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

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays!

The Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research wishes you and yours a Happy New Year!

The blog will resume in early January.

Friday, December 23, 2011

University of Iowa biomass boiler will keep money, jobs in state

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Luke Geiver December 20, 2011

A University of Iowa renewable energy project is using woody biomass to stimulate the local economy.

The Oakdale Renewable Energy Plant, led by Ferman Milster, principal engineer, has replaced one of four coal boilers used to provide steam for a satellite campus with a wood chip-fired unit manufactured by Hurst Boiler and Welding Co.

The boiler will produce 20,000 pounds per hour of saturated steam. Milster and his team have repurposed an old underground coal bunker to serve as wood chip storage, and, according to Milster, the team is excited about the opportunity to procure even more of the biomass fuel locally. “All the natural gas and coal to support our energy needs comes from out-of-state,” he said. “That means the money for this fuel leaves Iowa. Buying wood chips locally, at prices competitive with historical average natural gas prices, puts money back into the local economy.”

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U.S. Importing, Exporting Ethanol To and From Brazil

Corn & Soybean Digest
Source: Renewable Fuels Association
Dec. 20, 2011 4:21pm

Flawed carbon accounting schemes at both the federal and state level are creating a dynamic where the U.S. is importing ethanol from Brazil while simultaneously exporting greater volumes back to Brazil. This “ethanol shuffle” is occurring exclusively as the result of state and Federal fuel regulations that “treat Brazilian sugarcane ethanol as if it were the Holy Grail of biofuels,” according to Geoff Cooper, the Renewable Fuels Association’s vice president of research and analysis.

In his recent blog post, “The Ethanol Shuffle,” Cooper explores this convoluted trade relationship and how U.S. policy is turning world ethanol markets upside down.

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Five New Program Tracks Announced for the 2012 International Biomass Conference & Expo

The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch
Dec. 21, 2011, 2:17 p.m. EST

DENVER, CO, Dec 21, 2011 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- BBI International has announced five new program tracks for the 5th annual International Biomass Conference & Expo, North America's largest and fastest growing biomass conference, taking place April 16-19, 2012 in Denver, CO. The new tracks are tightly focused on leading edge developments in each unique sector of the biomass industry, from feedstock procurement and handling to conversion technology, project finance and regulatory guidance. Below are the comprehensive tracks:

Track 1: Pellets & Densified Biomass Track 2: Industrial & Commercial Thermal Energy Track 3: Biomass Power Track 4: Biogas & Landfill Gas Track 5: Advanced Biofuels & Biobased Chemicals

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CLC bio supplies bioinformatics solution to Sapphire Energy

Biorefining Magazine
By Erin Voegele December 20, 2011

Denmark-based CLC bio, a bioinformatics sequence analysis software provider, recently announced that Sapphire Energy Inc. has installed a custom-made bioinformatics solution from CLC bio in its San Diego-based research center.

“Using sophisticated breeding and selection methods, we're perfecting the efficiency of oil-producing algae, which live mostly on sunlight and carbon dioxide, and improving algae's resistance to disease and its harvest-capability,” said Christopher Yohn, principal scientist at Sapphire Energy. “To meet our development goals, we recognized the need for bioinformatics software. CLC bio has delivered quality custom solutions to automate several critical processes in our R&D workflows.”

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Better Than Nature?

The Daily Scan - Genome Web
December 22, 2011

A team of researchers from Penn State University has taken one of nature's oldest processes — photosynthesis — and improved upon it. The researchers engineered a biological system that can produce a hydrogen biofuel twice as fast as the process happens naturally, reports Popular Science's Rebecca Boyle. "The system uses a molecular wire to facilitate fast movement of electrons between light-capturing enzymes, which are used to split water into molecular oxygen and hydrogen," Boyle says. "It could someday serve as a fast and reliable way to derive hydrogen for use in fuel cells." The group's paper, which appears in PNAS, shows that the researchers, working with bacteria called Synechococcus and Clostridium acetobutylicum, replaced the organisms' FNR enzyme — which helps store energy — with a hydrogenase enzyme, which makes molecular hydrogen. "The result was a high-throughput hydrogen-producing system — electron flow was more than twice as high as the bacteria's individual rates," Boyle says. As the system is adaptable to other organisms, it could be used to create large volumes of biofuels, she adds.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Webinar on market trends shows growing pellet markets

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Luke Geiver December 21, 2011

A BTEC webinar Dec. 21 highlighted the potential in pellet export markets.

As of December 2011, 456 wood-based bioenergy projects exist in the U.S. that have either been announced or are operating, according to Forisk Consulting LLC. Of those, 159 are generating power, 62 are combined-heat-and-power projects, 20 are producing heat, 39 are making liquid fuel and 176 are producing pellets.

Those Forisk numbers, along with information on the market drivers behind woody biomass in North America calculated by RISI Inc., were provided during the final installment of a 14-part Biomass Thermal Energy Council webinar series.

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Energy Sorghum

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Holly Jessen November 15, 2011

Researchers develop high-biomass sorghum that bypasses flowering

What happens when sorghum doesn’t have to put energy into flowering and grain production? High-biomass sorghum that grows up to 20 feet tall, that’s what.

Texas AgriLife Research, part of the Texas A&M University System, is the home of hybrid sorghum, says Adam Helms, assistant program director. Researchers there recently identified a genetic marker to help develop high-biomass sorghum by prohibiting reproduction, or the flowering/grain stage, allowing that energy to go toward biomass accumulation. “This annually planted feedstock would add another tool to the toolbox for the producer,” he tells EPM. “When cellulosic ethanol conversion facilities become widespread, this feedstock would allow a producer to produce a grain, fiber or high-biomass crop.”

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chemicals and biofuel from wood biomass

Eureka Alert!
Public release date: 19-Dec-2011
Aalto University

Most commonly used raw materials in butanol production have so far been starch and cane sugar. In contrast to this, the starting point in the Aalto University study was to use only lignocellulose, otherwise known as wood biomass, which does not compete with food production.

Another new breakthrough in the study is to successfully combine modern pulp - and biotechnology. Finland's advanced forest industry provides particularly good opportunities to develop this type of bioprocesses.

Wood biomass is made up of three primary substances: cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin. Of these three, cellulose and hemicellulose can be used as a source of nutrition for microbes in bioprocesses. Along with cellulose, the Kraft process that is currently used in pulping produces black liquor, which can already be used as a source of energy. It is not, however, suitable for microbes. In the study, the pulping process was altered so that, in addition to cellulose, the other sugars remain unharmed and can therefore be used as raw material for microbes.

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European Commission unveils 2050 Energy Roadmap: missed opportunity?

Biofuels Digest
Meghan Sapp December 20, 2011

In Belgium, the European Commission has unveiled its Energy Roadmap 2050 that outlines different possibilities for reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. The options range from more and better renewables including advanced biofuels to more nuclear power.

Critics said the EC missed the opportunity to provide fixed targets for 2050 but those negotiations are expected to take place between the Council and the European Parliament during the next two years.

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Coskata’s $100 million IPO: The 10-Minute Version

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane December 20, 2011 4

The first gas fermentation technology to come to the public markets: Coskata files its $100 million IPO.

Here’s our 10-minute version of the filing, with a translation of the risks into English.

In Illinois, Coskata has filed an S-1 registration statement for a proposed $100 million initial public offering. The number of shares to be offered in the proposed offering and the price range for the offering have not yet been determined. The lead book-running managers for the offering are Citigroup, Barclays and Piper Jaffray.

The company is currently ranked #17 in the world in the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy. The rankings recognize innovation and achievement in fuels and are based on votes from a panel of invited international selectors, and votes from Digest subscribers.

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Cyanobacteria exonerated by scientists in gene mix-up

Biofuels Digest
Thomas Saidak December 16, 2011

In Pennsylvania, Penn State reports that researchers have corrected a mistake from a 1967 study by showing that cyanobacteria do in fact have the genes for an alternate means of completing the critical tricarboxilic acid cycle. The researchers used tools that were lacking in 1967 to show that the two enzymes required to complete the TCA cycle are present in all but a couple of marine cyanobacteria.

Donald Bryant, professor at Penn State comments, “Now that we understand better how cyanobacteria make energy, it might be possible to genetically engineer a cyanobacterial strain to synthesize 1,4-butanediol…”

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The Jesus Molecule

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane December 16, 2011 13

The Coca-Cola Company invests in Gevo, Virent and Avantium partnerships, in the race to develop renewable plastic bottling entirely from renewables.

There’s been an awful lot of press this week about progress in the search for the God particle. That’s the subatomic Higgs Boson — a key, but as yet undetected, anchor in the standard model of the universe.

Then there’s the Jesus molecule. As in, “Kind lord Jesus in Heaven, grant me an affordable way to make one of those.”

It’s renewable PX, also known as your friend, paraxylene — a key, but as yet undiscovered at affordable cost, anchor in the production of plastic bottles entirely from renewables. (“PX” also accidentally looks not entirely unlike the Chi-Rho, one of the earliest symbols for Jesus Christ.)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

USDA helps install 266 blender pumps through REAP

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill December 15, 2011

The USDA announced the final round of fiscal year 2011 Renewable Energy for America Program awards on Dec. 14. The awards included grants for 12 blender pump projects in eight states, bringing the total number of REAP-funded projects to 65 so far. As a result, 266 new blender pumps will be installed in 30 states, according to the USDA.

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University of Georgia and University of Puerto Rico Create Algae Biofuels Center in Puerto Rico

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: December 19, 2011

Taking advantage of a marine location and tropical climate that are ideal for growing algae, researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of Puerto Rico are creating a renewable energy center to grow algae-based biofuels.

Algae is considered one of the most promising sources of renewable fuels because it grows rapidly, it can be grown in a variety of aquatic environments, including wastewater and salt water, and it does not compete with food agriculture for resources.

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GOP field split over more ag subsidies
11:28 PM, Dec. 17, 2011
Written by Philip Brasher Argus Leader Washington Bureau

In Iowa, Republicans hear refrain: Leave a good thing alone

WASHINGTON — Seldom have things been this good in agriculture, and farmers don't want the next president to mess it up.

Don't touch the biofuels mandates. Don’t impose new regulations on farms. Seek to increase exports of grain and meat. Continue subsidies to protect farmers from price declines or losses in yield.

“Change could bring something that's much less acceptable,” said Dennis Friest, who said the ag economy is the best he’s seen in four decades of farming near Radcliffe, Iowa.

The Republican presidential candidates divide along fairly sharp ideological lines in agricultural policy.

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IL Legislature Extends State Biodiesel Program

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: December 14, 2011

Springfield, IL—Members of the Illinois House and Senate approved Dec. 13 the extension of the state’s biodiesel blending program.

Senate Bill 397 on Tuesday passed the full Illinois Senate by a vote of 44-9.

The bill extends the sunset date for the biodiesel state sales tax incentives to December 31, 2018.

With the extension, any biodiesel blend of more than 10 percent continues to be eligible for fuel tax exemption.

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Industry, Academic Professionals Offer Advice for President Obama’s Bioeconomy Blueprint

Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News
Insight & Intelligence™: Dec 15, 2011
by Alex Philippidis

The administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy received 134 submissions.

President Barack Obama’s administration has begun reviewing suggestions for a National Bioeconomy Blueprint detailing measures by which the Obama administration intends to apply biological research innovations toward national challenges that include health, food, energy, and the environment.

The administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) posted on its website that it received 134 submissions to a formal Request for Information (RFI) between October 7 and the December 6 deadline. In announcing the plan on September 16, the administration said the Blueprint would be developed by January 2012. A spokesman was unavailable Wednesday to confirm if that timeframe was still in effect.

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Discovery On How Sugars Are Moved Throughout a Plant

ScienceDaily (Dec. 8, 2011) — Food prices are soaring at the same time as Earth's population has just reached 7 billion. As a result the need for increased crop yields is extremely important. New research led by Carnegie's Wolf Frommer into the system by which sugars are moved throughout a plant -- from the leaves to the harvested portions and elsewhere -- could be crucial for addressing this problem. Their work is published December 8 by Science Express.

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Ethanol plants and carcinogens

Biofuels Digest
Isabel Lane December 19, 2011

In South Dakota, ethanol plants are being blamed for the rising level of carcinogens in the atmosphere, according to data from the Toxic Release Inventory. The analysis found that releases by ethanol plants has surpassed the releases by plastic factories, accounting for 40% of all reported carcinogens.

The same data showed that while the amount of toxins released into the air has decreased since 2000, the amount of carcinogens has gone up.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Sweetened or energized: the sugarcane dilemma

Renewable Energy Magazine
Thursday, 15 December 2011
Noor-Hal Cuellar

Ethanol has long been recognized as a high-quality transportation fuel, either in low or high-level gasoline blends (and is therefore not subject to a range of barriers faced by other alternatives). The paramount importance of sugarcane supply towards the sustained development of ethanol fuel industry in Brazil is well known. Looking in retrospective, it is still quite astonishing to discover how Brazil managed to take its competitive advantage as the world’s top producer of sugarcane towards an added value for one of its potential products (i.e. ethanol) to overcome the energetic world crisis in 1975. The government-created initiative, the National Ethanol Production Program (also known as Proalcool), boosted this industry’s development by subsidizing sugarcane farming as well as setting up the infrastructure to smooth the transition towards petrol replacement by ethanol. Mills would process sugarcane into ethanol, to be sold via gas stations in vehicles designed to work solely with it by carmakers.

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BTEC Announces Dec. 20 Webinar: Biomass Thermal Energy Market Outlook: 2012 - 2015
By Biomass Thermal Energy Council December 15, 2011

Biomass experts outline future economic growth of industry in the final WERC webinar

Washington, DC – December 15, 2011 Today, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) announced its newest webinar, "Biomass Thermal Energy Market Outlook: 2012-2015," scheduled for December 20th at 2 PM ET. By showcasing future resource availability, technology and policy, this webinar will help those involved with biomass thermal assess resources available to them as well as possible investment options for the future.

Despite regulatory and economic uncertainty, the biomass industry has shown resilience and continued growth. The December 20th webinar will feature three perspectives on biomass market growth, trends, and overall expansion. Each presenter will showcase a different forecasting tool or analysis developed to better understand and promote biomass thermal markets. These tools address resource availability, appliance development and policy possibilities.

Register for webinar

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Study Shows Sugarcane Ethanol Production Causes Air Pollution
15/12/2011 17:15:00

UC Merced researchers show burning of sugarcane fields prior to harvest can create more pollution than previously thought, detracting from benefits of the alternative fuel source

The burning of sugarcane fields prior to harvest for ethanol production can create air pollution that detracts from the biofuel’s overall sustainability, according to research published recently by a team of researchers led by scientists at the University of California, Merced.

UC Merced graduate student Chi-Chung Tsao was the lead author on the paper and was aided in the study by UC Merced professors Elliott Campbell and Yihsu Chen. The study — published online this week in the Nature Climate Change journal —focused on Brazil, the world’s top producer of sugarcane ethanol and a possible source for U.S. imports of the alternative fuel.

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DuPont addresses biofuels, biochemicals during Investor Day event

Biorefining Magazine
By Erin Voegele December 15, 2011

DuPont recently held its 2011 Investor Day event during which the company Chair and CEO Ellen Kullman and its senior leaders detailed the global growth strategy of DuPont and its business segments. Regarding its Industrial Biosciences segment, the presentation noted that long-term compound annual sales growth is expected to be 10 to 12 percent, with pretax operating income margins between 15 and 17 percent. The company said this growth will be driven by continued innovations and the commercialization of DuPont’s biofuels business, and that new products, productivity and cost synergies will contribute to the achievement of margin goals.

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Report: biobased chemicals industry reaches tipping point

Biorefining Magazine
By Erin Voegele December 15, 2011

A report recently completed by Lux Research found that the biobased chemicals and materials industry has reached a tipping point, with capacity expected to double in market potential to $19.7 billion in 2016 as global manufacturing capacity increases by 140 percent. According to the report, titled “Global Bio-based Chemical Capacity Springs to Scale,” the global capacity for 17 major biobased materials doubled to 3.8 million tons this year. Over the next five years, capacity is expected to climb to 9.2 million tons.

“Several strong forces—consumer preference, corporate commitment, and government mandates and support—are driving development in this space,” said Kalib Kersh, Lux Research analyst and lead author of the report. “For an industry with the scale of plastics, polymers and chemicals, no business issue is as big as that of capacity. For biobased alternatives to compete with petroleum, they have to match billion-dollar businesses producing at megaton levels.”

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wind, biodiesel subsidies promoted
11:46 PM, Dec. 13, 2011

Industries hope for extensions, but political tide is pushing against federal incentives

WASHINGTON — With subsidies for corn ethanol set to disappear at the end of the month, the rest of the renewable-energy industry is lobbying lawmakers to keep government incentives going.

The $1-a-gallon tax credit that undergirds the production of biodiesel also is due to expire Dec. 31, while tax incentives that support wind power and advanced forms of ethanol made from nonfood feedstocks are due to end a year from now.

The industries hope that Congress will include extensions of those subsidies in legislation that is needed to continue a variety of popular tax breaks that are expiring, including one that protects middle-income taxpayers from paying higher taxes under the alternative minimum tax.

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Iowa State University and Noble Foundation Researchers Study Enhancing Oil Production in Plants

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: December 9, 2011

Ames, IA—An Iowa State University research team is collaborating with scientists at the Samuel Roberts Nobel Foundation and also with scientists in Japan to develop an international partnership to help make strides in the technologies needed towards a low-carbon society.

The research will look at the chemistry of basic processes in plants and how those functions can be better known and used.

"We are trying to better understand the biology (of plants) and make it a more predictable science in terms of predicting positive attributes," said Basil Nikolau, professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology.

"With that information, we can manipulate (plants) to do anything you want."

One of the targets of the research is to allow scientists to alter plants so they produce more or better oils, or lipids.

These molecules are more efficient in storing energy than starch molecules.

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POET Drops Annual Water Use by 770 Million Gallons Since 2009

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: December 8, 2011

Sioux Falls—POET is more than 75 percent of the way to achieving the water reduction goal the company set under the environmental initiative “Ingreenuity.”

With startup of the proprietary Total Water Recovery system at its 18th ethanol production facility, POET Biorefining – Chancellor (S.D.), POET has now reduced water use by more than 770 million gallons per year over 2009 numbers.

The goal under Ingreenuity is to reduce water use by 1 billion gallons annually by 2015.

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Iowa State analyses corn use, blend wall numbers

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Susanne Retka Schill December 06, 2011

Last year’s corn crop may have been modestly under-estimated, suggests Iowa State University’s Robert Wisner, professor emeritus and analyst with the Ag Marketing Resource Center. He analyzed corn availability for feed and ethanol and looked at potential reductions in use in the most recent AgMRC renewable energy newsletter.

The ethanol/DDGS portion of corn demand is strongly influenced by the price of gasoline, ethanol blending volume mandates, the blenders tax credit, and the price differential between gasoline and ethanol, Wisner said. The expected loss of the blenders credits at the end of the year removes one of those factors, although the mandates are expected to remain. “When corn supplies are extremely tight, the mandates create a perfectly price-inelastic demand for corn used by ethanol plants -- at certain minimum volumes. In other words, the amount of corn used for ethanol becomes insensitive to corn prices. At plentiful corn supplies and lower prices, the ethanol industry tends to produce ethanol above mandated levels if infrastructure permits it. If corn supplies become tight, the motor fuel industry is required to blend the mandated volumes of ethanol into gasoline, paying whatever price is needed to obtain the ethanol. This, in turn, would allow ethanol processors to pay whatever price is needed to obtain the required volume of corn for mandated ethanol blending.

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OnSite Energy partners with MSU's Freeway to Fuels project

Biodiesel Magazine
By Bryan Sims December 13, 2011

Having finished the first phase of exploring the feasibility of growing, harvesting and utilizing bioenergy crops last year on unconventional growing lands in Michigan, such as highway right-of-ways, vacant urban land and airport property, Michigan State University Extension has entered into the second phase of its Freeway to Fuels project by partnering with Flint, Mich.-based OnSite Energy LLC to test the actual potential of growing oilseed crops on such lands for biodiesel production.

Through the partnership, OnSite Energy and MSU Extension have developed a portable production unit that features oilseed crushing press capability for conversion into methyl esters. According to a statement by OnSite Energy, the equipment is mounted in an enclosed cargo trailer and it can be pulled from farm to farm to teach farmers how to make their own biodiesel. Oil can be extracted from a range of oilseed crops such as soybeans and canola. Once oil is extracted using the press, the oil is then pumped into the biodiesel reactor unit, conversion chemicals are added and the automatic system processes the oil into biodiesel.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Biomass Industry Outlook 2012: Cautiously Optimistic
By Robert Crowe, Contributor
December 12, 2011

The long-awaited construction of four major biomass plants will make 2012 pivotal in the expansion of the wood-fired power industry. Coal-to-biomass plant conversions awaiting permits in Virginia could also set the stage for a boom in local use of biomass fuel. That could lead to a European-style scaling of biomass power if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blesses the industry with friendly regulations.

For now, biomass developers are still beset with the EPA's regulatory uncertainty and plenty of NIMBY opposition. Growth is likely to be limited to projects nearing completion after years of development. The industry, however, stands to benefit from 2012 construction that could bring hundreds of jobs to Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Texas and Virginia. "We'll see gains for big projects where you have a combination of local fuel supply and strong political support," said Bob Cleaves of the Biomass Power Association. "At the same time, the weak economy, lack of demand for power and plummeting natural gas prices make it difficult to continue operations of smaller plants without long-term PPAs."

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The Cellulosic Ethanol Debacle

The Wall Street Journal: Opinion

Congress mandated purchase of 250 million gallons in 2011. Actual production: 6.6 million.

"We'll fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years."

—George W. Bush, 2006 State of the Union address

Years before the Obama Administration dumped $70 billion into solar and wind energy and battery operated cars, and long before anyone heard of Solyndra, President Bush launched his own version of a green energy revolution. The future he saw was biofuels. In addition to showering billions of dollars on corn ethanol, Mr. Bush assured the nation that by 2012 cars and trucks could be powered by cellulosic fuels from switch grass and other plant life.

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Ethanol Stocks Volatile as Key Subsidies Are Set to Expire

The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch

The Bedford Report Provides Equity Research on Pacific Ethanol & BioFuel Energy Corporation

NEW YORK, NY, Dec 13, 2011 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- U.S. ethanol stocks have been volatile in recent weeks as investors brace for the expiration of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit at year's end. The subsidy is worth 45 cents per gallon of ethanol or 4.5 cents on a gallon of fuel pumped at the local gas station. The Bedford Report examines the outlook for companies in the Ethanol Industry and provides investment research on Pacific Ethanol Corporation /quotes/zigman/5369787/quotes/nls/peix PEIX +1.74% & BioFuel Energy Corporation /quotes/zigman/104236/quotes/nls/biof BIOF -5.34% . Access to the full company reports can be found at:


As Philip Walzer of the Virginian-Pilot reports, "For more than 30 years, the federal government has offered tax credits and imposed a tariff to stimulate U.S. production of ethanol, nearly all from corn."

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Battle to implement E15 waiver continues

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Holly Jessen December 11, 2011

Letters for and against an amendment that would prevent the U.S. EPA from using appropriated funds to implement the E15 waiver have recently been sent to leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate Appropriations Committees.

It started Dec. 7, with a letter authored by Reps. John Sullivan, R-Okla., Gary Peters, D-Mich., and 73 of their colleagues, requesting that the House Appropriations Committee include an amendment in the fiscal year 2012 omnibus appropriations package that would slow down the implementation of E15 to allow for more testing. The letter, which was addressed to Chairman Harold Rogers and ranking member Norm Dicks, concluded that more testing is needed to make sure that E15 will not harm consumer vehicles. “The Sullivan/Peters amendment will provide a much needed time-out for such analyses to be completed,” the letter’s authors said. “The desire to allow for more ethanol to enter the transportation fuel pool should not trump sound science.”

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Monday, December 12, 2011

BTEC Announces Dec. 14 Webinar: the Future of Biomass Thermal Energy – Advanced Technologies

Biomass Thermal Energy Council (

Free educational webinar will focus on cutting-edge technology and market opportunity

Washington, DC, December 09, 2011 --( Today, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) announced its newest webinar, “The Future of Biomass Thermal Energy – Advanced Technologies,” scheduled for December 14th at 1 PM ET. The webinar will discuss the most cutting edge technologies for both fuel production and boiler manufacturing as well as what the future may hold for the biomass industry.

Although biomass heating systems are amongst the oldest form of energy systems, manufacturers continue to advance the technology for increased convenience and safety. From fully automated boiler systems to cutting edge fuel processing, leaders in the industry work unceasingly to improve their products. This webinar will provide an overview of system improvements designed to meet evolving customer's needs and local standards. Additionally, it will provide an opportunity to hear state and federal policy options and other avenues to expand the biomass industry.

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Maine biomass plant will house novel torrefaction technology

Biomass Power and Thermal
By Luke Geiver December 08, 2011

Thermogen Industries, a technology developer and manufacturer operated by New Hampshire-based investment firm Cate Street Capital Inc., is bringing a microwave-based woody biomass torrefaction technology to Maine.

The technology, created by U.K. firm Rotowave Ltd., uses a series of simultaneous electromagnetic frequencies in combination with a ceramic drum to maximize heat transfer throughout every biomass particle in the unit, making the process of pyrolysis used to turn woody biomass into a biocoal product more efficient. Richard Cyr, senior vice president for Cate Street Capital, said the licensing agreement between Rotowave and Thermogen happened after years of extensive research and planning, and by November 2012, Thermogen hopes to have roughly six Rotowave torrefaction units up and running at a biomass facility in Maine.

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Sandia Urges Policymakers to Think About Practical Ways to Reach Energy Goals
Released: 12/8/2011 7:00 AM EST
Source: Sandia National Laboratories

Newswise — LIVERMORE, Calif. — A transportation fuels expert from Sandia National Laboratories says policy makers should consider such practical issues as the number of gas stations selling ethanol and how long it takes to get new transportation technologies to market as they introduce aggressive federal and state energy policies.

“Policymakers need to have ways to think about the evolution from the current state of transportation energy to the desired future state,” Dawn Manley said. “It is one thing to set aggressive targets on emission reductions, but you need to examine options for reaching desired future states in order to get there,” she told California’s Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on Oct. 24.

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Latin America Report: U.S. Bill Would Extend Tax on Brazilian Ethanol
By Renewable Energy World Editors
December 7, 2011

New Hampshire, U.S.A. -- There are new accusations of protectionism being levied against the United States, but this time it's coming from Brazil's sugarcane industry.

As American renewables have come under fire in the U.S., it has sparked a new examination within Congress of subsidies for industries both inside and outside its borders. While recent headlines point to the potential for new tariffs being placed on solar panels being imported into America from China, a new battle is brewing over current duties on ethanol.

House Resolution 3552 calls for an extention of tariffs on foreign ethanol. The move could have significant impacts on the price of gasoline in America and on the ethanol industry in Brazil. According to a representative of Brazil’s sugarcane industry, the legislation threatens a trade war between otherwise friendly nations, and the organization goes on to say it is coming without merit. The group says Brazil eliminated subsidies more than a decade ago and that it has not taxed U.S. ethanol since 2010.

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End of ethanol tax credit seen boosting gas price

Des Moines Register
6:42 PM, Dec. 6, 2011
Written by DAN PILLER

The ethanol tax break expires at the end of the year; drivers will pay 4 cents more, an industry leader says.

The price of a gallon of gasoline will rise by about 4 cents per gallon after the tax credit for ethanol blending ends Jan. 1, chief executive officer Jeff Broin of Poet said Tuesday.

Broin noted that the presence of cheaper ethanol blended with gasoline lowers the pump cost to the consumer by 17 cents per gallon. This week Iowa’s average price for gasoline has been $3.18 per gallon, but most convenience stores in the Des Moines area have sold for $2.99 per gallon.

E85, or 85 percent ethanol, will rise by about 40 cents per gallon, Broin said. E85 has enjoyed a record year for sales in Iowa, and the fuel has tended to sell as much as 75 cents per gallon under the price of the 10 percent ethanol blend.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Montana to use biobased corrosion inhibitor in deicing solution

Biorefining Magazine
By Erin Voegele December 06, 2011

According to Dave Welkening, Rivertop’s product manager for corrosion sciences, the Headwaters product is chemically modified sugar that is derived from dextrose. The product, he said, has a high affinity for metal surfaces. “Basically, we have a proprietary formulation which combines a few ingredients with this oxidized sugar to create a product we sell as a corrosion inhibitor for the deicing market,” Welkening said. “Being derived from…agricultural sources, it’s also biodegradable, so it replaces products which are detrimental to watersheds. It is a very effective corrosion inhibitor, but it also has a very small environmental footprint. It reduces corrosion by approximately 70 percent compared to straight uninhibited salts.”

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

The challenge of wind turbine blade repair
07 November 2011
George Marsh

WITH A growing number of composite wind turbine blades now in service, rotor blade maintenance is becoming a major issue. George Marsh looks at the techniques used to inspect and repair blades, and experiences first hand a new system designed to speed up the repair process.

They call them skyworkers. Seen from a distance, they resemble ants as they manoeuvre around the blades of mighty wind turbines though, in fact, they are more comparable with spiders since they are supported and enabled to do their work by a web of ropes.

They are a new breed of worker in composite materials, combining reinforced plastic maintenance capabilities with abseiling/climbing skills. They are inspecting, cleaning and repairing the sometimes enormous rotor blades whose good condition is vital to wind turbine efficiency. For these members of a new breed of industrial worker, a head for heights is a key qualification.

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Congress ‘lost faith’ in advanced bioenergy, key lawmaker says

Des Moines Register
4:39 PM, Dec 6, 2011 by Philip Brasher

Programs the Obama administration has been pushing to promote next-generation biofuels are likely to have little funding in the next farm bill, according to the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson.

“There will probably be hardly any money” in the bioenergy section of the next farm bill “because we’ve lost faith” in that sector, Peterson told reporters today.

He said that the failure of Congress to pass legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions killed off support for agricultural energy programs. The failure of projects like the Range Fuels biofuels project in Georgia didn’t help either. “That’s a symbol of what’s going on,” Peterson said. Range Fuels received a loan guarantee through one of the programs in the 2008 farm bill.

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Australian algae project features unique pond system

Biorefining Magazine
By Erin Voegele December 07, 2011

A new algae project is underway in Australia. Algarythm Pty. Ltd., the operating company of Darke Peak Algae Biofuel Commercialization project, and Fishace Pty Ltd., trading as Fishace Ecological Engineering, recently announced the development of a new method to produce algae on a commercial scale.

According to information released by the companies, a pilot plant featuring the process is under development with the project’s academic partner, the Materials and BioEnergy Group of Flinders University, Adelaide. Fishace noted that the project will be constructed on a 2.4-hectare (5.9-acre) site it owns in Darke Peak regional township adjacent to a rail line and grain silos.

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Highwater CEO: Biobutanol is 'next step in biofuels'

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill December 06, 2011

Lamberton, Minn.,-based Highwater Ethanol LLC has signed a letter of intent with Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC to potentially retrofit its 50 MMgy corn ethanol plant to produce biobutanol. The agreement makes Highwater the first entrant to the Butamax Early Adopters Group.

“Butamax offers our shareholders both new technology, extensive engineering resources needed to retrofit our existing facility, and a commitment to the long-term success of the biofuels industry,” Highwater CEO Brian Kletscher said. “We are very excited about the letter of intent with Butamax and look forward to working with them in the advancement of biobutanol as the next-generation biofuel.”

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Congressman proposes ethanol import tariff extension

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill December 06, 2011

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., introduced legislation on Dec. 2 that would extend the 54-cent per gallon ethanol import tariff, currently scheduled to expire at the end of this year, through 2014.

According to Rangel, the tariff extension is necessary in order to preserve the ethanol refining industry in Caribbean nations and protect it from reduced U.S. market share as a result of Brazilian ethanol entering the market. As part of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act and the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, trade programs collectively known as the Caribbean Basin Initiative, certain Caribbean nations are allowed to export a percentage of dehydrated ethanol to the U.S. duty-free each year. “It is critical for U.S. businesses and consumers to help our partners in the Caribbean Basin Initiative retain a vibrant ethanol refining industry,” Rangel said in a statement.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More market analysis required for corn stover marketing
Stu Ellis, Farmgate Updated: December 5, 2011

Many Cornbelt farmers are planning to deliver corn stover to the local ethanol plant to generate a new income stream. Others are planning to cultivate and harvest switchgrass, miscanthus, or other biomass crops also for ethanol production. Yet others are investing in other on-farm forms of energy production, such as manure or algae, to deliver to biodiesel producers. While they all have visions of dollar signs, they may also want to make plans to further their education and obtain a graduate degree in global energy market economics.

Some months back the flashpoint to ethanol policy was “indirect land use impact” as it pertained to expansion of soybean acreage into the Amazon rain forest when corn was delivered to a US ethanol plant. While that issue may be long from being resolved, the biofuels industry, whether it is fed by US corn, Brazilian sugarcane, or Malaysian palm oil will have a global impact on many resources. Those could include soil erosion, nutrient loss, air quality degradation, and many others say a panel of researchers which involved economists, scientists, policy makers, and others looking at the impact of biomass feedstock markets on energy, agriculture, and farmers.

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Cellulosic ethanol maker Range Fuels goes belly up

cNet news
by Martin LaMonica December 5, 2011 5:41 AM PST

Range Fuels, a government-backed company that represented high hopes for biofuels, will have to sell off its assets after failing to produce fuel, according to a report.

Bloomberg on Friday reported that the company is being forced to foreclose by the Department of Agriculture and sell equipment from its biofuel plant in Soperton, Georgia. The company had stopped operating in January after failing to meet technical goals.

The Colorado-based company had received funding from the Departments of Agriculture and Energy as well as venture capital investors, including Vinod Khosla.

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Kansas Geological Survey to Test Storage of CO2 Underground

Kansas City infozine
Saturday, December 03, 2011 :: Staff infoZine

Lawrence, KS - infoZine - The Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) at the University of Kansas has received a $11.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to test the safety and efficacy of storing carbon dioxide (CO2) — captured from an industrial source — deep underground in south-central Kansas.

The cooperative agreement is the largest ever received by the KGS.

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Wood Pellet Venture To 'Torrefy' Biofuel
By Bill Esler 12/02/2011 3:13:00 PM

WASHINGTON, DC -- Oil giant ConocoPhillips and Enviva, a processor or wood and other biomass fuels, formed a joint venture to operate a new company, ECo Biomass Technologies, which will bring torrefied wood fuels to market.

The torrefaction process involves superheating wood in a controlled process, to create a uniform, water-repellant, dense fuel akin to coal. But sourced from wood it is considered to have a superior environmental profile compared with fossil fuels.

Torrefied fuel is said to burn cleanly, and be mixed and stoired with coal for power generation, diluting negative envinronmental imacts of the coal.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Finns say: use landfill gas for chemicals, not power

Biofuels Digest
Thomas Saidak December 2, 2011

In Finland, a team has written an article for the forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Sustainable Economy, suggesting that biogas generated in landfills be used as an alternative feedstock for the chemical industry, rather than for generating electricity.

Jouko Arvola of the University of Oulu and colleagues there and at Oulu University of Applied Sciences state that at the local level it would be beneficial to utilize biogas as an industrial feedstock. They examined the viability of such an approach to Finnish industrial sites and demonstrated theoretically that this is a serious alternative to traditional petroleum resources.

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Wisconsin leads the way in biomass crop planning

Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2011 9:00 am

Joint effort creates nation's first planning guidelines with energy in mind

Wisconsin has positioned itself to be a national leader in planting and harvesting biomass crops while protecting and sustaining the state's precious natural resources, thanks to the recent release of voluntary, science-based biomass cropping guidelines.

The document, "Wisconsin Sustainable Planting and Harvesting Guidelines for Nonforest Biomass", is the result of a two year joint project conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Bioenergy Council.

Scott Hull, WDNR wildlife research scientist calls the guidelines the nation's first document detailing recommendations for multiple biomass crops that encompass both the field and watershed scales. Hull also chaired the technical team that developed the guidelines.

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Heating the Midwest will hold first conference in April

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson November 29, 2011

The first-ever Heating the Midwest conference will be held April 25-27 at the Ramada Convention Center in Eau Claire, Wis.

The event, Heating the Midwest 2012 Conference and Expo: Building the Vision, will bring together leaders in the biomass thermal industry to discuss strategies for expanding the use of biomass in the Midwest. An event agenda is still in development, but preliminary topics include biomass availability and processing, policy, combustion technologies and success stories of current biomass heat and power users.

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National biomass suppliers database launched
Source: The Carbon Trust
Dec. 1, 2011

A new National Biomass Suppliers Database has been announced by the Biomass Energy Centre and Carbon Trust today. Those looking to take advantage of the soon-to-be-released Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) by heating their buildings or factories with wood will now find it easier to identify local and national companies which can supply them with woodfuel. The new map based listing is available on the Biomass Energy Centre website ( and includes the details of more than 300 fuel suppliers operating across the UK. Potential end users are often unaware that the woodfuel supplychain is well established in many parts of the country, offering a viable alternative to oil and gas and this something the new resource seeks to address by making it easy for users to locate their nearest or preferable fuel supplier.

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Scuttling only ethanol tax credits is unjust

The Washington Times
Thursday, December 1, 2011

Yet again The Washington Times has chosen to snub the facts for the sake of disparaging America’s most commercially viable alternative fuel: ethanol (“Burning food,” Comment & Analysis, Nov. 25).

The Times claims that ethanol is an “unnecessary and sometimes harmful additive to gasoline.” First, the editorial ignores the fact that blending clean, biodegradable ethanol in our gasoline reduces life-cycle carbon dioxide and other ozone-forming pollutants entering our air, ultimately saving lives.

Second, the current 45-cent blenders tax credit does not go to the producer, it goes to the refiner - most often, Big Oil.

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Brazilian ethanol pipeline system receives funding

The Brazilian Development Bank has approved a bridge loan of approximately $US960 million for Logum Logistica to implement an ethanol pipeline and to install product collection centres.

The logistic system for transporting ethanol is part of the Brazilian Government’s Growth Acceleration Programme and comprises 1,330 km of pipelines with a transportation capacity of 20.8 MMcm/a as well as ten ethanol storage terminals.

The system will link the main ethanol producing regions in the states of São Paulo and Goiás, Triângulo Mineiro, south and southeast of Mato Grosso do Sul and northern Paraná to consumption centres in Greater São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, as well as the ports of Ilha D’Água (in Rio de Janeiro) and Caraguatatuba (in São Paulo), for export and/or shipment of ethanol to other consumption centres in the country.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Sobering update on biofuels

Des Moines Register
6:17 AM, Dec 1, 2011 by Dan Piller

Much of the advanced biofuels industry, those working to advance biofuels beyond corn-fed ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel, are meeting this week in San Francisco and the mood appears to be anything but joyous.

An assessment of biofuels’ current situation by analyst MacKinnon Lawrence at Pike Research, distributed by Reuters, describes the angst as biofuels researchers and producers ponder the threats to their still developing industry.

MacKinnon notes that advanced biofuels still fall short of commercial parity with conventional fossil fuels and natural gas, at a time when production of those fuels is suddenly on the upswing in the U.S.

At the same time the vital government support for biofuels, which includes tax credits and use mandates, is under threat by a congress looking for ways to pare the federal budget deficit.

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USPTO denies Gevo request to reexamine Butamax isobutanol patent

Biorefining Magazine
By Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC November 28, 2011

Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC commented on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s reexamination decisions regarding two of the company’s foundational patents, Patent No. 7,851,188 (‘188), and Patent No. 7,993,889 (‘889).

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Report: AD has potential in the Midwest

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin November 29, 2011

Residual biomass could be sustainably used to produce about 15 percent of the Midwest’s electricity, or around 17 percent of the region’s gasoline needs, according to a new study released by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

These biomass resources are concentrated in certain areas of the region, and these concentrations can guide development, the study finds. “Harnessing the Power of Biomass Residuals: Opportunities and Challenges for Midwestern Renewable Energy,” was authored by Chicago Council Senior Energy Fellow Steve Brick, and is partly premised on the hope that residual biomass resources can be less controversial bioenergy feedstocks than either food grains or dedicated energy crops.

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Ethanol production capacity over 14 billion gallons

By Carey Gillam
Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:43pm EST

(Reuters) - The U.S. biofuels industry has more than 14 billion gallons in annual production capacity for fuel ethanol, according to new industry and government data, but growth has hit a plateau and experts see steady but slow capacity growth going forward.

A government report issued Tuesday shows fuel ethanol industry maximum sustainable capacity at 193 plants capable of churning out 14.2 billion gallons a year or 929,000 barrels a day. The data, issued as a first-ever report by the Energy Information Administration, is nearly a year old, based on information as of January 1, 2011.

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Ethanol industry 'to do their part' with economy, budget

Hoosier Ag Today Midwest Producer
Posted: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 8:31 am

The end of another year is near and again the expiration of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, or VEETC, is near. But this time there is no movement to extend the credit. In the age of deficit reduction work, it's obvious that credit is on its way out.

Bob Dinneen of the Renewable Fuels Association gives credit to the ethanol industry for not trying to extend it.

"They recognize the economic situation that the country is facing, that the government is facing, and they know everybody has to do their part. We look at the situation and recognize that the marketplace has changed pretty fundamentally. You're now looking at sustained $85-100 barrel oil, and quite frankly at that level it's a little hard to ask the taxpayer to provide a gasoline marketer with an incentive to blend ethanol when the marketplace is already providing that incentive."

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E. Coli Bacteria Engineered to Eat Switchgrass and Make Transportation Fuels

Science Daily

ScienceDaily (Nov. 29, 2011) — A milestone has been reached on the road to developing advanced biofuels that can replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuels with a domestically-produced clean, green, renewable alternative.

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered the first strains of Escherichia colibacteria that can digest switchgrass biomass and synthesize its sugars into all three of those transportation fuels. What's more, the microbes are able to do this without any help from enzyme additives.

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Stover for Power—Not Just Biofuels

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Kris Bevill November 22, 2011

Partnering to produce energy from stover could be an attractive option for corn ethanol plants.

In mid-July, right around the time the area’s corn crop was beginning to mature and farmers could start looking ahead to the season’s harvest, a number of ethanol producers, farmers and researchers gathered for a daylong meeting at the University of Minnesota to discuss ways to best use the aftermath of the harvest. Corn stover has long been pegged as a potential feedstock for cellulosic ethanol, but this group focused instead on a more immediate application—energy generation. An increasing number of studies are showing that in order for farmers to maintain high corn yields, some of the stover will need to be removed from the fields. For corn-based ethanol plants, this represents an opportunity to displace at least some of their fossil fuel consumption with a renewable resource readily available from their existing corn suppliers. Researchers also believe that it represents an opportunity for new partnerships in the power generation sector.

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