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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

E.coli seen spawning biofuel in five years

Reuters Africa
Wed Jun 29, 2011 12:20am GMT
By Sarah McBride

* Scientist: Technology works, but not yet at scale
* Biofuels won't be at critical mass for two decades
* Plastics based on e.coli already for sale

ASPEN, Colorado, June 28 (Reuters) - The bacteria behind food poisoning worldwide, the mighty e.coli, could be turned into a commercially available biofuel in five years, a U.S. scientist told technology industry and government leaders on Tuesday.

Several companies are working on the technology, which has been proven in laboratories but is not yet yielding enough fuel to be commercially viable, scientist Jay Keasling told the Aspen Ideas Festival on Tuesday.

Keasling, chief executive officer of the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute, has pioneered research in biofuels based on substances ranging from yeast to e.coli and expects e.coli fuel production to improve.

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New E15 label gets like, not love, from ethanol industry

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 29, 2011

In Washington, the EPA issued fuel pump labeling and other requirements for gasoline blends containing more than 10 and up to 15 percent ethanol, known as E15. These requirements will help ensure that E15 is properly labeled and used once it enters the market. 
The new orange and black label must appear on fuel pumps that dispense E15. This label will help inform consumers about which vehicles can use E15.

This label will also warn consumers against using E15 in vehicles older than model year 2001, motorcycles, watercraft, and gasoline-powered equipment such as lawnmowers and chainsaws.

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FAPRI Study Finds Extending Current Ethanol Tax Credit and Tariff Would Boost Ethanol Production and Corn Prices

Grainnet (Biofuels Journal)
Date Posted: June 29, 2011

Columbia, MO—Extending the current ethanol tax credit and tariff would boost corn-based fuel production -- and corn prices, report University of Missouri economists.

The current 45-cent tax credit for biofuel blenders and associated 54-cent tariff on ethanol imports were studied by the MU Food and Agricultural Food and Policy Research Institute (FAPRI).

Economists ran “what-if” scenarios on FAPRI computer models of the U.S. farm economy.

Both tax laws are due to expire Dec. 31, 2011.

With incentives in place, they saw fuel production from corn go up 1.2 billion gallons a year and corn prices rise 18 cents per bushel.

Increased demand for corn as an ethanol fuel source would expand corn acreage by 1.7 million acres, said Seth Meyer, MU FAPRI economist and author of the study, released June 27.

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Symposium will address residential wood and pellet heat

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson June 23, 2011

While 80 percent of residential renewable energy in America comes from wood heat, older wood-burning appliances are the norm. So bringing modern, low-emission appliances to scale is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce residential fossil fuel use, so says the Alliance for Green Heat.

The alliance is holding a free public symposium in Washington D.C. July 13 at the U.S. Forest Service’s Yates Training Room to address residential wood and pellet heating. Wood heat enjoys a deep cultural acceptance in America but policies to harness and transform it are lacking, the alliance said. The symposium will explore the opportunities for policymakers to maximize the potential of residential wood heat to reduce fossil fuel use in a tight fiscal climate, while minimizing its drawbacks. The speakers will cover the policy landscape, sustainability and emissions issues, state and federal case studies, as well as the results of a new study on biomass heat incentives.

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Purdue University Ag Economist: Ethanol Mandate Means Corn Demand Less Responsive to Price

Grainnet (Biofuels Journal)
Date Posted: June 29, 2011

West Lafayette, IN—Federal law that helped jump-start the ethanol industry in the United States also is shifting normal supply-and-demand forces within commodities markets, said a Purdue University agricultural economist.

Not quite four years after Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007, markets are struggling to meet both the law's renewable fuels standard and grain demands from the livestock, food and export sectors, said Wally Tyner, an energy policy specialist.

About 27 percent of the nation's corn crop must be devoted to ethanol this year to meet the federal mandate, leaving other corn users to compete for the remaining 73 percent.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Detroit Airport to grow up to 1700 acres of camelina

Biofuels Digest
Meghan Sapp June 28, 2011

In Michigan, Wayne County Airport Authority will team with Michigan State University Extension to grow bioenergy crops on 1,700 acres of land belonging to Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) and Willow Run airport.

A test agreement on three acres that grew oriental mustard seed and camelina is wrapping up with harvesting, refining and testing. Michigan Economic Development Corp. has provided a grant of $476,000 for the project that also includes other unused lands like vacant urban lots and highway right-of-ways for growing bioenergy crops.

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It Takes Two to Tango

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 28, 2011

How and why could three announcements from Gevo, Toray, Redfield and the EPA point the way forward for US ethanol, advanced biofuels, and renewable chemicals?

In recent weeks, Gevo, Toray, Redfield Energy and the EPA made three seemingly unrelated announcements regarding biofuels mandates, isobutanol, and a product you probably never heard of called paraxylene, or PX.

But put the three together, and you may have a roadmap for extracting the US ethanol industry, and the biofuels movement, from its present uncertainties and difficulties.

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Green Flame Energy seeks BCAP project area designation

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin June 27, 2011

A central Illinois company proposing to supply miscanthus as a fuel source to a power plant in the state is anxiously waiting to hear whether it has qualified as a Biomass Crop Assistance Program project area.

Eric Rund of Rund Farms, a farmer who grows mostly corn and soybeans, said he’s been thinking about growing miscanthus for the past four years. He is finally doing it after a great deal of research and investigation, including a trip overseas. “About a year and a half ago, my son and I went to Europe to see how they’re growing miscanthus,” he said. “They have been doing it a lot longer than we have.”

What Rund learned during the trip, convinced him that he could do it in Illinois, and more importantly, that he could also get the financials to pencil out. “We wouldn’t bale it; we’d use silage choppers to lower the harvesting cost, and we wouldn’t concentrate on ethanol conversion, but rather burning it directly,” he said. “Those two things changed the economics of growing it here.”

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New route to high-yield ethanol fermentation: ionic solids

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 26, 2011

In Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory reports that ionic liquids have emerged as promising new solvents capable of disrupting the cellulose crystalline structure in a wide range of biomass feedstocks. Such biomass is of particular interest as a renewable and sustainable source of fuels and chemicals, and the crystallinity of the cellulose is one of the major obstacles to fermentation and yields.

Recently, researchers at ORNL pretreated four different feedstocks — microcrystalline cellulose (Avicel), switchgrass, pine, and eucalyptus — with an ionic liquid and found such pretreatment results in a loss of cellulose crystalline structure and the transition of the feedstock surface from cellulose I to the more readily digested cellulose II.

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EPA approves E15 fuel label despite engine risk

USA Today
Jun 28, 2011
By James R. Healey, USA TODAY

The new EPA-required label for fuel pumps dispensing E15 -- a gasoline blend with 15% ethanol.CAPTIONBy EPAThe government has settled on a label for gas stations selling a blend of gasoline and ethanol called E15, which contains more ethanol -- grain alcohol -- than the E10 blend that's replaced pure gasoline at most stations.

The Environmental Protection Agency previously approved E15 -- 85% gasoline and 15% ethanol -- for use in vehicles back to 2001 models. The approved label is part of the EPA's final rule spelling out about how E15 can be sold and what standards it must meet.

EPA says tests show it won't harm 2001 and newer vehicles, which have hoses and gaskets and seals specially designed to resist corrosive ethanol. But using E15 fuel in older vehicles or in power equipment such as mowers, chainsaws and boats, can cause damage and now is literally a federal offense.

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DuPont ethanol plant to be built in central Iowa
Associated Press, 06.28.11, 02:50 PM EDT

NEVADA, Iowa -- DuPont has chosen a central Iowa location near Nevada for its next-generation ethanol plant.

Jennifer Hutchins, a spokeswoman for DuPont ( DD - news - people ) Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol, a subsidiary of Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont, told The Des Moines Register on Monday that the plant will take 12 to 18 months to build and is expected to ready for production in 2013.

The facility will use corncobs, leaves and stalks to produce ethanol rather than kernels of corn and employ about 60 workers. DuPont Danisco is working with local farmers to get commitments for collecting cobs, leaves and stalks from their fields. The plant will need about 300,000 dry tons of stover annually, according to Hutchins.

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Fueling its future | Biobutanol holds promise for the next phase of Old Town Fuel & Fiber
By Carol Coultas
Mainebiz editor

Four years ago, Dan Bird and Dick Arnold stood in an office within a 125-year-old paper mill and looked out the window to an empty plant. The room, once the controller’s office of previous occupant Georgia Pacific, was laid bare: no phones, no computers, no remnants at all of the Atlanta-based paper giant that vacated the Old Town mill to seek higher profits and lower energy costs in warmer climes.

The previous day, Bird and Arnold had attended a press conference with then Gov. John Baldacci, who announced new owners and new investment for the mill that at one time provided 400 jobs in this part of eastern Maine. It was up to the pair — both veterans of a changing paper industry — to bring the mill back to life.

“OK, I guess we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Bird recalls Arnold saying.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

US EPA keeps 2012 renewable fuel standards on track

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week announced the 2012 renewable fuel standards that will keep the US on track to reaching 36 billion gallons in 2022.

Annual renewable fuel volume targets were established under the auspices of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. To meet the volumes, the EPA calculates a percentage-based standard each year that defines the minimum volume of renewable fuel which must be used in transportation fuel.

Next year, those targets will be total renewable biofuels of 15.2 billion gallons (9.21%), 2 gallons of advanced biofuels (1.21%), 1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel (0.91%) and 3.45-12.9 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels (0.002-0.01%).

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Chain, chain, chain – chain of fuels: Birth of a global supply chain for biomass

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 27, 2011

Mendel CEO Neal Gutterson talks about miscanthus, and the role of the power sector as the driver of a global supply chain for biomass.

Some background on Mendel Biotechnology

Last year, we described them in the Digest as one of the “16 overlooked gems in the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy voting” for 2010-11. We wrote, “Mendel made the AlwaysOn 100, a list which covers all of cleantech and featured just 14 bioenergy companies – and the company has been highly praised in the invited selectors – but with readers, no traction. Forgetting to file for the Hot 50 this year was a PR flub, but the company does deserve a long look in any case.”

The company’s IP lies in its understanding of a large class of genes called transcription factors – that control complex valuable traits such as freezing tolerance, drought tolerance, intrinsic growth rate, photosynthetic output, plant form, disease resistance, water use efficiency, and nitrogen use efficiency. Mendel works with several partners to create plants with improved yield and yield stability.

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Coskata signs LOI for the EPC of its cellulosic ethanol plant

Biofuels International
27 June 2011

Renewable energy company and technology developer Coskata has issued biorefinery developer Fagen with a letter of intent (LOI) for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for its commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant to be built in Boligee, Alabama, US.

Harris Group, a key player in advanced biofuels engineering, will lead the EPC process.

'Fagen and Harris Group will work together to provide a facility that will be unmatched in quality, cost and time to completion,' says William Roe, CEO of Coskata. 'We are confident that together with Fagen and Harris Group, we will demonstrate the value potential and long-term benefits of the Coskata technology in this exciting project.'

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MU FAPRI reports economic impact of extending ethanol tax credit, tariff

Drovers Cattle Network
University of Missouri Extension Updated: June 27, 2011

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Extending the current ethanol tax credit and tariff would boost corn-based fuel production -- and corn prices, report University of Missouri economists.

The current 45-cent tax credit for biofuel blenders and associated 54-cent tariff on ethanol imports were studied by the MU Food and Agricultural Food and Policy Research Institute (FAPRI). Economists ran “what-if” scenarios on FAPRI computer models of the U.S. farm economy.

Both tax laws are due to expire Dec. 31, 2011.

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Los Angeles Times
By David Shaffer
June 25, 2011

Midwest towns caught in middle of ethanol-subsidy fight
Federal ethanol incentives totaling $6 billion will probably be scaled back as lawmakers confront the federal deficit. That has significant implications in states that are top ethanol producers.

Reporting from Claremont, Minn.— The white plume still billows from the smokestack at the ethanol plant off Highway 14, and the 18-wheelers still screech to a stop at the corn unloading station.

Nothing is visibly different at the Al-Corn plant, one of Minnesota's oldest ethanol makers — except that an era of nearly unwavering government support for the industry seems to be over.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Ethanol losing influence in Congress

By DARREN GOODE 6/21/11 10:25 PM EDT

When Rep. Bill Archer — then the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — slipped in language in a key Republican tax-cut package in 1997 stripping out subsidies for corn ethanol, he ran into a brick wall.

That obstacle was in the form of Chief Deputy Whip Dennis Hastert, who reminded Speaker Newt Gingrich that he would lose the crucial support of nearly three dozen farm-state Republicans if he allowed the language to stay. Gingrich — who personally intervened to stop a prior attempt to squash ethanol help in 1995 — quickly acquiesced and the language was history, allowing the subsidy to continue.

Now, after major losses in the House and Senate last week, the ethanol industry is missing the influence of those pro-ethanol congressional leaders.

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World Bioenergy 2x Larger than World Nuclear

Cision Wire
6/22/2011 5:22 AM EST

While fossil fuels still dominate the global energy supply with a combined share of 81%, renewable energy sources have the potential of becoming the dominant sources of energy for coming generations. Bioenergy is already around twice as large as nuclear energy in the world.

Within the renewable energy sector, bioenergy is the dominant source followed by hydropower and to a smaller extent wind power, geothermal energy and solar energy. Renewable energy in general and bioenergy in particular also have great potentials of increased utilization. According to a position paper from the World Bioenergy Association the potential for bioenergy utilization worldwide in 2050 is estimated to 20-30 times the current use.

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G20 farm ministers agree deal on food prices

LONDON Thu Jun 23, 2011 8:53am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - G20 members settled a deal on Thursday to curb volatility in food prices, falling short of France's ambitious plans to impose tough new regulations on speculators, but agreeing to boost transparency with a new database.

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Fight over ethanol brewing in D.C.
By Sean Wardwell, staff writer
The McPherson Sentinel
Posted Jun 24, 2011 @ 11:11 AM

McPherson, Kan. — The future of $6 billion in federal ethanol subsidies are up in the air after the U.S. Senate voted to eliminate them.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) worked together to pass an amendment through the Senate on June 16 to the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011 that eliminated the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), which is also known as the “blender’s credit.”

Created in 2004 as part of the American Jobs Creation Act, the credit provides a .45 cents per-gallon credit on pure ethanol and a .54 cents per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol. Its intent was to encourage the marketing of ethanol/gasoline blends.

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The Micro Posse: Bacteria seeking fermentable sugars in bio-oil

Biofuels Digest
Thomas Saidak June 24, 2011

In Iowa, Iowa State’s Hybrid Processing Laboratory is working on using both biochemical and thermochemical processes to find new and better pathways for biochemicals and biofuels.

Noting that fermentation normally occurs well below the boiling point of water, while thermochemical processes are usually hundreds of degrees hotter, Professor Robert C. Brown states, “In fact, these differences in operating regimes represent one of the major advantages of hybrid processing… High temperatures readily break down biomass to substrates that can be fermented to desirable products.”

One example is work being done to explore the use of bacteria to ferment the sugars in thermochemically produced bio-oil, which would create more biochemicals and biofuels.

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Ethanol Myths, Busted

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 24, 2011

In Illinois, Forrest Jehlik of Argonne National Laboratory published “Five Ethanol Myths, Busted” at Wired: Autopia.

In an entertaining read, Jehlik busted Myth No. 1: Ethanol requires more energy to make than it yields; Myth No. 2: Ethanol production reduces our food supply; Myth No. 3: Ethanol crops and production emit more greenhouse gases than gasoline; Myth No. 4: Ethanol requires too much water to produce; and addressed Myth No. 5: Cars get lower gas mileage with ethanol.

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BP Biofuels confirms 2012 groundbreaking for US cellulosic ethanol project

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 24, 2011

In Louisiana, BP Biofuels Americas president Sue Ellerbusch said that the company’s 36 million gallon Highlands County (Florida) cellulosic ethanol project will break ground “early next year” and will open in 2013.

“Total investment in the facility and agricultural feedstock operation will be in excess of $400 million,” she noted, adding that the project will be based on a 20,000 acre feedstock farm, and that “experience has shown us that future cellulosic biofuels facilities will take four to five years from land acquisition to production of first ethanol.”

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Brazil’s Sugar, Ethanol Business Needs $80 Billion, Unica Says

By Isis Almeida - Jun 22, 2011 7:52 AM CT .

Brazil’s sugar and ethanol industry needs $80 billion of new investment in the next 10 years to meet global demand, according to industry association Unica.

About 250 new plants are needed to process the country’s sugar cane, and “only” five are starting this year, Geraldine Kutas, a senior adviser at Unica, said in an interview at a conference in Brussels today. New investment has been limited because of reduced profits in biofuels, she said.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Hydrated lime identified as hot biodiesel catalyst

Biofuels Digest
Meghan Sapp
June 23, 2011

In Mexico, researchers at the Autonomous Meritorious University of Puebla have discovered that adding hydrated lime instead of calcium oxide more efficiently catalyzes the biodiesel transesterification process. After frying potatoes in soybean oil they bought at a local grocery store, they added lime from a local lime producer, then found that after two hours at reaction temperatures of around 60 °C, the process yielded conversion rates approaching 100%. They found that they could reuse the lime several times but by the fourth use yields dropped about 25%.

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Petrobras examining investment strategy as Brazilian ethanol targets soar

Biofuels Digest
Meghan Sapp June 23, 2011

In Brazil, Petrobras is currently re-thinking its five-year investment strategy to take into consideration the government’s requirement that it increase its ethanol production to fill 12% of national demand from the current 5%. That investment is likely to come in the form of greenfield ethanol plants despite the significant capital expense involved.

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Genencor cuts cellulosic enzyme load two-fold with launch of Accellerase TRIO

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 23, 2011

In California, Genencor announced a two-fold decrease in enzyme load for cellulosic conversion to fermentable sugars, with its new enzyme cocktail, Accellerase TRIO. The company said that its new TRIO package demonstrates that Genencor is continuing to deliver on innovation with its “easiest to use” package that combines all the required activities for cellulosic conversion.

Genencor’s Dr. Aaron Kelley said that “while Accellerase Duet made some big strides on the hemicellulsase front, TRIO is now driving C5 and C6 performance, while also showing great improvement with acid-based pretreated biomass.”

The sophistication of today’s enzyme cocktails is getting to be pretty staggering – TRIO has eight different families of activities, and would number in the hundreds if every activity in every family was counted. Kelley said that TRIO has already been employed by Inbicon and KL Energy at the demonstration scale for cellulosic ethanol, and is being tested by others the company is not ready to name at this time.

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Setting the Net

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill June 10, 2011

The concept of replacing VEETC with a variable tax credit is gaining popularity. Will it work?

Recently it’s been difficult to navigate a 24-hour news cycle without hearing at least some mention of the U.S. deficit. Discussions of the nation’s debt have dominated the political scene at the national and state levels as governments struggle with the task of regaining positive growth after a difficult economic recession. The situation has made the ethanol industry an easy target for those seeking ways to reduce government spending. The Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and ethanol import tariff have been on some legislators’ chopping blocks for several years, and their repeated attempts to entirely eliminate the programs have been consistently defeated, but after December’s last-minute, one-year extension of both provisions, it was made clear that even pro-ethanol legislators would no longer support the continuation of VEETC or the import tariff at their current levels beyond 2011. Ethanol industry groups consented and agreed to combine their efforts and work with lawmakers to form a long-term reform plan for VEETC. By late May, the ethanol industry’s official long-term road map had yet to be unveiled, but recently introduced legislation offers a feel for what the industry’s preferred modifications look like.

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Growing Pains: Brazil’s sugarcane ethanol industry hits a snag

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill June 10, 2011

In some ways, Brazil represents what the United States aspires to become in terms of ethanol use. While U.S. producers continue to fight for expanded infrastructure, Brazilian companies are building a pipeline to more easily transport ethanol from one region to another. The U.S. industry is banking on promises from auto manufacturers to crank out a greater number of much needed flex-fuel vehicles in the coming years. Brazil’s highways are already loaded with vehicles that use ethanol-blended fuel or even pure ethanol. The U.S. EPA approval for E15 to be used in some American vehicles has yet to scale legal hurdles before it can be put to the test. Brazil currently has in place a nationwide E25 mandate.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

EPA issues proposed 2012 RFS2 volume requirements

Biodiesel Magazine
By Erin Voegele June 21, 2011

The U.S. EPA has issued proposed 2012 volume requirements for all four categories of the RFS2 program, as well as 2013 volume requirements for biomass-based diesel. According to information released by the agency, the proposed volume requirements for 2012 are:

-1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel (0.91 percent)
-2 billion gallons of advanced biofuels (1.21 percent)
-3.45-12.9 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels (0.002-0.01 percent)
-15.2 billion gallons of total renewable fuels (9.21 percent).

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EPA proposes 15.2 billion gallon biofuel mandate for 2012; 50 percent jump in advanced biofuels

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 22, 2011

EPA releases 15.2B gallon biofuels mandate proposal for 2012.

Does the subtle ruling create conditions for increased cellulosic biofuels investment?

In Washington, the EPA proposes to mandate the blending of 15.2 billion gallons of renewable fuel into the US fuel supply, and increased the proposed mandate for advanced biofuels by 48 percent, to 2 billion gallons. The agency yesterday released its proposal for 2012 requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

For 2012, the program is proposing to implement EISA’s requirement to blend more than 1.25 billion gallons of renewable fuels over the amount mandated for 2011.

The proposed 2012 overall volumes and standards are:

Biomass-based diesel (1.0 billion gallons; 0.91 percent)
Advanced biofuels (2.0 billion gallons; 1.21 percent)
Cellulosic biofuels (3.45 – 12.9 million gallons; 0.002 – 0.010 percent)
Total renewable fuels (15.2 billion gallons; 9.21 percent)

Based on analysis of market availability, EPA is proposing a 2012 cellulosic volume that is lower than the EISA target for 2012 of 500 million gallons. EPA said it will continue to evaluate the market as it works to finalize the cellulosic standard in the coming months. The agency remains optimistic that the commercial availability of cellulosic biofuel will continue to grow in the years ahead.

In addition, EPA is proposing a volume requirement of 1.28 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel for 2013.

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Biodiesel tax legislation introduced by Peterson, Schock

Biodiesel Magazine
By Luke Geiver June 21, 2011

The first biodiesel tax legislation for 2011 has been introduced. U.S. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., has been joined by Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., in the introduction of a bill that would not only extend the $1 per gallon credit currently in place until 2014, but also alter the current legislation towards a production excise tax credit, in a bill the co-sponsors have titled the Biodiesel Tax Incentive Reform and Extension Act (H.R. 2238).

Peterson said on the bill that “increasing the production of renewable energy is vital to creating jobs and growing our rural economies.” Adding that, “Unfortunately, by allowing the biodiesel tax credit to lapse, we’ve already witnessed a loss of jobs and production.” Because, as Peterson said, the biodiesel industry is still developing, the certainty of a tax credit can help the industry to “continue to move forward and fully realize our renewable energy potential.”

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

100 companies now growing the US biogas industry

Biomass Power & Thermal
By American Biogas Council June 16, 2011

Illustrating it is the voice of the biogas and anaerobic digestion industry, the American Biogas Council welcomed its 100th member this week. The ABC is the first and only trade association in the U.S. representing organizations dedicated to maximizing the production and use of biogas from organic waste. Municipalities, digester designers, multinational engine manufacturers, farmers, natural gas providers, waste management companies, engineering and law firms, nonprofits and universities are just part of the diverse group of organizations that represent the ABC membership and the U.S. biogas industry.

“America is waking up to the potential of biogas as a tool for job creation, baseload renewable energy generation, stronger family farms, cleaner water and competitive, organic waste management solutions,” said Paul Greene, chairman of the ABC. “We are very pleased that so many companies have stepped up to support our vision for the future of this industry.”

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Allard debuts first self-powered ethanol micro-refinery

Biofuels Digest
Meghan Sapp June 21, 2011

In Texas, Allard Research and Development has unveiled the world’s first self-powered modular cellulose ethanol refinery utilizing cellulose feedstock grown as part of the system in hydroponic shipping containers.

A 20 gallon-per-hour modular cellulose ethanol refinery module with feedstock grow containers will have a 3,600 sq. ft. footprint. These modules can be networked together to increase the size of the refinery without losing efficiencies.

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Millons Spent on Lobbying for VEETC Reform
Posted by Joanna Schroeder – June 21st, 2011

Last week was a crazy week in DC as several amendments to alter or kill the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) were voted on by the Senate. While the first vote was in favor of ethanol (it defeated the Coburn amendment), the industry took a hit when Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) bill was passed, essentially killing VEETC and the tariff without a phase-out plan (but the ethanol industry doesn’t think it will pass into law). So who spent the most money to get their way on VEETC? Lobbyists against VEETC outnumbered and outspent pro-ethanol groups, according to data from First Street-CQ Press’ new policy intelligence platform.

First street followed the money dedicated to lobbying for both Senate Bill S. 520 Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit Repeal Act and House Bill H.R. 1075 Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit Repeal Act. During first quarter of this year, there were 32 lobbying firms representing 36 clients to the tune of $8,895,893.00. There were 22 lobbying firms active on the House side representing 18 clients and spent $3,645,862.08. So first quarter alone, more than $12 million was spent on lobbying for VEETC reform.

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Unlocking the structure of lignin, and feasible pathways to cellulosic conversion

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 16, 2011

Research from ORNL reveals new details of bioenergy’s most daunting technical barrier

“You can make anything out of lignin, except money.” – old industry saying

Lignin, for those newer to the biofuels world, is a complex chemical compound that makes veggies, plants and wood firm, confers resistance to pests, and provides the skeletal strength to enable plants to reach up to the sun for energy.

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Virent produces biofuel from sources outside food supply

Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel
June 2, 2011

Reaching a key milestone in the quest for a better biofuel, Virent Energy Systems has produced "biogasoline" from crops that aren't part of the nation's food supply.

The Madison biofuels firm announced it has made biogasoline from a combination of corn stalks and leaves left on farms after the corn harvest, as well as pine tree branches, needles and stumps left on the forest floor after logging.

The project is part of a $50 million national research effort, funded primarily through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and steered by the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium.

Cellulosic biofuels are considered important not only because they don't compete with food sources, but also because they are projected to generate far fewer emissions linked to global warming than current biofuels.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Enzyme discovery could aid lignin-based biofuels

Biorefining Magazine
By Luke Geiver June 16, 2011

University of Warwick professor Timothy Bugg hopes a new lignin-degrading enzyme found in bacteria will help unlock previously unattainable sources of biofuel feedstock. With help from researchers at the University of British Columbia, Bugg has discovered bacteria found in the soil, Rhodococcus jostii, which possess the ability to break down lignin. The research efforts were supported by the Engineering and Physical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council based in the U.K.

One of the most important aspects of the research, according to Bugg, is the enzyme present in a vehicle like bacteria as opposed to fungi. “Groups have been working on lignin-metabolizing enzymes from fungi since the mid 1980s,” he said, “but I was interested in reports that bacteria could also break down lignin. I think working with bacterial enzymes offers some potential advantage.” Those advantages start with the molecular biology of bacteria, which Bugg pointed out “is more straightforward.” The process to express the recombinant proteins is more straightforward, he said, “and it’s realistic to find thermophillic enzymes that could be very useful for biotechnology.”

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House votes to defund BCAP, fate lies with Senate

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin June 17, 2011

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program is in jeopardy as the House voted to defund it, now its fate will be decided by the Senate.

On June 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the agricultural appropriations spending bill, H.R. 2122, which contains a component that eliminates 2012 funding for BCAP. This follows the bill’s passage in the Ag Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Appropriations Committee during the second week of June.

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Iowa State hybrid lab combines technologies to make biorenewable fuels and products
AMES, Iowa – Laura Jarboe pointed to a collection of test tubes in her Iowa State University laboratory.

Some of the tubes looked like they were holding very weak coffee. That meant microorganisms – in this case, Shewanella bacteria – were growing and biochemically converting sugars into hydrocarbons, said Jarboe, an Iowa State assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering.

Some of the sugars in those test tubes were produced by the fast pyrolysis of biomass. That's a thermochemical process that quickly heats biomass (such as corn stalks and leaves) in the absence of oxygen to produce a liquid product known as bio-oil and a solid product called biochar. The bio-oil can be used to manufacture fuels and chemicals; the biochar can be used to enrich soil and remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Iowa State's Hybrid Processing Laboratory on the first floor of the new, state-built Biorenewables Research Laboratory is all about encouraging that unique mix of biochemical and thermochemical technologies. The goal is for biologists and engineers to use the lab's incubators, reactors, gas chromatography instruments and anaerobic chambers to find new and better ways to produce biorenewable fuels and chemicals.

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JBEI to partner with Russian Institute on biofuels research

R&D Magazine
Thursday, June 16, 2011

As part of a joint action plan to enhance cooperation between the United States and Russia in the energy sphere, which was signed on June 9, 2011 by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu during an official visit to Russia, DOE's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) will partner with Moscow's Kurchatov Institute to evaluate the potential of unique ceramic membrane separators as an economic means of recovering advanced biofuels. Under the plan, JBEI will provide samples of fuels made from biomass using microbes, and the Kurchatov Institute will provide and test the membranes.

"In this project with the Kurchatov Institute, we are basically trying to eliminate the need for distillation and extensive chemical separations to recover biofuel from culture media," says Blake Simmons, JBEI's vice president for deconstruction, and the co-principal investigator, along with Jay Keasling, for JBEI on this project. "The ceramic membranes will be evaluated in terms of their biofuel recovery efficiencies. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a cost-effective and energy-efficient means of producing biofuels on a commercial scale by advancing biofuel membrane separation technology."

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New Recipe For Biodiesel Calls For Lime

Chemical and Engineering News
June 17, 2011

Renewable Fuel: Calcium hydroxide, better known as hydrated lime, transforms used soybean oil into biodiesel
A new method uses hydrated lime to transform soybean oil, recycled from other uses, into biodiesel, researchers report (Energy Fuels, DOI: 10.1021/ef200555r). The new method may provide an environmentally friendly route to biofuels, the team suggests.

Crops grown solely for fuel have been controversial because of the related loss of valuable food-producing land, forest, and other ecosystems, as well as the drain on water resources to grow some crops in water-strapped regions. But used vegetable oil is simply waste, and many researchers see it as a desirable source of raw materials for biodiesel, a replacement for fossil fuels made from plant or animal fats.

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Wageningen University & Research (Netherlands) Opens Algae Research Center For Renewable Energy and Materials

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: June 17, 2011

On 17 June, with the opening of AlgaePARC and the launch of the BioSolar Cells research project, a new research facility at Wageningen UR (University & Research centre) starts exploring on a semi-industrial scale the potential of micro-algae as a sustainable source of energy and raw materials.

The aim is to raise the sustainable output of algae bioreactors while dramatically lowering the production costs.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Neutrons, simulations reveal details of bioenergy barrier

R&D Magazine
Thursday, June 16, 2011

A first of its kind combination of experiment and simulation at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is providing a close-up look at the molecule that complicates next-generation biofuels.

Lignin, a major component of plant cell walls, aggregates to form clumps, which cause problems during the production of cellulosic ethanol. The exact shape and structure of the aggregates, however, have remained largely unknown.

A team led by ORNL's Jeremy Smith revealed the surface structure of lignin aggregates down to 1 A. The team's findings were published in Physical Review E.

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Vilsack makes major BCAP announcements

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin June 15, 2011

Vilsack said that USDA's goal is to get up to 50,000 acres of cropland for the growth of miscanthus.
While the fate of 2012 funding for USDA's Biomass Crop Assistance Program is still up in the air, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made some major announcements June 15 regarding the program’s project area component.

In early June, the Ag Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Appropriations Committee voted to eliminate 2012 funding for BCAP. All hope for the program is not lost, however, as the ag department spending bill still has to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate. Several strong BCAP supporting senators, including Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, are expected to make a bid to preserve the program’s funding.

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Next-generation MSU biofuel technology wins U.S. scale-up support

Michigan State University
Published: June 17, 2011

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A $4.3 million competitive federal grant will help scale up advanced biofuel technology developed by a Michigan State University researcher.

Bruce Dale, professor of chemical engineering and materials science at MSU, developed a method to turn agricultural waste and nonfood plants into material easily processed into biofuel and chemicals. The Michigan Biotechnology Institute, or MBI, will use U.S. Department of Energy funding to step up Dale’s process from lab bench scale to a 100-fold larger working prototype.

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Senate vote marks start of end for ethanol subsidies

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:38pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to eliminate billions of dollars in support for the U.S. ethanol industry, sending a strong message that the era of big taxpayer support for biofuels is ending.

The 73-27 vote may ultimately be symbolic since the White House has vowed not to repeal ethanol subsidies fully and the bill the repeal language is attached to is not expected to make it into law. But it underscores the growing desperation to find savings in a budget crisis that is forcing both sides of the aisle to consider sacrificing once-sacred government programs.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Texas A&M Biofuels Research Initiative Receives $2.3 Million DOE Grant

Texas A&M
June 14, 2011 :

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, June 14, 2011 – A Texas A&M University research initiative that converts agricultural wastes into biofuels and high-quality animal feeds has received a $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The three-year grant will provide funding to the biomass research program run by Mark Holtzapple, professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M.

The grant, announced by U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, is part of a larger federal effort to cut foreign oil imports. That effort is funding up to $36 million for six projects in California, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin – all directed at advancing the technology improvements and process integration needed to produce drop-in advanced biofuels and other valuable bio-based chemicals.

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Diesel-gasoline hybrid engine in the works at Chrysler

Biodiesel Magazine
By Luke Geiver June 15, 2011

The Chrysler minivan’s engine may look, or at least act, a lot different by 2013. Argonne National Laboratory is trying to combine the positive elements of the gasoline engine and the diesel engine for use in such vehicles as Chrysler’s popular Town and Country minivan. Steve Ciatti, a mechanical engineer at Argonne, is leading a team that is attempting to construct and test a hybrid engine that will employ the properties of the diesel engine, mainly the ability of the diesel engine to use compressed air without a spark to ignite the fuel into energy. Argonne isn’t alone in the effort to bridge the properties of the diesel and gasoline engines. The U.S. DOE is partaking in the effort, along with partners Chrysler, Delphi, FEV and the Ohio State University.

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Hart Energy Releases Ethanol and Biofuels Outlook to 2015

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: June 14, 2011

Houston—The challenges facing the ethanol industry are multifaceted.

U.S. ethanol production is approaching ever closer to an E10 "blend wall," and the adoption of higher E15 blends is likely to occur slowly.

The main federal incentive for ethanol expires at the end of the year, along with the tariff on foreign ethanol, and extensions of some form of incentive and tariff are likely to be at far lower rates than the government has provided in the past.

California has implemented a statewide Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which will be progressively harder for U.S. corn-based ethanol to meet.

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The Integrated Biorefinery: the (re) rise of BioPower

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 15, 2011 4

New technologies and diversified feedstocks are turning biomass power generation from ugly stepchild to star
Back in the day, most projects that refined biomass were single feedstock, single product stream monsters. US plants, for example, generally produced ethanol and feed grains from corn, or biodiesel and glycerine from soybeans. When feedstock prices were low, and fuel prices high, all was well – plants were constructed like weeds.

The collapse of the global biodiesel market, and bankruptcies in the US ethanol industry, had as much to do with the facilities as rising feedstock and falling fuel prices. Diversification is the accepted strategy for coping with changing conditions, but the industry was generally locked in by its own technology.

Much has changed. Today, the industry routinely utilizes dozens of feedstocks – fats, oils, greases, corn stover and cobs, bagasse, switchgrass and miscanthus, jatropha, camelina, and energy canes – in addition to traditional crops like sugarcane, corn, soybeans, rapeseed and cassava.

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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awards $1.5M for next-gen biodiesel

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 7, 2011 7

In Ghana, Colombia University professor Kartik Chandran has won a $1.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to produce biodiesel and methane from human waste in the capital city of Accra using the “Next-Generation Urban Sanitation Facility” he has developed. The idea is to provide local communities with access to affordable fuel while reducing environmental and public health impacts of improperly treated waste.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why does the QMicrobe get 30% more ethanol out of certain Brachypodium perennial grasses?

Biofuels Digest
Isabel Lane June 13, 2011

In Massachusetts, a new five-year $750,000 Early Career Research grant from the DOE aims to determine the genetic mechanism that enables certain strains of the Q Microbe to produce up to 30 percent more ethanol from energy crop model system Brachypodium than other strains.. Samuel Hazen received one of 65 awarded grants from the DOE.

The project will test UMass Amherst’s “Q Microbe”, which was discovered by UMass professor Sue Leschine and forms the original technology platform for Qteros, with hundreds of strains of Brachypodium, to determine the highest-yielding, most efficient variants for energy production. “The goal is to identify the genetic mechanisms that confer these advantages and translate that knowledge into energy crop development,” said Hazen.

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Senate keeps $6B in subsidies, but 34 GOP side with Coburn

The Hill
By Alexander Bolton and Josiah Ryan - 06/14/11 05:01 PM ET

Thirty-four Senate Republicans, including GOP leaders, voted on Tuesday to eliminate a $6 billion annual tax break for ethanol, striking a blow against the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

The vote came on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to eliminate a 45-cent tax break given to refiners for every gallon of ethanol they blend with gasoline.

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Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research opens in Illinois

Biofuels Digest
Meghan Sapp June 14, 2011

In Illinois, the Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research at the University of Illinois has opened a renovated CABER Bioprocessing Laboratory, that will focus on increasing efficiencies in current biofuel technologies, and developing new biofuel and biochemical technologies. The 2500 square foot lab features wet milling, dry grind and ethanol fermentation equipment. Biomass processing equipment will be added in the future. Additional analytic capabilities will be coordinated with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, part of the Prairie Research Institute.

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U.S. funds non-food biomass projects
Published: June 13, 2011 at 8:06 AM

WASHINGTON, June 13 (UPI) -- Washington has up to $36 million available for small-scale projects to fund biological and chemical process to make biomass fuels, the Energy Department said.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said small-scale projects in California, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin would get funding to help improve biological and chemical process that convert non-food biomass into replacements for fossil fuels.

"Projects such as these are helping us to diversify our energy portfolio and decrease our dependence on foreign oil," Chu said in a statement. "Together with our partners, the department is working hard to expand the clean energy economy, creating jobs in America and providing sustainable replacements for the fuels and products now provided primarily by petroleum."

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For the Ethanol Industry, a Delicate Political Balance

Tue Jun 14, 2011 7:02am EDT
Kevin Dobbs, Midwest Energy News

An ethanol tax credit costs about $5 billion annually and is set to expire this year if Congress does not extend it

SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — Jeff Broin, the chief executive of ethanol production giant Poet LLC, says that if one looks out 20 years and envisions a U.S. market permeated with ethanol-blended fuel products, the country's dependence on imported oil "could easily go away."

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

E15 Gas Pump Labels Get White House OK

Convenience Store News
Jun 10, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Obama administration has given the OK to a new gasoline pump label that would alert motorists when they are about to fill their vehicles with a fuel blended with a higher rate of ethanol.

The move comes five months after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved raising the amount of ethanol in gas to 15 percent, up from the previous 10 percent, for newer cars and trucks. The EPA's approval was hailed by ethanol industry insiders and farmers who supply corn to make the fuel, according to Reuters.

Pro-ethanol trade group Growth Energy said the new labels could clear the path for E15 gas to become available across the country by end of September. The EPA still needs to register E15 before it can be sold.

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Green fields: USDA testing climate credits with Iowa, Illinois farmers

Des Moines Register
7:36 PM, Jun. 11, 2011

With the Obama administration looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Agriculture Department is trying to perfect methods for farmers and landowners to get paid for emission-saving practices.

A $2.8 million project in Iowa and Illinois that the USDA is helping fund will study methods of cutting back on the amount of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, that escapes from farmland as a result of farmers using nitrogen fertilizer. The three-year project will involve 100 farmers who will test several methods for reducing nitrous oxide, including reducing their fertilizer use or using practices that reduce the amount of nitrogen that is washed off of fields or emitted into the air.

The idea of this and similar projects the USDA is funding is to quantify how much greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by various methods and how much farmers and landowners could earn in emission-reduction credits, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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Opinion: Nuclear power is still too costly and too risky

Des Moines Register
11:00 PM, Jun. 9, 2011
Written by DR. MAUREEN McCUE, a University of Iowa faculty member, is Iowa coordinator of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Carolyn Heising, professor of engineering at Iowa State University, suggested Iowa move financing new nuclear power plants forward in her opinion piece, "Nuclear Power Still a Key Player" (June 5). There are at least five reasons why Heising is wrong.

FIRST, nuclear power is still too costly to compete. The Energy Information Administration's annual outlook for 2011 reports that new wind power, new biomass plants, existing power plants that switch to co-generation, and even new coal plants are all less expensive than nuclear power.

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Bacteria enzyme to produce biofuel from woody biomass
Friday, June 10, 2011

The structure of the newly identified lignin degrading enzyme from Rhodococcus. Copyright: Lindsay Eltis and Michael MurphyResearchers from the University of Warwick in Britain and the Canada-based University of British Columbia have teamed up in a study that successfully identified an enzyme that could produce more biofuel from woody biomass.

The researchers identified a gene for breaking down lignin in a soil-living bacterium called Rhodococcus jostii. Though similar enzymes have been discovered before in fungi, this is the first time one has been identified in bacteria.

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Brazil to Triple Renewable Energy by 2020

By Zachary Shahan
Fri Jun 10, 2011 2:41am EDT

Germany, South Korea, Japan, and China aren't the only countries looking to up step on the renewable energy pedal. Brazil, another major world economy, has also recently announced big renewable energy plans.

A new national 10-year plan from Brazil shows that the country will triple its use of renewable energy by 2020 and that a lot of that energy will be wind energy.

Going from 9 GW of wind, biomass and small hydropower in 2010, the country intends to hit 27 GW by 2020. It wants to have 16 percent of its electricity supply coming from renewables in 10 years.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Coffee Grounds Give Jolt to Crippled Japanese Energy Grid

ABC News
By AKIKO FUJITA (@akikofujita)
TOKYO June 6, 2011

That daily cup of coffee is giving one of Japan's large thermal power plants an eco-friendly jolt. Sumitomo Metal Industries says it has begun using coffee grounds as biomass fuel to power its Kashima Steel Works plant in Japan, a first for a large power generating facility in the country.

Sumitomo Metal says biomass fuel generated from coffee grounds currently only amounts to 1 percent of the total amount of fuel used at the plant, but it hopes to gradually increase that number. The company plans to buy 12,000 tons of coffee grounds in the first year of the project.

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E15 ethanol: bridge to tomorrow, or bridge to nowhere?

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane June 8, 2011

The offices of Eric McAfee, the charismatic Silicon Valley entrepreneur and CEO of AE Biofuels, are just a block or two from the offices of Apple and Steve Jobs, and thoughts of Jobs’ famed “reality distortion field” come easily to mind while threading through the Apple-swamped car traffic en route to a meeting at AE Biofuels headquarters.

Among the subjects, E15 ethanol. Turns out that McAfee doesn’t need a “reality distortion field,” to sell the cellulosic ethanol industry’s vision of expanding market access through E15. A giant Scottish clan sword, right out of the pages of Rob Roy and weighing perhaps 30 pounds, adorns the wall of his office, magnetically attached to the wall and suitably available for extra persuasion, should discussions on E10, vs E15, or higher blend volumes, go badly.

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Finnish professor wins top bioenergy prize

Renewable Energy
08 June 2011

The Johannes Linneborn Prize for Achievement in Biomass Development has been awarded to Professor Kai Sipilä
By Isabella Kaminski

Professor Sipilä, Vice-President of strategic energy research at the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT), won the prize for his leadership in the development of biomass conversion technologies and for promoting biomass as a sustainable energy source within Finland.

The Johannes Linneborn Prize for Achievement in Biomass Development, which was established in 1994 for outstanding contributions to the development of energy from biomass, was awarded during the 19th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition in Berlin.

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Coburn prompts Senate vote on ethanol subsidies

The Washington Post
By Lori Montgomery, Friday, June 10, 11:20 AM

The anti-tax pledge signed by 95 percent of congressional Republicans faces a key test Tuesday, when the Senate is scheduled to vote on a plan to repeal billions of dollars in annual tax subsidies for ethanol — a move defined by the pledge as a tax hike.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) surprised Senate leaders when he went to the floor late Thursday — hours after many of his colleagues had caught flights home for the weekend — and motioned to force a preliminary vote on the measure.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Khosla chides Big Oil for lack of biofuels appetite

By Reese Ewing
SAO PAULO Mon Jun 6, 2011 5:52pm EDT

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Billionaire Vinod Khosla took Big Oil to task on Monday for taking more risk on a long-odds deepwater oil well than on the future of biomass energy that he says will change the world within decades.

Speaking the 2011 Brazilian Ethanol Summit in Sao Paulo, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems said that the world is on the verge of a technological breakthrough in cost-effectively converting crops like sugarcane into most of the fuels and consumer products that petroleum now provides.

He bluntly chastised executives from energy companies such as Royal-Dutch Shell and Britain's BP, who were sitting on stage with him before a crowd of 2,000 people, for what he said was a failure to sufficiently embrace biofuels.

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Ethanol plant takes next step by moving to isobutanol

AgriNews (Minnesota, Northern Iowa)
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 06/09/2011 8:35 AM

LUVERNE, Minn. — Ground was broken May 31 for the world's first commercial-scale isobutanol plant.

Construction is expected to start at Gevo Luverne in late June or early July, as soon as the water permit is issued, said Patrick Gruber, Gevo chief executive officer. The retrofit will add equipment and a new shed to the former Agri Energy ethanol plant.

Agri Energy was sold to Gevo in September 2010, said David Kolsrud, a founding member of the ethanol plant and president of DAK Renewable Energy.

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Corn Hits Record on U.S. Weather, Demand

By Jeff Wilson - Jun 10, 2011 1:47 PM CT .

Corn surged to a record approaching $8 a bushel on signs that global inventories will drop as adverse weather slashes acreage in the U.S., the world’s top producer, and demand rise for livestock feed and ethanol.

Worldwide stockpiles will be 111.89 metric million tons before the 2012 harvest in the Northern Hemisphere, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said yesterday. That was down from 129.14 million forecast in May and 117.44 million that the agency says will be in storage by Oct. 1. U.S. supplies before the 2012 harvest were estimated at the lowest since 1996.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Brazil seeks to boost stagnant ethanol industry

Mon Jun 6, 2011 2:32pm EDT
By Inae Riveras and Brian Winter

* Govt throws support behind greater ethanol investment
* Threat of regulation overhangs industry conference
* BNDES says will support expansion in ethanol production

SAO PAULO, June 6 (Reuters) - Brazil's government unveiled new financing and other incentives for sugar cane ethanol production on Monday, vowing to work closely with the private sector to boost production in an industry that has struggled recently despite its immense promise.

The state-run development bank BNDES announced that it would provide 30 billion to 35 billion reais ($19 billion to $22 billion) to finance expansion in the sugar cane sector through 2014, a major bet equivalent to about two-thirds of the
industry's annual output.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

The Defense Department Is a Significant Driver of New Technology

Biofuels Digest
June 3, 2011
By Brent Erickson, Digest columnist, Executive VP, Industrial Environmental Section, BIO

To carry out military and humanitarian missions around the world, U.S. forces require reliable fuel supplies and secure supply lines. The military is as much at the mercy of high oil and gasoline prices as the average consumer. And, oil often comes from regions of the world that are not U.S. military allies. Energy independence is therefore a national security issue.

U.S. troops, their trucks, ships and airplanes use close to 2 percent of the nation’s energy on an annual basis, making the military a small but significant consumer of fuel. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense used about 119 million barrels of oil for fuel.

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Science & Industry Peers Turn to NREL for Biomass Solutions

R&D Magazine
By National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Thursday, June 2, 2011

The biomass industry looks to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for solutions when it comes to lignocellulosic conversion of biomass to fuels. CELLULOSE editors recently announced that three NREL papers were in the top 10 for most requested articles of 2010.

"These heavily cited papers highlight the impact that NREL researchers are having on the bio-fuel and bio-chemical research, development and deployment communities," NREL Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology Dana Christensen said. "NREL’s work reflects the importance of translating fundamental science advances into meaningful, commercially viable applications that offer substantial economic and environmental benefits."

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Virent makes biogasoline from corn stover, pine waste

Biofuels Digest
Thomas Saidak June 3, 2011

In Wisconsin, Virent announced they have successfully produced biogasoline from corn stover and pine harvest forest residuals, as a recipient of the U.S. Department of Energy’s February 2010 grant to the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium (NABC).

Virent’s milestone supports the NABC’s goal to develop technologies to convert cellulosic biomass feedstocks into hydrocarbon fuels that are sustainable, cost-effective and compatible with existing infrastructure.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Bi-Fuel Ethanol-Diesel Vehicle Debuts in Brazil
Posted by Joanna Schroeder – June 2nd, 2011

Typically flex fuel vehicles are a combination of ethanol and gasoline or diesel and biodiesel. But inroads have been made to create flex fuel vehicles that use a combination of ethanol and diesel fuels. Iveco, FPT Industrial and Bosch officially debuted the Iveco Trakker Bi-Fuel Ethanol-Diesel vehicle at Agrishow last week in Ribeirão Preto, the country’s largest agricultural show.

The Takker contains an FPT Industrial Cursor 9 engine that can run on an ethanol and diesel mixture and is geared toward sugarcane and ethanol producers in the country. In early tests, the vehicle has successfully been using a 40 percent ethanol / 60 percent diesel blend and providing a 6 percent reduction in fuel costs. Development of the bi-flex vehicle began in 2010 with support from UNICA, the Brazilian Association of Sugarcane Producers and part of an ethanol industry “green policies” program.

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Data shows responsible biomass harvesting is part of good soil management
By POET June 1, 2011

Non-traditional stover baling keeps good cover on Emmetsburg, Iowa soil

EMMETSBURG, IOWA POET's contracted biomass removal rates with area farmers are conservative and consistent with good soil management, updated site data gathered by Iowa State University and USDA researchers indicate.

Iowa State University has completed analysis on data from the third year of an ongoing study for POET near Emmetsburg, Iowa to monitor how soil health is affected when crop residue is removed. POET’s planned 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant, dubbed “Project LIBERTY,” will use corn cobs, leaves, husks and some stalk to produce renewable fuel.

The newest data confirms previous assertions that removing about 1 bone-dry ton per acre (which is about 25 percent of the area’s above-ground crop residue) will not cause significant nutrient loss. In fact, corn yields continued to show no yield loss or moderate increases in fields with this rate of biomass removal.

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Pellet Technology targets cellulosic ethanol producers

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill June 02, 2011

Nebraska-based Pellet Technology LLC is teaming up with CPM to offer second-generation biofuels producers a solution to the logistical issues surrounding the use of bulky biomass as feedstocks. Pellet Technology, which became commercially active just a few months ago, has developed a patented technology to produce pellets from corn stover and other energy crops. The pellets can be used to co-fire industrial boilers, but they can also be used as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production, according to Russ Zeeck, chief operating officer of Pellet Technology. This application has been tested commercially and will be used in several U.S. DOE-funded projects, including the EdeniQ Inc. pilot plant in California, he said. It’s also ready for use at commercial pellet mills, and the company is in talks with several liquid biofuels groups to construct mills in rural locations to service biofuels facilities, he said.

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Ceres takes bioenergy seed business public

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Kris Bevill June 01, 2011

Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based energy crop seed developed Ceres Inc. filed papers with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on May 23 for an initial public offering, hoping to raise up to $100 million to fund the expansion of its business. Specifically, the company is seeking to expand its operations in Brazil, establish additional collaborative agreements to commercialize cellulosic biofuels and continue to develop intellectual property for further product improvements.

Ceres has spent several years developing dedicated energy crop seeds for biofuels and bioenergy production. Among them are sweet sorghum, high biomass sorghum and switchgrass varieties, which the company markets under its Blade Energy Crops brand. According to the company’s S-1 filing, Ceres believes Brazil is the most promising initial market for its products. A joint venture between Brazil’s Grupo São Martinho S.A. and Petrobras Biofuels recently planted and harvested Ceres’ sweet sorghum to produce ethanol and power using existing agricultural equipment and processing infrastructure. Similar projects are also in the works with other Brazilian ethanol producers, including Archer Daniels Midland Co.’s Brazilian subsidiary. Ceres stated in its filing that the success of the first commercial-scale planting proves the “drop-in” nature of its sweet sorghum products. The shorter growing cycle and reduced water and fertilizer requirements of the sweet sorghum compared to sugarcane should encourage greater use by Brazilian mills because it will allow them to extend their typical 200-day production schedules by about 60 days, the company stated.

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Cross-industry Project Management Practices
By Kish Khemani, Neal Walters and Patrick Haischer, A.T. Kearney
June 1, 2011

Lessons can be learned from successes in large and complex projects outside the renewable energy industry.

Tulsa, OK, USA -- Growth in power generation from renewable energy sources is being driven by climate change concerns and the resulting public agenda. With the United States importing around 60 percent of the oil it consumes, energy independence is also a potent force driving the need for homegrown sustainable energy. However, with the current uncertainty around future energy policy-including the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Summit at the end of 2009 and slim chances of a major Obama Energy Bill passing through Congress-the rapid growth of and positive sentiment for renewable energy has suffered some setbacks. Some industry observers have even started to talk about a "green energy bubble."

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Procter & Gamble Partners With Bio-based Chemicals Startup ZeaChem
Jun. 1 2011 - 9:53 am

Someday, laundry detergents and shampoos from Procter & Gamble might just be made entirely with bio-based chemicals instead of petroleum-based ingredients. The consumer products giant inked a development deal with Silicon Valley startup ZeaChem that it is announcing on Wednesday. The deal is intended to help take Procter & Gamble toward its goal of making its products from more sustainable ingredients.

ZeaChem CEO Jim Imbler said the agreement with Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) prevents him from sharing details on the kinds of products that might be first in line to get bio-based chemicals. “The kinds of molecules we make can go into lots of different things,” said Imbler, who emphasized that his company is not creating new molecules, but producing bio-based versions of existing molecules. “We make brown things green,” he added. Financial terms of the multi-year agreement were not disclosed.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

New Biochar To Replace Activated Carbon?
by Caleb Denison, May 29th, 2011

We recently took a look at a new type of “spongy carbon” developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin which shows great promise in creating a supercapacitor with the ability to store much more energy than is currently possible. The development is hailed as a breakthrough because of the potential it has to considerably improve energy storage technologies but we now learn that scientists at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey have come up with a development of their own that shows promise in improving supercapacitors whilst also taking advantage of a natural by-product of biomass incineration.

In a statement, the student scientists at Stevens point out that the problem with existing supercapacitors is that they use activated carbon to store energy and that the material is both unsustainable and expensive. The alternative that the students came up with uses “biochar.” Biochar is what is left over when organic matter is burned and, as the team points out, biomass energy facilities are already producing it. Now the students have designed, fabricated, and tested a prototype supercapacitor electrode using biochar and, apparently, the project was a success.

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Argonne researchers look to hydrogen extraction from carbohydrates in biomass
Friday, May 27, 2011

In its aim to find ways of harvesting hydrogen based on plant material sources, Argonne National Laboratory scientists are now looking at another option of effectively extracting the element from biomass. Carbohydrates, the sugar that plants produce in the occurrence of photosynthesis, are the next source material that scientists are considering to harvest hydrogen from.

Argonne’s materials scientist Christopher Marshall will be using a biologically-inspired synthesized catalyst to get hydrogen from biomass. His group is studying to use platinum and platinum molybdenum hybrid catalyst to come up with the element on the plant-based material.

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BTEC webinar explores biomass CHP, district heating

Biomass Power & Heat
By Anna Austin May 26, 2011

The efficiencies of conventional or central station fossil fuel plants have not changed much in the past half century, according to John Cuttica, director of the Midwest CHP (combined heat and power) Regional Application Center.

“It’s hard to believe, but the efficiencies of these plants have not really increased in over 50 years,” he said. “For every 100 units of fuel that enters these plants, we only get about 30 to 33 units of electricity. The rest of the energy contained in the fuel is released into the atmosphere in the form of heat.”

On the other hand, efficiencies in thermal energy have increased to 80 percent or higher, he said, adding that a baseline to improve upon begins at about 50 to 55 percent efficiency.

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House Ag Appropriations votes to cut BCAP, REAP

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson May 25, 2011

Just a few weeks after the USDA announced the first project area for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee has voted to eliminate BCAP funding for 2012. Not only that, but the subcommittee’s May 24 vote included an elimination of Rural Energy for America Program funding, as well.

Both elements of the 2008 Farm Bill, the programs are considered integral for farmers and rural businesses developing biomass heat and power. “The House could not be sending a clearer signal that they don’t care about rising on-farm energy prices,” said Andy Olsen, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, an environmental legal advocacy group in the Midwest. “This ‘do-nothing’ approach strikes at the heart of America’s ‘can do’ attitude.”

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

SUNY ESF developing new biofuels

YNN (Syracuse)
05/23/2011 01:21 PM
By: Web Staff

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- When you go to fill up at the pump, you may notice most gas stations now use ethanol to supplement their fuel, but at SUNY ESF, scientists are working on an even more energy efficient alternative biofuel, Butanol.

They let us into their labs Monday to show us how the process works. By simply using water, heat and pressure, they can transform wood chips into this viable alternative fuel.

The process is still in the research stages, but experts say it has many advantages over ethanol.

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DOE places dozens of loan guarantee applications on hold

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill May 23, 2011

The head of the U.S. DOE’s loan guarantee programs has issued letters to multiple applicants, informing them that their projects are being placed on hold due to timing restrictions. The 1705 loan guarantee program is set to expire on Sept. 30, which means that in order to participate in the program, projects must have closed on the loan guarantee and begin construction by that date. In a blog posted to the DOE’s website on May 10, Jonathan Silver, director of the loan programs office, said this rigorous schedule will make it impossible for all of the current applicants to succeed by the end date, and therefore the DOE will continue to work with only those companies that are farthest along in the application process.

“Recognizing that generating an application and supporting it through the review process is both time consuming and expensive, we are placing a number of other applications on hold,” Silver wrote. “This does not mean they are not quality projects, it simply means other applicants that are further along are more likely to meet the program’s deadline and consume the available funding.”

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Ethanol's backers seize moment on gas prices (Bloomington, IL)
By Ryan Denham Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 7:00 am

BLOOMINGTON -- With a gallon of gas now about $3.80 in the Twin Cities -- a dollar more than last year -- ethanol's biggest supporters say they've found an upside: It could be worse.

That's according to a new study (funded in part by the Renewable Fuels Association) that claims the average price of a gallon of wholesale gas in the U.S. was 89 cents lower in 2010 because of the increased production of ethanol, which is blended into gas. In the Midwest, where the corn-based biofuel's production is at its maximum, that jumps to $1.37 per gallon.

The study by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University is hardly the final word on ethanol's impact on gas prices, which is doubted or minimized by critics. But it is being touted by groups like the RFA and the Illinois Farm Bureau as gas prices remain stubbornly high.

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