities that emit CO2 from burning forest or agricultural products for energy, wastewater treatment, livestock management facilities, landfills and fermentation processes for ethanol production.

The agency will take public comments on the proposal for 45 days.

The delay could cool some of the criticism EPA has received from many U.S. lawmakers, who accused the agency of trying to go around Congress to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. They claim such EPA rules will hurt the economy.

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Berkeley Highlights Challenges Meeting 2050 Energy Goals
March 14, 2011

California is showing the way for the rest of the nation in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, having set an ambitious goal to reduce these emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. Given that energy demand is projected to double by 2050, experts agree that the state will have to dramatically overhaul its energy systems to achieve its greenhouse gas emission goals.

At the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, some of the specific challenges and issue ahead were discussed in a session titled "Portraits of the California Energy System in 2050: Cutting Emissions by 80 Percent." Contributing to this discussion were two scientists from Berkeley Lab and one from the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), in which Berkeley Lab is a partner.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Unity: Advanced Biofuels Association, BIO, Algal Biomass Organization hold joint meeting, briefing in DC on 2011 agenda

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane March 11, 2011

In Washington, the top trade groups representing the advanced biofuels industry in the United States met today to continue industry-wide collaborative efforts begun last year aimed at improving communication among stakeholders while building a more cohesive industry to develop clean energy alternatives that strengthen our nation’s economy. 70 senior industry leaders attended the briefings.
The Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA), the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) met for policy briefings with leaders and senior staff from Congress and the Obama administration.

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Industry groups challenge EPA's 15 percent ethanol rule (Washington Examiner)
By: Barbara Hollingsworth 03/11/11 3:17 PM

Nine energy, food and retail industry groups have filed a federal court challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to allow refiners to increase ethanol use to 15 percent in vehicles manufactured between 2001 and 2006, claiming the agency lacks statutory authority and the decision puts businesses and consumers at risk.

Friday’s filing at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit supplements an earlier challenge to the EPA’s ruling, which allows E15 to be used in newer vehicles manufactured after 2007.

“The EPA’s decision improperly authorizes an increase in ethanol content of gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent,” said the American Petroleum Institute’s Director of Downstream Operations Bob Greco. “EPA's second E15 waiver was based on just as shaky – if not shakier – legal and technical grounds than the first waiver decision.”

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Report: North American wood pellet exports double

Biomass Power and Thermal
By Anna Austin March 08, 2011

Wood pellet exports from the U.S. and Canada to Europe have doubled in the past two years, with 1.6 million tons of wood pellets shipped from the two countries to the Netherlands, U.K. and Belgium in 2010, according to a report by Wood Resources International LLC.

The report points out that, while Canada has been the major overseas wood pellet provider to Europe for the past 10 years, reaching about 1 million tons in shipments in 2010, exports from the U.S. have taken off since they began in 2008, reaching 600,000 tons in 2010.

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New biomass pellet binder from Nu Materials

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson March 09, 2011

A new organic binder by Indiana-based engineered fuels company Nu Materials makes biomass fuel pellets resistant to moisture, resulting in savings in transportation, handling and operations, according to the company.

Thermolar resin is made from proteins and carbohydrates of renewable biomass, and allows the blending of coal and biomass materials into one pellet product, according to Nu Materials partner Bob McElwee. Its composition also means only heat is required to solidify the resin.

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Ethanol Industry Says It, Too, Needs Retail Infrastructure Boost
03/10/2011 02:14 AM

The federal government has great hopes for renewable alternative energy to help reduce the nation's oil use, and the ethanol industry sees its product as the best of the readily available alternatives.

But a new report sponsored by the industry trade and lobbying group Renewable Fuels Association shows that ethanol must overcome one of the same hurdles standing in the way of widespread use of electricity and hydrogen as transportation fuels - inadequate infrastructure.

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BP Buys Control of CNAA Ethanol Producer to Expand in Brazil

By Brian Swint - Mar 11, 2011 4:00 AM CT

BP Plc (BP/) agreed to buy a majority stake in a Brazilian ethanol and sugar producer to expand its operations in emerging markets.

BP will pay about $680 million for 83 percent of Cia. Nacional de Acucar & Alcool and will refinance all of CNAA’s existing long-term debt, the London-based company said in a statement today. When the assets are fully developed, the deal will increase BP’s Brazilian production to 1.4 billion liters of ethanol equivalent a year, or 9 million barrels.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Ethanol Plant Is Switching to Butanol

The New York Times
March 10, 2011, 12:07 pm

High oil prices are generally bad news for American companies, but one, Gevo of Englewood, Colo., says that $100-a-barrel oil is opening up a niche.

The company bought a factory in Luverne, Minn., that makes ethanol from corn. Ethanol replaces some petroleum but has only one main use, vehicle fuel, and it yields less energy per gallon than gasoline. Gevo will convert the plant to make a different chemical, isobutanol, one of a number of new pathways to butanol, a chemical that can be used for fuel for many other purposes.

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Feinstein renews bid to end ethanol tax subsidy

The Hill
By Ben Geman - 03/10/11 09:45 AM ET

Ethanol subsidies are coming under attack on two fronts in the Senate.

In addition to Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) floating legislation Wednesday to strip a key tax credit, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) floated a somewhat different measure that also takes aim at billions of dollars' worth of federal ethanol supports.

Feinstein’s plan — like the other bill — would repeal the 45 cents-per-gallon credit refiners and fuel blenders receive for each gallon of ethanol purchased and mixed into gasoline.

But Feinstein's bill — which revives her unsuccessful attempts last year to end the tax credits — would leave the incentive intact for next-generation “advanced biofuels” that aren’t made from corn.
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Monsanto makes move into algae research, partners with Sapphire

Biodiesel Magazine
By Luke Geiver March 08, 2011

Monsanto Co. is entering the algae business after announcing a collaborative effort with Sapphire Energy to utilize Sapphire’s algae research abilities. Monsanto hopes to discover genes that could potentially increase crop yield or reduce crop stress in one of its core products, corn, cotton or soybeans. The new algae venture is a first for Monsanto, said Kelli Powers of Monsanto’s public affairs department. “For us, we have a pipeline and obviously that first step in our pipeline is discovery,” Powers said. “We see algae research that Sapphire is doing as a promising tool to screen genes early in that discovery process and to identify promising traits that could help with yield and stress.”

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OSU partners with startup to commercialize glycerin foam tech

Biodiesel Magazine
By Luke Geiver March 09, 2011

Ohio State University has teamed up with a biodiesel producer from Ohio on research based in glycerin technology that converts crude glycerin into polyurethane foam. The process was created by Yebo Li, a biosystems engineer for OSU’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center located in Wooster, Ohio. Li has developed a process that converts crude glycerin created via biodiesel production into biopolyol, which is then used as the main component for the foam. The foam can be used in a wide range of products including automotive seats and bumpers, appliance applications such as thermal insulation systems from refrigerators, insulation boards, packaging materials, or the construction industry. “We have already tested our biopolyol products in automobile headrests,” Li told Biodiesel Magazine.

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FAPRI report assumes VEETC isn’t renewed, ethanol production dips

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Holly Jessen March 09, 2011

A report presented to legislators March 7 assumed that the blender’s credit would expire at the end of 2011, resulting in a decrease in ethanol production. In previous years the annual Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (MU FAPRI) report has assumed the tax credit would be extended, however, the assumption was changed this year to match what was assumed by the Congressional Budget Office.

With the expiration of the tax credit FAPRI’s baseline projects ethanol production to go from 13.6 million gallons in the 2010-’11 marketing year (measured from September to August) to 12.9 million gallons in 2011-’12. Production then climbs back up to 13.5 million gallons the next year, after which it continues to increase slowly to 18.4 million gallons in 2020-’21. The growth is modest compared to rapid growth in recent years and will likely mean the U.S. won’t be able to rely totally on domestic production of the renewable fuel. “Imports of sugar-based ethanol rise to satisfy most of the RFS2 for advanced biofuels not met by cellulosic biofuels or biodiesel,” the report projected.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Timing Is Everything
Date Posted: March 9, 2011

Unrest in the Middle East. High oil prices. Four dollar gas.

Ethanol is making a great “comeback” with plants back at full capacity and many that went offline during the ‘bust’ years of 2008/2009 back in action.

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Mind-Bending Microbes

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane March 8, 2011

New isobutanol-producing and protein-munching microbes from UCLA remind us that biofuels remain in the anything-but-static, eye-popping era of their development.

The Digest’s “mind-bending breakthrough” in-basket is overflowing this week with advances in the fermentation of protein into biofuels….

“Whoa,” you might say, “stop right there. Did you say fermenting protein into biofuels? You can’t do that.” Well, it turns out you can.

Which will be the central theme of today’s Top Story as we look at two different, but startling, discoveries bubbling up from scientific circles this week.

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Algae protein feedstock developed at UCLA

Biodiesel Magazine
By Luke Geiver March 08, 2011

James Liao, professor of chemical and bimolecular engineering at UCLA, has developed an algae process for biorefining that, when compared to current process methods focused on lipid extraction, is just the opposite. Liao, and his team from UCLA published their findings after three years of work, and he explained to Biodiesel Magazine what they found during their research. “Basically,” he said, “we’ve developed a technology that can use protein as a raw material for a biorefinery, and for making biofuels.”

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Illinois corn farmers back coupons for ethanol blend in rental vehicles
The Associated Press, March 9, 2011 - 11:53 AM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois corn farmers and the American Lung Association are teaming up to encourage drivers to use an ethanol blend to fuel up their rental cars.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car customers renting "flex fuel vehicles" will get $10 coupons for the purchase of E85, a fuel comprised of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent conventional gasoline.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Breakthrough in Biofuels? Maybe.
Mar. 8 2011 - 11:57 am

Scientists have pioneered a process for producing isobutanol directly from cellulose, according to research published in the online journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

“Unlike ethanol, isobutanol can be blended at any ratio with gasoline and should eliminate the need for dedicated infrastructure in tanks or vehicles,” said James Liao, professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. “Plus, it may be possible to use isobutanol directly in current engines without modification.”

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Ethanol Industry Feels Squeeze as Congress Tightens Belt

The New York Times
By ELANA SCHOR of Greenwire
Published: March 7, 2011

It's been a rough season for corn ethanol on Capitol Hill.

A winter that began with a tougher-than-expected battle to win congressional approval for a one-year extension of the ethanol blenders' tax credit is delivering more harsh doses of reality to an industry that benefits from notable government support. With a House Republican majority newly emboldened to trim ethanol mandates and a bipartisan Senate majority eyeing subsidy reform, the political obstacles facing conventional biofuels appear steeper than ever.

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NCGA Changes Key Policies


TAMPA, Fla. (DTN) -- Delegates to the National Corn Growers Association's Corn Congress voted Saturday to support retooling the ethanol blenders' credit and also to investigate transitioning farm programs away from direct payments.

NCGA, the American Soybean Association and National Association of Wheat Growers each wrapped up policy meetings at the Commodity Classic Saturday, but NCGA's debate drew the most attention as delegates had been working since Wednesday to craft language on the group's ethanol policy and direct payments.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Grant helps Alabama university aid state biomass program

Biomass Power and Thermal
By Anna Austin March 01, 2011

The University of Alabama in Huntsville received a $56,000 grant to continue its work with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs’ Biomass Energy Program.
...The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs has provided a $56,000 grant to the University of Alabama in Huntsville so that it can continue to assist ADECA in implementing its Biomass Energy Program.

Through the program, ADECA reimburses companies up to $75,000 in loan interest payments over a maximum three-year period to install systems that use wood waste to power manufacturing processes. Eligible applicants include industrial, commercial, and institutional facilities, as well as agricultural property owners and city, county and state entities. Landfill gas projects are also eligible for funding consideration.

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Renewables Face New Challenges — Will They Be Ready for Prime Time Any Time Soon?

NREL: Director's Page
Panel Remarks by Dr. Dan Arvizu
Director, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

2011 EnergyBiz Leadership Forum
Feb. 28, 2011
Washington, D.C.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to address this impressive assembly of energy industry leaders from around the country.

Our endpoint is a low-carbon sustainable energy future and any technology that meets the requirements should be included. I believe renewable energy and efficiency can make a big contribution — a no regret option for the future.

When I first read the title of this panel discussion, it occurred to me there's something of a disconnect between those of us who work in the field of renewable energy, and others who are focused solely on so-called conventional energy.

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Publication educates about AD on Minnesota farms

Biomass Power and Thermal
By Lisa Gibson March 02, 2011

The Minnesota Project has published a new book to educate farmers and the general public about the potential and benefits of anaerobic digestion in the state.

The Midwest holds enormous untapped potential for anaerobic digestion (AD) systems, and a new publication seeks to educate farmers and the general public of that potential on Minnesota farms.

“Anaerobic Digestion: Farm Opportunities and Pathways” aims to help interested stakeholders become familiar with the anaerobic digestion industry, according to The Minnesota Project, which published the guide. The 18-page document includes discussion about the different kinds of anaerobic digesters available, the economic and environmental benefits AD can provide, and a guide to evaluating digestion opportunities for individual farm scenarios.

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China's top feed firm asks govt to stop probe on U.S. DDGS

BEIJING, March 6 Sun Mar 6, 2011 5:59am EST

BEIJING, March 6 (Reuters) - China's largest animal feed producer, New Hope Group (000876.SZ), called on the government to stop its anti-dumping investigation against exports of U.S. DDGS, a by-product of corn-based ethanol used to substitute corn by feed mills.

"The investigation has not consulted the feed industry and only represents the interests of some ethanol producers," Liu Yonghao, chairman of China's largest private agricultural conglomerate New Hope, told reporters on the sidelines of the annual parliament session.

Cheap U.S. DDGS imports last year helped cut costs for feed mills and China's investigation launched late last year have driven up domestic prices of the by-product, said Liu, a member of the advisory body to the parliament.

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Three-component blend of ethanol-biobutanol-gasoline “has significant advantages”: DuPont

Biofuels Digest
Thomas Saidak
March 4, 2011

In New York, DuPont Applied BioSciences President Craig F. Binetti, speaking at the Jeffries 11th Annual Clean Technology Conference, talked about Dupont’s intentions regarding biotechnology and biofuels. Dupont currently estimates the biofuels industry worldwide will grow from a $50 billion opportunity today to a $75 billion opportunity by 2015. The company has ongoing efforts to develop both fuels from renewable non-food biomass, cellulosic ethanol, and a drop-in biofuel, biobutanol, that behaves similar to gasoline.

“Globally, approximately 600 new plants will be required in the next decade to meet the anticipated global demand for cellulosic biofuel, and we expect a significant share of these will use DDCE technology,” Binetti said.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Sugarcane bioethanol production has room for improvement
03 March 2011

Amidst environmental concerns and the ever increasing price of oil, many politicians and scientists consider biofuels to be the most suitable alternative to their fossil fuel counterparts. However, an article in the current issue of Global Change Biology Bioenergy questions the overall benefits that result from one such method.

Sugarcane bioethanol, produced from crop biomass, has been promoted as an environmentally sustainable source of renewable energy. However, a recent study highlights that if one is to consider emissions from land use management, the potential climate benefit of this method might be somewhat diminished.

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Budget-cutting fever puts ethanol subsidies at risk

Minnesota Public Radio
by Mark Steil, Minnesota Public Radio
March 4, 2011

Worthington, Minn. — As lawmakers look for places to cut spending, federal support for ethanol could become a tempting target. The U.S. Government Accountability Office says ethanol subsidies cost taxpayers billions of dollars and are not necessary.

Those subsidies are important to farmers in Minneesota, which is the nation's fourth largest ethanol producer.

The ethanol subsidy known as the "blenders credit" nearly died last year. But at the last moment, Congress renewed the 45-cent-a-gallon payout as part of the tax package it approved in December.

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You say, 'nuts.' They say, 'the future.' (Pioneer Press)
By Richard Chin
Updated: 03/05/2011 02:37:14 PM CST

Minnesota hazelnut growers gathering in West St. Paul say they have found the state's next major commercial crop.

If you asked Jeff Jensen if there was a heart-healthy, energy-efficient crop you could use to make coffee, pastries and pigs taste better and maybe even fuel your car, he would say: Nuts!

More precisely: Hazelnuts.

That's because Jensen is president of the Minnesota Hazelnut Foundation, one of the sponsors of the Second Annual Upper Midwest Hazelnut Growers Conference being held this weekend at Thompson County Park in West St. Paul.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Ethanol exports could double this year

Des Moines Register
11:34 AM, Mar. 3, 2011
Written by Dan Piller

U.S. ethanol has found stronger markets through late 2010 and early this year, and chief executive officer Todd Becker of Green Plains Energy of Omaha said he thinks U.S. ethanol exports could double this year.

“We’ve seen expressions of interest from Brazil, where the sugar market is going to make it difficult for them to meet their domestic demand,” said Becker, whose company operates plants at Shenandoah, Superior and Lakota and other ethanol production facilities in Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska and Tennessee.

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Wall Street Journal releases top 10 cleantech company list

Biorefining Magazine
By Luke Geiver March 03, 2011

The Wall Street Journal has been keeping tabs on the clean technology industry, and with the help of Dow Jones VentureSource, the business publication giant has released a top 10 list of venture-backed clean technology companies. The "Next Big Thing" survey formed to identify green companies that have the capital, executive experience and investor knowledge to succeed in green business, according to the Wall Street Journal, uses calculations from VentureSource (owned by Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of the Wall Street Journal) that applied the financial criteria to roughly 500 U.S.-based venture-backed companies valued at less than $1 billion. Algae developer, Sapphire Energy, made the top 10 list.

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Brazil ethanol pipeline to cut transport costs 20 pct

Reuters Latin America
martes 1 de marzo de 2011 15:53 GYT

RIO DE JANEIRO, March 1 (Reuters) - A Brazilian ethanol pipeline system will lower transport costs by 20 percent for producers when it begins operations in 2012, the firm leading the project said on Tuesday.

The newly formed logistics company, Logum, expects the 1,300 kilometer (808 mile) pipeline system to bring savings by reducing higher-cost transport by truck which is now the predominant form of delivering fuel to consumers from production centers.

"It will provide additional benefits of less pollution and less wear and tear on roads from so many trucks," said Logum President Alberto Guimaraes.

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Mar. 1, 2011
Source: Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) news release

2010 was another record year for American ethanol producers. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), daily ethanol production in 2010 averaged nearly 863,000 barrels per day (b/d).

That represents 36.24 million gallons of daily production and nearly 13.23 billion gallons of production for calendar year 2010. 2009 ethanol production was 10.75 billion gallons.

Imports for 2010 stood at slightly more than 9.7 million gallons, down from 193 million gallons in 2009.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Turning bacteria into butanol biofuel factories

UC Berkeley
By Robert Sanders, Media Relations March 1, 2011

University of California, Berkeley, chemists have engineered bacteria to churn out a gasoline-like biofuel at about 10 times the rate of competing microbes, a breakthrough that could soon provide an affordable and “green” transportation fuel.

The advance is reported in this week’s issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology by Michelle C. Y. Chang, assistant professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley, graduate student Brooks B. Bond-Watts and recent UC Berkeley graduate Robert J. Bellerose.

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Scientists identify new implications for perennial bioenergy crops

Eureka Alert
Arizona State University
Feb. 28, 2011

Research shows a conversion from annual to perennial bioenergy crops has broader implications beyond just the impact on carbon
TEMPE, Ariz. – A team of researchers from Arizona State University, Stanford University and Carnegie Institution for Science has found that converting large swaths of land to bioenergy crops could have a wide range of effects on regional climate.

In an effort to help wean itself off fossil fuels, the U.S. has mandated significant increases in renewable fuels, with more than one-third of the domestic corn harvest to be used for conversion to ethanol by 2018. But concerns about effects of corn ethanol on food prices and deforestation had led to research suggesting that ethanol be derived from perennial crops, like the giant grasses Miscanthus and switchgrass. Nearly all of this research, though, has focused on the effects of ethanol on carbon dioxide emissions, which drive global warming.

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Biofuel boom could follow oil price spike
Damian Carrington's Environment Blog

When biofuels match oil on price, production could boom in the developing countries that also have the greatest need to boost food supply

The production of biofuels, good thing or not, will be decided by the setting of targets in the big western energy markets, right? Wrong, said bio-energy expert Jeremy Woods, at Imperial College, when I spoke to him yesterday.

He thinks biofuel production could pass a tipping point and start to rocket as rising oil prices make the plant-derived fuel cheaper in many developing countries around the world.

"Once oil is over $70 a barrel, conventional and new generation biofuels become cost competitive, certainly with tar sands and shale, and with oil from much of the Middle East and Brazil's new offshore fields," he says. "When oil and biofuels are competitive, we are into a different world."

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Ethanol law reform could save $5.7 billion per year: GAO

By Charles Abbott
WASHINGTON Tue Mar 1, 2011 6:31pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Reform of U.S. ethanol incentives could save up to $5.7 billion a year, a congressional watchdog said on Tuesday as ethanol critics called on Congress to let the tax breaks expire at the end of this year.

In an examination of federal spending, the Government Accountability Office said the ethanol tax credit and a federal law requiring use of biofuels "can be duplicative ... and can result in substantial loss of revenue."

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

70,000 Directly Involved in U.S. Ethanol Industry
Posted by Joanna Schroeder – February 28th, 2011

According to an economic analysis from Cardno ENTRIX, unveiled during the 2011 National Ethanol Conference, John Urbanchuk 70,600 Americans are employed directly in the production of ethanol and in industries providing goods and services to ethanol producers. Today, there are ethanol plants either operational or in construction in 29 states, and as a result of the economic activity generated by ethanol production, more than 400,000 Americans have been able to keep their jobs or find new ones.

Also according to the report, ethanol production is contributing to our nation’s financial well-being. In 2010, the report calculated that ethanol production contributed $53.6 billion to the national Gross Domestic Product and added $36 billion to American household incomes. It also discovered that the increased economic activity and income generated by America’s ethanol industry added nearly $12 billion to federal, state and local governments through increased tax revenue.

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USDA Expands Efforts to Develop Crop Insurance For Biofuels Producers

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: February 25, 2011

Washington—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Feb. 25 that USDA will soon seek proposals to study the feasibility of providing crop insurance to producers of biofuel feedstocks, including corn stover, straw and woody biomass.

These feasibility studies, funded by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) will join research efforts already underway for energy cane, switchgrass and camelina.

"Providing additional risk management tools for American farmers to produce advanced biofuels crops is an important step toward developing a thriving biofuels industry and reducing our dependence on foreign oil," said Vilsack.

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DuPont exec: Company to become renewables 'powerhouse' by 2015

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill February 24, 2011

DuPont Applied BioSciences President Craig Binetti told attendees of a recent clean technology conference that DuPont expects the biofuels industry worldwide to grow by $25 billion in the next five years and it plans to contribute to the expansion through its cellulosic ethanol and biobutanol ventures.

“While ethanol and biobutanol each have the potential to add value to the global biofuels market, a three-component blend of ethanol-biobutanol-gasoline has significant advantages as well,” Binetti said. “We are positioning ourselves so we are advantaged when the rapid growth occurs in advanced renewable fuels over the next decade.”

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Urbanchuck finds substantial economic impact from ethanol in 2010

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Susanne Retka Schill February 28, 2011

More than 70,000 direct jobs are provided by the U.S. ethanol industry in the agriculture, manufacturing and services sectors, and when total economic activity is considered more than 400,000 jobs are created, according to a study by Cardno Entrix economist John Urbanchuck, commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association.

Released in late February at the time of RFA’s National Ethanol Conference, the report gives a snapshot of the economic impact of the industry in 2010. As with employment, the direct impact on income by the ethanol industry is limited to the manufacturing and construction sectors, but the most significant impact is to increase the income to farmers, according to Urbanchuck’s report.

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'Fingerprints' match molecular simulations with reality

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Feb. 22, 2011 — A theoretical technique developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is bringing supercomputer simulations and experimental results closer together by identifying common "fingerprints."

ORNL's Jeremy Smith collaborated on devising a method -- dynamical fingerprints --that reconciles the different signals between experiments and computer simulations to strengthen analyses of molecules in motion. The research will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Overfertilizing corn undermines ethanol

Rice University researchers find feeding crops too heavily bad for biofuel, environment
Rice University scientists and their colleagues have found that when growing corn crops for ethanol, more means less.

A new paper in today's online edition of the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science and Technology shows how farmers can save money on fertilizer while they improve their production of feedstock for ethanol and alleviate damage to the environment.

The research has implications for an industry that has grown dramatically in recent years to satisfy America's need for energy while trying to cut the nation's reliance on fossil fuels.

The team led by postdoctoral researcher Morgan Gallagher as part of her dissertation at Rice discovered that corn grain, one source of ethanol, and the stalks and leaves, the source of cellulosic ethanol, respond differently to nitrogen fertilization.

The researchers found that liberal use of nitrogen fertilizer to maximize grain yields from corn crops results in only marginally more usable cellulose from leaves and stems. And when the grain is used for food and the cellulose is processed for biofuel, pumping up the rate of nitrogen fertilization actually makes it more difficult to extract ethanol from corn leaves and stems.

This happens, they discovered, because surplus nitrogen fertilizer speeds up the biochemical pathway that produces lignin, a molecule that must be removed before cellulosic ethanol can be produced from corn stems and leaves.

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Jay Keasling: 'We can use synthetic biology to make jet fuel'
by Ian Sample The Observer, Sunday 27 February 2011

Keasling has already created anti-malarial drugs from yeast. Now he is working on a replacement for jet fuel and diesel

In 1974, Waclaw Szybalski, a cancer specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, described a radical vision of the future. He foresaw a world where scientists had mastered biology to the point of creating life from scratch. His prediction was not far off the mark. Today, "synthetic biology" – the phrase was coined by Szybalski – is one of the most exciting avenues of modern science. Research on artificial life is under way; synthetic viruses a reality. But the swift progress of the field has raised hopes and fears in equal measure. While some argue that the work points the way to green energy and greater food production, others fear synthetic bugs might escape from the lab and spark a catastrophe.

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Gene helps plants use less water without biomass loss

Farm & Ranch Guide
Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011 2:43 pm
By Brian Wallheimer, Purdue University

Gene helps plants use less water without biomass loss

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University researchers have found a genetic mutation that allows a plant to better endure drought without losing biomass, a discovery that could reduce the amount of water required for growing plants and help plants survive and thrive in adverse conditions.

Plants can naturally control the opening and closing of stomata, pores that take in carbon dioxide and release water. During drought conditions, a plant might close its stomata to conserve water. By doing so, however, the plant also reduces the amount of carbon dioxide it can take in, which limits photosynthesis and growth.

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China Becomes the World's No. 1 Energy Consumer
By Chen Nanyang
Published Feb 26, 2011

Guangzhou, China – China has become the largest energy consumer in the world, experts told the country’s main government news agency today (February 26, 2011). According to the state-owned Xinhua News Agency, China consumed a total of 3.25 billion metric tons of standard coal in 2010.

The number is provided by the Beijing-based China Energy Society (CERS). CERS vice president Mr. Zhou Dadi says as quote, “China has overtaken the United States to be the No.1 energy consumer in the world.”

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Diversified Technologies' PEF Pre-Treatment of Algae for Oil Extraction to Help Biorefineries Cut Costs
Feb 23, 2011 09:03 ET

BEDFORD, MA--(Marketwire - February 23, 2011) - Diversified Technologies, Inc. has introduced a low-cost process (patent pending) for the pre-treatment of algae using pulsed electric field (PEF) technology to streamline the extraction of oils from algal cells early in the biorefining process.

The Diversified Technologies' PEF Pre-Treatment of Algae for Oil Extraction Process applies 10-30 kV/cm electric pulses for 2 to 20 microseconds to an algal slurry which rupture the cell walls to release biodiesel compounds such as methyl hexadecanoate. The firm estimates this low energy process of lysing algae cells would account for about $0.10/gal. of the price of algae-derived biofuel compared to $1.75/gal. for conventional drying.

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Mass. company making diesel with sun, water, CO2

Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts biotechnology company says it can produce the fuel that runs Jaguars and jet engines using the same ingredients that make grass grow.

Joule Unlimited has invented a genetically-engineered organism that it says simply secretes diesel fuel or ethanol wherever it finds sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based company says it can manipulate the organism to produce the renewable fuels on demand at unprecedented rates, and can do it in facilities large and small at costs comparable to the cheapest fossil fuels.

What can it mean? No less than "energy independence," Joule's web site tells the world, even if the world's not quite convinced.

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First of Kind, Financing Advanced Bioenergy Pt 3: Dealing with Deal Breakers

Biofuels Digest
February 27, 2011
By Biofuels Digest special correspondent Tim Sklar

Part 3-Dealing with Deal Breakers. How financial modeling can be used in quantifying risk and identifying “Deal Breakers”

In Part I of this three part series titled “On Identifying Risks”, discussions were included that focused upon the high-risk nature of advanced bio-refinery projects, why financing is hard to obtain what can be done to improve the odds.

In Part 2 titled “On Quantifying Risks” a summary of due diligence inquiries that project developers can expect to be subjected to is presented along with a list of typical concerns potential financial backers have with respect to perceived risks. In addition, a set of bio-refinery specific “what if” questions are included, because many of them will be asked.

It was hoped that the material included in Part 2 will ultimately be used as a useful guide in assembling information and in conducting analyses that will be needed when preparing loan requests, applications for loan guarantees, investment memoranda and prospectuses.

In Part 3 titled “Quantifying Risk Using Robust Financial Models”, insights are presented as to the how financial modeling can be used in quantifying risk and identifying “Deal Breakers”. In the sub-section titled “The Anatomy of a Model”, a detailed description is given of the computational framework used in the financial model. Another sub-section describes how to use this model.

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