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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Global sugar surplus to halve next season

Business Recorder (Pakistan)
January 29, 2012 RECORDER REPORT

The global sugar surplus is forecast to more than halve into next season, and prices look set to ease by the end of the year, according to a Reuters poll of 17 analysts issued on Monday.

The key questions for the global sugar trade in 2012 will be whether cane output in top producer Brazil recovers after a production setback, when and how much Brazilian cane will be converted into ethanol biofuel instead of sugar, and the outlook for exports from number two producer India.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Microbubbles provide new boost for biofuel production

Public release date: 25-Jan-2012
University of Sheffield

The technique builds on previous research in which microbubbles were used to improve the way algae is cultivated.

Algae produce an oil which can be processed to create a useful biofuel. Biofuels, made from plant material, are considered an important alternative to fossil fuels and algae, in particular, has the potential to be a very efficient biofuel producer. Until now, however, there has been no cost-effective method of harvesting and removing the water from the algae for it to be processed effectively.

Now, a team led by Professor Will Zimmerman in the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University of Sheffield, believe they have solved the problem. They have developed an inexpensive way of producing microbubbles that can float algae particles to the surface of the water, making harvesting easier, and saving biofuel-producing companies time and money. The research is set to be published in Biotechnology and Bioengineering on 26 January 2012.

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New legislation aims to establish Arizona as major algal farming center

Biofuels Digest
Thomas Saidak January 27, 2012

In Arizona, State Representative Matt Heinz has introduced two bills in anticipation of Arizona becoming a major algal farming center. HB 2225 would add algaculture commercial production, development and research on state trust lands to the definition of agricultural lands.

HB2226 would add the same algacultural used real estate to the definition of agricultural land for the purposes. The bill would require that the algae produce either hydrogen or biofuels. HB 2225 has been endorsed by the Arizona House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, while HB 2226 has been scheduled for hearing.

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Obama calls for clean energy standard

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin January 25, 2012

While U.S. President Barack Obama placed plenty of emphasis on domestically sourced fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil in his Jan. 24 State of the Union Address, he called on Congress to get working on a national clean energy standard, and stressed the importance of new incentives for renewable energy innovation.

Pointing out that the U.S. contains only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, Obama stressed that oil isn’t enough. “This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy—a strategy that's cleaner, cheaper and full of new jobs,” he said.

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USDA offers to back ZeaChem's first commercial biorefinery

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill January 26, 2012

On Jan. 26, the USDA announced it has approved a $232.5 million conditional commitment to support the construction of ZeaChem Boardman Biorefinery LLC, a 25 MMgy integrated biorefinery to be built in Boardman, Ore., along the Columbia River. The announcement is the USDA’s second conditional commitment offer to a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol project in less than a week. On Jan. 20, the USDA announced it had approved a conditional commitment for a $25 million loan guarantee to build Fiberight LLC’s 3.8 MMgy municipal solid waste-to-ethanol facility in Blairstown, Iowa.

In announcing the conditional commitment for ZeaChem’s project, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the projects being offered loan guarantees from his agency will support the Obama administration’s goal of developing alternative energy sources to reduce the country’s fuel imports. “In his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined his vision for a new era for American energy—an economy fueled by homegrown and alternative energy sources that will be designed and produced by American workers,” Vilsack said in the news release. “This project and others like it will help to establish a domestic advanced biofuels industry that will create jobs here at home and open new markets in the Pacific Northwest and across America.”

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Fungus research at MSU could help biofuels production

Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Posted: Saturday, January 21, 2012 12:15 am
JASON BACAJ, Chronicle Staff Writer The Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Yellowstone’s hot springs are a haven for researchers interested in the prevalence of life in some of the world’s harshest environments.

Outside of their near-boiling hearts, those springs are surrounded by rings of different temperatures and colors, explained Mark Kozubal, a researcher at Montana State University who earned his doctorate studying organisms that live off the iron and sulfur in the springs’ high temperatures and acidic conditions.

The first ring is typically 70 degrees and yellow from sulfur. The next, red from iron, measures between 50 degrees and 70 degrees. Finally, there are rings of algae and fungi, he said.

It’s an acid-tolerant fungus from one of those outer rings that has Kozubal and his fellow researchers at MSU excited.

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Return of the Pyromaniax

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane January 26, 2012

Those researchers developing pyrolysis as a solution to the world’s fossil fuels woes – they are just irrepressible.

Now, one team from UMass-Amherst has come up with a “platform discovery” that can make catalytic fast pyrolysis “economically competitive with crude oil production”.

You just can’t turn your back for very long, around the Pyromaniax – the researchers around the world working on pyrolysis. Now, pyro comes in several flavors – fast pyrolysis, flash pyrolysis, catalytic fast pyrolysis – there’s low-pressure, low-temp, and high-temp. Whatever the flavor, the R&D progress is fast – demonstrated by companies such as KiOR which went public with a billion-dollar valuation.

The stumbling blocks – generally, too much oxygen in the pyro oils – so it needs upgrading to make a true do-oxygenated hydrocarbon fuel. Not always enough stability in the oils. Never enough aromatics.

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Update on a Mobile Indirect Biomass Liquefaction System

Biomass Power & Thermal
By John P. Hurley January 25, 2012

Minnesota’s forestry operations produce 300,000 tons per year of wood waste that is not used in any existing or proposed facility. Through the process of indirect liquefaction, this waste can be converted into liquid fuels that could be transported to remote off-grid sites and reformed to hydrogen to power fuel cells producing electricity.

Using distributed power generation at off-grid sites eliminates the need to build transmission lines at remote sites, which ultimately saves utility ratepayers money. In addition, the wood-to-fuel technology provides a non-fossil fuel, nearly carbon dioxide neutral method to fuel backup generators. Even in areas that are served by the grid, this saves utility ratepayers the cost of maintaining large backup power production systems. Ratepayers may also be able to take advantage of future carbon credits or avoid carbon taxes applied to fossil energy-based power production.

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Biomass Confusion at the EPA

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Bob Cleaves January 25, 2012

The saga of the U.S. EPA’s Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology and related rules continues. With the District Court’s decision on Jan. 9, invalidating the EPA’s previous stay of the original rules, the need for Congressional action has now become critically important.

Some background: In March 2011, the U.S. EPA issued final rules for, among other things, Boiler MACT and Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incinerators. These rules were flawed in many respects and, by EPA’s own admission, were in need of further work based on lack of data and feasibility, among other reasons. As a result of the flaws in the March rules, on May 18, the EPA announced that it was delaying the date the rules would go into effect until the agency completed its reconsideration (76 Federal Register 28662).

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Unlocking Seaweed’s Next-Gen Crude: Sugar

The New York Times
January 23, 2012, 3:04 pm

Seaweed often brings to mind thoughts of surf and sushi, not fuel. But that could change if a biotechnology start-up called Bio Architecture Lab succeeds in building a new kind of energy company from designer bacteria and a low-cost process for harvesting seaweed.

The key is a genetically modified strain of Escherichia coli bacterium, which can break down the sugars in brown seaweed, or macro-algae, to produce ethanol, according to new research published in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

As one of the 14 study authors, BAL’s co-founder and chief science officer, Yasuo Yoshikuni, explained in an interview by phone, “Sugar is the next-generation crude oil — it can go to fuels and chemicals.” BAL’s breakthrough, he says, is about finding a way to “unlock the sugars in seaweed.”

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The Cleantech Conservative: Policies for bioenergy in an era of austerity

Biofuels Digest
January 24, 2012
By Douglas L. Faulkner

What should be the priorities for federal government support for bioenergy, in an era of fiscal austerity and a broken consensus on energy policy?

My goal is develop interactively with you, bioenergy thought leaders, a set of low-cost, industry-led policy proposals to be shared at the end of this year with the election winners as “An Open Letter to the President and Congress.” To get there, I am interested in hearing what you may want to share or suggest.

My focus is post-election, because this year is frankly a transitional period of time, when progress on solving our national issues will be difficult and slow, as major elections loom to break (or maybe reinforce) political stalemates. And, if the past such discussions are any example, we will need the bulk of the year to cut down the weeds and center a consensus around some solid policy prescriptions.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2011 US ethanol exports expected to total 1.11 billion gallons

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Holly Jessen January 17, 2012

By the end of 2011, the U.S. ethanol industry will have exported more than twice the amount of ethanol than was exported the year before. Government data released Jan. 13 shows 1.02 billion gallons of U.S. ethanol was exported through November, and when the final numbers are available, total 2011 exports should reach 1.11 billion gallons, according to Geoff Cooper, vice president of research and analysis, who tracks the data for the Renewable Fuels Association.

Nearly half the total ethanol exported in November went to Brazil. Although data on ethanol imports is not yet available, Cooper said anecdotal evidence suggests Brazil is continuing to export its sugarcane ethanol to the U.S., while the U.S. exports corn ethanol to Brazil, referring to this as the ethanol shuffle.

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USDA launches renewable energy data website

Ethanal Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill January 19, 2012

The USDA has launched a new energy website at dedicated to providing information and statistics related to the agency’s energy efficiency and renewable energy data. Included in the site’s offerings are three new instruments—the USDA Renewable Energy Investment Map, the Renewable Energy Tool and an Energy Matrix—designed to allow users to view USDA energy investments, analyze biofuels and bioenergy data and to provide interested parties with information related to the USDA’s various energy programs.

“Improving and modernizing access to USDA energy data and resources is essential in today’s highly competitive rural business environment,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Farmers, ranchers and small businesses across the country will benefit from easier navigation and retrieval of energy and renewable energy investments data and funding opportunities.”

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POET, DSM form landmark cellulosic ethanol joint venture

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane January 24, 2012

Two titans form a monster JV, starting out with a $250M investment. How big, how fast could it grow?

In Iowa, Poet has teamed with Dutch-based Royal DSM to create a 50/50 joint venture called Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels that will produce cellulosic ethanol and license the technology to other plants in the U.S. and globally.

DSM and POET will each hold a 50% share in the joint venture, which will be headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The initial capital expenditure by the joint venture in Project Liberty will amount to about $250 million.

“We are going to make advanced biofuels a reality by 2013, said DSM CEO Feike Sijbesma. “Everyone is talking about advanced biofuels. Now, we are no longer talking, we are getting this done. It’s two leaders, with one shared vision, who will be first movers in a highly attractive, high-growth market.”

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New Technology in Biomass Conversion to Crude Oil
Monday, January 23, 2012

US - Researchers at the University of Illinois are preparing to develop an educational and research facility that will be used to demonstrate the process of converting swine manure and algae into crude oil.

Lance Schideman, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) at Illinois, has done significant research in the area of integrated algae systems for water purification and biomass production. Yuanhui Zhang, also a professor in ABE, has spent almost a decade researching the conversion of swine manure into crude oil. Now they have combined their efforts to develop a system that will use biowastes such as swine manure to grow algal biomass, purify wastewater, recycle nutrients, capture carbon dioxide and produce biofuels.

"With this system, we will first convert swine manure into crude oil in a hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) reactor," Professor Schideman said. "The resultant wastewater contains nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can be used to grow algae. These fast-growing algae will remove the excess nutrients and capture carbon dioxide. Finally, the algae will be fed back into the HTL reactor to be converted into additional biocrude oil." Schideman said that the first stage of the project should allow them to produce up to two gallons of crude oil per day, using manure and algae grown on site. A second phase is also being planned that will produce up to two barrels of oil per day.

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Australian tree offers Texas growers biofuel alternative

Southwest Farm Press
Logan Hawkes
Jan. 23, 2012 11:22am

As global petroleum resources decline and the cost of imported oil escalates, agriculture producers around the world have been researching and testing food and non-food biofuels as an alternative to meet the growing demand for energy.

Biodiesel is experiencing a historic surge worldwide and a rapid expansion in production capacity is being observed not only in developed countries such as Germany, Italy, France, and the United States but also in developing countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Indonesia. Interest in and expansion of renewable fuel production has been fostered by mandates and financial incentives offered by governments, like the Obama Administration’s Renewable Fuels Standard requiring the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Grass genes, computer simulation employed for biofuel productivity
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
By Katrice R. Jalbuena

Next-generation biofuel advocates want non-food biomass such as fibrous grasses. With more and more countries seeking to bring down their emissions by increasing the amount of biofuel in their fuel mix, the race is on to see which biomass feed stock can be the source of a sustainable biofuel industry.

While ethanol is an established biofuel, it has come under criticism for using food-based feedstock such as corn and sugarcane. Advocates for the next generation of biofuel are lobbying for the use of non-food biomass, such as fibrous grasses as well as residue from the wood processing and agricultural industries.

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Findings prove Miscanthus x giganteus has great potential as an alternative energy source

Public release date: 19-Jan-2012
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Concerns about the worldwide energy supply and national, environmental and economic security have resulted in a search for alternative energy sources. A new University of Illinois study shows Miscanthus x giganteus (M. x giganteus) is a strong contender in the race to find the next source of ethanol if appropriate growing conditions are identified.

M. x giganteus is a bioenergy crop that can be grown to produce ethanol. The study investigated the establishment success, plant growth and dry biomass yield of the grass. Tom Voigt, lead scientist and associate professor in the U of I Department of Crop Sciences, said the overall goal is to promote biomass yield per acre for ethanol production using the fewest inputs with no environmental damage.

Researchers compared establishment and growth rates, and biomass yield at four locations over the past three years to identify regions best suited for the grass. Data was collected at sites in Urbana, Ill.; Lexington, Ky.; Mead, Neb.; and Adelphia, N.J. The study is part of the Department of Energy-funded North Central Sun Grant Feedstock Partnership Project.

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Obama to unveil Bioeconomy Blueprint on Jan 28

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane January 23, 2012

In Washington, Capitol Hill observers are tipping the Digest that President Barack Obama will announce his Bioeconomy Blueprint on January 28th, with a significant mention of the initiative expected in tomorrow’s State of the Union address. However, in a recent poll from GEN revealed that 50 percent of respondents thought that suggestions made in support of the proposed blueprint would have “not much” impact in developing the life sciences industry. One half though the initiative would be “somewhat” or “a great deal” influential in developing industry.

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POET abandons $4B ethanol pipeline project

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane January 23, 2012

In South Dakota, POET has decided to postpone plans for a $4 billion pipeline between the Midwest and the East Coast. The company will be unable to get a federal loan guarantee for the project which began in 2009 as a joint venture between POET and Magellan. After studies indicated financing would require a federal loan guarantee, Magellan put their interest on hold; with the new development, POET has decided to focus their efforts on other projects.

“We continue to believe that the pipeline is a viable project with tremendous benefits for the country,” said POET Founder & CEO Jeff Broin, “But with little prospects for a federal loan guarantee in the near future we are currently focused on other efforts. While a pipeline could improve the efficiency of ethanol distribution and lower costs for motorists, the system that we have in place today has allowed ethanol to flow seamlessly into more than 90% of the gasoline sold.”

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Bill adds natgas, coal as renewable fuel source

WASHINGTON Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:21pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ethanol derived from natural gas and coal would compete with corn-based ethanol for a share of the U.S. motor fuel market under a bill unveiled by six U.S. House members on Wednesday.

The bill would include ethanol produced from alternative sources, such as natural gas and coal, in the federal mandate for use of renewable fuels.

Corn ethanol accounts for the lion's share of renewable fuels, and second-generation biofuels have been slow to reach commercial viability.

Lead sponsor Pete Olson, a Republican congressman from Texas, said a larger number of feedstocks would encourage larger alternative fuel production.

An ethanol trade group, Renewable Fuels Association, said, "There is nothing renewable about fossil fuels and they have no place in national renewable energy policy."

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Plastics Cozy Up to Distillers Grains

Distillers Grains Producion & Markets
By Holly Jessen January 16, 2012

Pilot testing gives new product the green light

It’s a concept that has positives for both the ethanol industry and the plastics industry. Can a Nebraska company process wet distillers grains into a biobased resin to replace conventional petroleum-based resins? Laurel BioComposite LLC says yes.

The company is proving the concept at a pilot plant in rural Coleridge while moving ahead with plans to break ground this year on a full-scale production facility just a few miles away in Laurel, Neb. The pilot plant, currently inhabiting a 500-square-foot area in a machine shed of a farmer-investor, produces about 250 pounds of the biomaterial an hour and could easily be scaled up to 1,000 pounds an hour, says Lou Luedtke, startup manager.

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2011 US ethanol exports expected to total 1.11 billion gallons

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Holly Jessen January 17, 2012

By the end of 2011, the U.S. ethanol industry will have exported more than twice the amount of ethanol than was exported the year before. Government data released Jan. 13 shows 1.02 billion gallons of U.S. ethanol was exported through November, and when the final numbers are available, total 2011 exports should reach 1.11 billion gallons, according to Geoff Cooper, vice president of research and analysis, who tracks the data for the Renewable Fuels Association.

Nearly half the total ethanol exported in November went to Brazil. Although data on ethanol imports is not yet available, Cooper said anecdotal evidence suggests Brazil is continuing to export its sugarcane ethanol to the U.S., while the U.S. exports corn ethanol to Brazil, referring to this as the ethanol shuffle.

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USDA Streamlines Access to Energy Investment Information

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: January 18, 2012

Washington—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the launch of a USDA energy website that will provide stakeholders fast and efficient access to USDA energy efficiency and renewable energy data.

The announcement builds on the Secretary's commitment to develop a modern and efficient service organization as outlined in USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service announced last week.

"Improving and modernizing access to USDA energy data and resources is essential in today's highly competitive rural business environment," said Vilsack.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Conference keynote: landfills will become a thing of the past

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin January 17, 2012

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes made by the biomass industry is not following the lead of the natural gas industry to come up with an industry title that sounds more environmentally friendly, according to Sierra Energy CEO Mike Hart.

“Natural gas sounds much better than fossil fuel-derived methane, so maybe we should call biomass natural mass,” Hart joked.

Hart was the keynote speaker at the third annual Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show in San Francisco, Calif., Jan 16-18. He delivered a speech that emphasized the versatility of synthesis gas, as well as how the value of biomass—particularly municipal solid waste (MSW)—will drastically increase over the next couple decades.

Jokes aside, Hart said he believes that over the next 15-20 years, trash will become a valuable commodity as waste conversion technologies become widely implemented. “As time goes on, we’re going to be buying it and making competitive bids,” he said, adding that feedstock flexibility will become a dominant factor in the biomass energy industry, particularly those that can utilize complex wastes such as MSW.

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Can Bacteria Produce "Drop-In" Biofuels?

Scientific American
By Umair Irfan and ClimateWire January 17, 2012

Scientists are seeking help from microbes to produce road-ready biofuels

By tweaking the smallest units of life, scientists are making bigger gains in producing alternative and renewable energy, with recent efforts aimed at molecule-level controls and promoting fractal growth patterns to create different fuels and improve efficiencies.

Bacteria, which range from 0.5 to 5 microns in size, perform functions that can be exploited, enhanced and modified to produce fuels. As they move, breathe, eat and reproduce, bacteria produce byproducts like ethanol and hydrogen while feeding on simple sugars, starches and sunlight. The cells themselves can also be harvested for biodiesel precursors.

At the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), researchers are developing ways to control these fuel pathways with designer RNA molecules. RNA, like DNA, encodes information for cell functions, but RNA can also fold up and perform tasks, like signaling, regulating or catalyzing reactions.

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New study reveals higher octane in ethanol

Southeast Farm Press
From the National Corn Growers Association
Jan. 18, 2012 2:09pm

The study, which evaluated various fuel blends along a long range of knock limit operation, found additional benefits of ethanol’s favorable octane sensitivity in that it offers twice the octane potential expected.

As auto makers retool engines to maximize gas mileage while minimizing emissions to meet future Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards, a new study reveals that ethanol provides the higher-octane these high-efficiency engines require while remaining both affordable and environmentally friendly.

The study, conducted by AVL, a global leader in the development of powertrain engines with internal combustion systems, was funded in part by the National Corn Growers Association’s Ethanol Committee and Research and Business Development Action Team. The goal of this research was to explore the role corn ethanol could play in meeting the new CAFÉ standards enacted by the U.S. federal government.

“The findings of this study further support our existing understanding of ethanol in that they demonstrate its inherent ability to meet our nation’s need for an affordable, sustainable domestically-produced fuel source,” said NCGA Ethanol Committee Chairman Chad Willis.

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Joint U.S./Japan project for better biofuels

UC Davis Press Release
January 13, 2012

A better understanding of how algae can be used to make biofuels is the aim of a new joint project between UC Davis and the University of Tokyo, Japan. It is one of four new grants, jointly funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Japan Science and Technology Agency, to develop environment-friendly fuels and reduce pesticide use.

The four grants, totaling $12 million (960 million Yen), will be divided between the Japanese and U.S. laboratories. UC Davis’ share will be about $1.5 million over three years, with the possibility of renewal for another two years.

“These grants and this mutually beneficial partnership between UC Davis and the University of Tokyo will drive biofuel innovation for years to come,” said Congressman Mike Thompson (D-California). “Biofuels are not only good for our environment, they also reduce our dependency on foreign oil and help our economy by spurring green job creation.”

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WNWN to develop algal fuel, fish farm project in Maine

Biofuels Digest
Meghan Sapp January 18, 2012

In Maine, WNWN (Waste Not Want Not) are developing a project the size of seven Wal-Marts that will combine hydroponic agriculture with algae production for food and fuel as well as a fish farm.

The city is excited because the project could create 170 jobs while having a low environmental impact as the system would recycle and be mostly self-contained. Construction on the first phase could start this spring with produce available by year’s end.

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Boardman’s next life may depend on giant cane plant

Portland Business Journal by Sean Meyers
Date: Friday, January 13, 2012, 3:00am PST

Arundo donax has passed its first test as a possible biofuel alternative to coal being burned at Portland General .Portland General Latest from The Business Journals PGE working on energy plan mixResidential solar market is steady — but not stellarPGE sued by PCC Structurals Follow this company .Electric’s Boardman power plant.

Farmers and researchers in eastern Oregon and Washington are turning in positive first-year growth trial reports on Arundo donax, also called giant reed or giant cane.

Arundo donax is a bamboo-like grass used worldwide for production of furniture, musical instruments, paper fiber and roofing.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

National Biomass And Carbon Dataset Map Depicts U.S. Tree Density

Huffington Post
First Posted: 1/14/12 08:37 PM ET Updated: 1/14/12 08:37 PM ET

Where are most of the trees in the U.S.? Concentrations in areas like New York's Adirondack Park or the Cascade Range in the west are predictable, but other areas of dense biomass might surprise you.

A newly released map, shown below, depicts the density of aboveground vegetation across the contiguous United States. Created by NASA Earth Observatory, the map represents years of data compiled by the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) in Massachusetts.

WHRC's National Biomass and Carbon Dataset (NBCD) project, released in 2011, measured the density of organic carbon in vegetation across the United States.

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Study offers insight into biochemical balance required for plant growth

Monday, January 16, 2012

In an ongoing effort to understand how modifying plant cell walls might affect the production of biomass and its breakdown for use in biofuels, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have uncovered a delicate biochemical balance essential for sustainable plant growth and reproduction. Their research on pectin, a sugary component of plant cell walls commonly used as a gelling and stabilizing agent in foods, might also suggest new ways to improve its properties for industrial and food applications.

The research findings appear online in The Plant Cell.

"Pectin is the most structurally complex polysaccharide (sugar) component of plant cell walls, and is mainly associated with cell walls that form in fast-growing tissues that are important for plant growth and development," said Brookhaven biologist Chang-Jun (C.J.) Liu, lead author of the paper. "Our aim was to understand how small molecules, such as acetyl esters, that commonly bind to the sugar backbone affect pectin’s structure and its biological and biophysical properties."

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Brazilian demand boosts US ethanol exports to all-time high in Nov

London (Platts)--16Jan2012/1103 am EST/1603 GMT

US ethanol exports hit a new monthly all-time high of 577.1 million liters in November as Brazil, the world's second-largest producer of the biofuel, imported record volumes to make up for a shortfall in domestic production, official US government data show.

The previous record high was in July, when the US shipped 482.2 million liters of the biofuel.

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Comparing energy conversion of plants and solar cells
January 16, 2012 By Sharon Durham

Scientists now have a way to more accurately compare how efficiently plants and photovoltaic, or solar, cells convert sunlight into energy, thanks to findings by a research consortium that included a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist.

The study, published in Science, could help researchers improve plant photosynthesis, a critical first link in the global supply chain for food, feed, fiber and bioenergy production.

Comparing plant and photovoltaic systems is a challenge. Although both processes harvest energy from sunlight, they use that energy in different ways. Plants convert the sun's energy into chemical energy, whereas solar cells produce electricity. The scientists, including Agricultural Research Service (ARS) research leader Donald Ort in the agency's Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit in Urbana, Ill., identified specific designs that hold excellent promise for improving efficiency.

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Study: Woody Biomass Prices Drop

Woodworking Network
01/13/2012 11:26:00 AM

SEATTLE, WA -- Prices for woody biomass in the U.S., whether sawmill byproducts, forest residues or urban wood waste, have been sliding for most of the past three years but were still higher in the 4Q/11 in most regions than they were five years ago, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review. The price drop seen in 2010 and 1H/2011 was mainly the result of lower prices for fossil fuels, particularly that of natural gas, and reduced demand for energy. This declining price trend has reduced the interest by both commercial and residential energy consumers in switching to more expensive green energy.

The two major sources for woody biomass are bark from sawmills/plywood plants, and forest residues left after logging operations. In the major biomass-consuming regions of the US, prices for forest biomass have been $10-20/odmt higher than for mill biomass during most of 2011. The region with the lowest biomass prices in the 4Q/11 was the West, while Maine and New Hampshire continue to have some of the highest prices in the country. In the US South, prices have fallen 15-20 percent since early 2010 and forest biomass prices in the South Central states in particular have come down lately thanks to favorable weather conditions.

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CME lowers margins on natural gas, ethanol futures

Chicago Tribune
3:57 p.m. CST, January 13, 2012

The CME Group, parent of the Chicago Board of Trade, on Friday cut margins for trading Henry Hub natural gas and ethanol futures.

The exchange operator lowered initial margins for Henry Hub natural gas for speculators by 16 percent to $ 2,835 per contract from $3,375.

It also lowered initial margins for ethanol futures for speculators by 26.3 percent to $4,725 per contract from $6,413.

The margin changes will be effective after the close of business on Tuesday, January 17.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tell them Willie and Ike are Here

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane January 13, 2012

“A Fine for Not Using a Biofuel That Doesn’t Exist‎,” shouts the New York Times.
But what are the facts, the risks? Who’s betting that construction of 2012′s cellulosic biofuels capacity won’t be completed, and why?

The best-selling car in the United States, the Toyota Camry, comes in eight different configurations, with two transmission options, ten add-on features (ranging from heated seats to traction control), and nine different colors. Put it together, that’s 1,280 different combinations.

But it only runs one fuel – gasoline.

Would you prefer diesel’s mileage and value? Sorry. Fond of E85 ethanol’s performance, and contribution to energy security and local jobs? Tough luck. Are you a supporter of the Pickens Plan to expand natural gas vehicles in this era of low-cost gas? Too bad. Just like the idea of a free market and free choice for all, like the libertarian soul you are? Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

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Iowa economist computes ethanol contribution at just $1 billion

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Susanne Retka Schill January 12, 2012

Taking issue with the ethanol industry’s “overstating its net contribution to the nation’s and the individual state’s economic accounts,” Dave Swenson, Iowa State University associate scientist in economics, released his own calculations of the ethanol industry’s contribution to Iowa’s economy.

Iowa’s ethanol industry added $1 billion to the state’s economy in 2011, he said in a recently released four-page paper. The model he used documents the net addition to Iowa productivity associated with ethanol production, although it did not include corn inputs because, as the paper argues, the 1.15 billion bushels of Iowa corn used for ethanol production was already in the state, and should not be factored in the analysis. Any conclusions regarding corn price and farm profit contributions would also need to incorporate the impact on Iowa’s corn users who have been negatively impacted by high corn prices. “Rolling overall farm‐level profits into a conclusion about the impact of the ethanol industry on Iowa’s economy is, therefore, a dicey process fraught with offsets, adjustments, caveats and significant debate among agricultural economists,” the report suggests.

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Abengoa to develop ethanol plant in Brazil

Energy Business Review
EBR Staff Writer
Published 13 January 2012

Spain-based Abengoa has been selected by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and FINEP to develop a second generation ethanol plant in Brazil.

The plant will utilize ethanol technology to produce ethanol from sugar cane biomass.

The project will enable Abengoa to produce bioethanol and biobutanol from sugar cane straw and bagasse.

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Mascoma Implements Commercialization Strategy for Drop-In MGT(TM) Yeast Product to Improve Economics of Corn Ethanol Production

The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch
press release
Jan. 11, 2012, 8:30 a.m. EST

-- Multi-year commercial agreement established with Valero --

LEBANON, N.H., Jan 11, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- -- Partnering with Lallemand and ICM to commercialize MGT --

-- Expected to generate revenues beginning in the first quarter of 2012 --

Mascoma Corporation, a renewable fuels company, announced today that it has implemented key components of the commercialization strategy for its Mascoma Grain Technology, or MGT(TM), yeast product, which is the first commercial application of Mascoma's proprietary consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) technology platform. The MGT product is a genetically-modified yeast designed as a drop-in substitute for conventional fermenting yeast that lowers costs for corn ethanol producers by alleviating the need to purchase most of the expensive enzymes currently used in corn ethanol production. Mascoma is pursuing additional commercial applications of its proprietary CBP technology platform, including its recently announced joint venture with Valero Energy Corporation to develop a 20 million gallon per year commercial-scale facility in Kinross, Michigan to convert hardwood pulpwood to cellulosic ethanol.

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Ethanol production dips after tax credit ends

Des Moines Register
11:00 AM, Jan 11, 2012 by Dan Piller

Production of ethanol declined slightly after the 45-cent per gallon blenders tax credit expired on Jan. 1 for the week ending Jan. 6, but was still higher than a year earlier.

U.S. Department of Energy figures released Wednesday showed total production of 944,000 barrels per day of ethanol for the week ending Jan. 6, 19,000 barrels lower than the previous week. But a year ago on the same week production totaled 888,000 barrels per day.

Ethanol production had been strong in the final weeks of 2011 as corn prices moderated and blenders produced as much of the blended product as possible before the tax credit ended.

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OriginOil and Department of Energy to Develop Direct Conversion of Algae into Renewable Crude Oil for Existing Oil Refineries

The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch
press release
Jan. 13, 2012, 3:01 a.m. EST

Company partners with Idaho National Laboratory to enable algae growers to enter the global crude oil market

LOS ANGELES, Jan 13, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- OriginOil, Inc. (otc/bb:OOIL), the developer of a breakthrough technology to extract oil from algae and an emerging leader in the global algae oil services industry, today announced its plans to co-develop an integrated system with the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL) for direct conversion of raw algae into a renewable crude oil that can be used by existing petroleum refineries.

"We believe this is a major breakthrough for OriginOil and a major step forward for the algae industry," said Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil CEO. "We already lead the industry with our chemical-free, low-energy, continuous high-flow harvesting system.

"From there it's a natural step to helping algae growers make a direct crude oil replacement right on site, giving them direct access to the existing world market for transportation fuels, including jet fuel. That's an instant upgrade from what is now a niche market, to the immediate 86 million barrel per day global crude oil market."

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Mascoma Implements Commecialization Strategy For Yeast to Improve Corn Ethanol Production

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: January 11, 2012

Lebanon, NH—Mascoma Corporation, a renewable fuels company, announced Jan. 11 that it has implemented key components of the commercialization strategy for its Mascoma Grain Technology, or MGT(TM), yeast product, which is the first commercial application of Mascoma's proprietary consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) technology platform.

The MGT product is a genetically-modified yeast designed as a drop-in substitute for conventional fermenting yeast that lowers costs for corn ethanol producers by alleviating the need to purchase most of the expensive enzymes currently used in corn ethanol production.

Mascoma is pursuing additional commercial applications of its proprietary CBP technology platform, including its recently announced joint venture with Valero Energy Corporation to develop a 20 million gallon per year commercial-scale facility in Kinross, Michigan to convert hardwood pulpwood to cellulosic ethanol.

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Ethanol Tax and Tariff Changes Likely to Affect DDGS Value

National Hog Farmer
Steve Meyer
Jan. 9, 2012 4:29pm

To paraphrase the Munchkins, Queen Glinda and Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz – “Ding, dong the blenders’ tax credit is dead!” Both the blenders’ tax credit and the ethanol import tariff expired on Dec. 31. The tax credit, which allowed ethanol blenders to save 45 cents/gallon on each year’s tax bill, and the tariff, which added 54 cents/gallon to the price of any ethanol imported into the United States, were mainstays of the federal government’s three-legged policy that contributed to the meteoric growth of corn-based ethanol production from 2006 through 2010.

It appears that the ethanol business will finally have to deal with basic economics – sort of. The federal policy’s third leg, the renewable fuel standard, is still in place and will require ethanol blenders to use 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol this calendar year. But any move toward a more market-based situation is an improvement, right? Well, sort of.

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Research unveils ethanol's role in future fuel efficiency

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill January 11, 2012

The latest round of vehicles being introduced by automakers at the 2012 North American International Auto Show, held Jan. 9-22 in Detroit, include several hybrid and electric plug-in models, but many more new vehicles are featuring fuel efficient engines as manufacturers work to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy standards.

Their efforts in this area were applauded by Roland Hwang, transportation program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who said in remarks delivered to attendees on Jan. 10 that while the NRDC believes electric drive trains are the future of vehicle technology, more than 80 percent of the vehicles driven in 2025 will still be gasoline-powered. Therefore, in order to meet the 54.5 miles-per-gallon standard currently proposed for 2025, gasoline-fueled vehicles will require technology modifications, such as the addition of turbochargers or direct injection technology.

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Ethanol-Loving Bacteria Crack Pipelines

Laboratory Equipment
August 3, 2011

U.S. production of ethanol for fuel has been rising quickly, topping 13 billion gallons in 2010. With the usual rail, truck and barge transport methods under potential strain, existing gas pipelines might be an efficient alternative for moving this renewable fuel around the country. But researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) caution that ethanol, and especially the bacteria sometimes found in it, can dramatically degrade pipelines.

At a conference this week, NIST researchers presented new experimental evidence that bacteria that feed on ethanol and produce acid boosted fatigue crack growth rates by at least 25 times the levels occuring in air alone.

The NIST team used a new biofuels test facility to evaluate fatigue-related cracking in two common pipeline steels immersed in ethanol mixtures, including simulated fuel-grade ethanol and an ethanol-water solution containing common bacteria, Acetobacter aceti. Ethanol and bacteria are known to cause corrosion, but this is the first study of their effects on fatigue cracking of pipeline steels.

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Trellis Earth Products Files Two New U.S. Patents Related to Bioplastics
Published on August 8, 2011 at 5:27 AM
By Cameron Chai

Trellis Earth Products, a producer and supplier of food packaging and plastic bags made from renewable biodegradable material, declared that it has registered two new patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office covering its bio-plastics knowhow. The patent applications were filed in July 2011.

The first patent application of the company deals with an improvement in its present product mix. It improved the technique involved in the preparation of the bioplastics and the technology utilized for making its starch/hybrid blend in order to produce an injection moldable, waterproof, food safe and thermoformable mix containing 70% biomass. The improvement meets the requirements of its new processing equipment located at its US production facility located in Wilsonville, Oregon. The new improvements will result in better formability, reduced level of cost, higher level of biomass content and improved strength.

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Making Tomorrow's Bioenergy Yeasts Strong

By Marcia Wood
August 25, 2011

Cornstalks, wheat straw, and other rough, fibrous, harvest-time leftovers may soon be less expensive to convert into cellulosic ethanol, thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists' studies of a promising new biorefinery yeast.

The yeast—Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain NRRL Y-50049—successfully ferments plant sugars into cellulosic ethanol despite the stressful interference by problematic compounds such as furfural (2-furaldehyde) and HMF (5-hydroxymethyl-2-furaldehyde) in fermenters, according to molecular biologist Zonglin Lewis Liu with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Liu works at ARS' National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency. Liu's research supports the USDA priority of developing new sources of bioenergy.

The troublesome compounds, created during dilute acid pre-treatment of the crop leftovers, inhibit yeast growth and reduce ethanol yields. In particular, they damage yeast cell walls and membranes, disrupt yeast genetic material such as DNA and RNA, and interfere with yeast enzymes' fermentation abilities.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Fuel Testing Reveals Higher Octane in Ethanol, Adding Improved Performance Benefits

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: January 10, 2012

Colwich, KS—Last July, it might have seemed surprising when the government announced ambitious plans to raise corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards to 54.5 MPG by 2025.

However, across the map, from Detroit to Japan, the automotive industry said that the seemingly impossible MPG number was an attainable goal.

What’s more, the bulk of the heavy lifting to get there will be accomplished by utilizing high-efficiency internal combustion engines that deliver lower C02 emissions per mile.

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US EPA issues final rule for new RFS2 pathways

Biorefining Magazine
By Erin Voegele January 06, 2012

On Jan. 5, the U.S. EPA issued a direct final rule regarding pathways for four new biofuel feedstocks under the renewable fuel standard (RFS2), including camelina oil, energy cane, giant reed and napiergrass. The energy cane, giant reed, and napiergrass pathways apply to ethanol and drop-in biofuels, while the camelina applies to biodiesel and renewable diesel production, including biobased jet fuel. The rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 5 and is scheduled to become effective on March 5, also addresses renewable gasoline and renewable gasoline blendstock as new fuel types. According to the EPA, the rule will become effective as scheduled unless it receives adverse comments or a hearing request by Feb. 6.

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Brazil's ethanol imports from US notch record high in 2011
Houston (Platts)--11Jan2012/1007 pm EST/307 GMT

Brazil imported a record high 1.1 billion liters of ethanol from the US in 2011, compared with 74.084 million liters in 2010, according to official Brazilian government data released Wednesday.

The data showed that 96.7% of Brazilian imports originated from the US. In December, monthly imports also hit an historical high of 279.71 million liters, up from 152.2 million liters in the previous month.

Lower ethanol production in the country's 2011/2012 sugarcane harvest season forced Brazil to import the commodity. As a consequence, ethanol exports were down 54.7% to 1.96 billion liters.
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Ethanol Prices in Brazil May Still Fall This Year, Lobao Says

Bloomberg Business Week

Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Ethanol prices in Brazil's domestic market may still fall this year and will certainly drop in 2013, Energy and Mines Minister Edison Lobao told reporters today in Brasilia. Lobao also said President Dilma Rousseff intends to send to Congress next month a new mining regulation proposal. The minister said Vale SA yesterday’s announcement of force majeure on iron ore shipments isn’t “a concern” as the company can quickly recover any losses.

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Who’s in the lead? Algae around the world

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane January 12, 2012
By Jonathan Williams

Who’s in front in the development of algal-based fuels and biomaterials? India, China, Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Israel, the EU, or the US. The NAABB’s globe-trotting chief parses it out.

In New Mexico, Dr. Jose Olivares is head of the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB), a consortium funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop innovative technologies that will help bring algal biofuels to a commercial reality. Jonathan Williams sat down recently with Dr. Olivares after he had completed a wide-ranging tour of some of the algal hot spots around the globe.

For an overview of the NAABB itself? See our interview with Dr. Olivares, “Spring Algae Bloom: an inside look at the NAABB.”

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Renewable energy outpaces fossil fuel and nuclear growth
09 January 2012
By Kari Williamson

Renewable energy sources continue to expand rapidly while substantially outpacing the growth rates of fossil fuels and nuclear power, according to the Monthly Energy Review by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

For the first 9 months of 2011, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass/biofuels, geothermal, solar, water, wind) provided 11.95% of domestic US energy production. That compares to 10.85% for the same period in 2010 and 10.33% in 2009. By comparison, nuclear power provided just 10.62% of the nation's energy production in the first three quarters of 2011 - i.e., 11.10% less than renewable energy.

Looking at all energy sectors (e.g., electricity, transportation, thermal), renewable energy output, including hydropower, grew by 14.44% in 2011 compared to 2010. Among the renewable energy sources, conventional hydropower provided 4.35% of domestic energy production during the first 9 months of 2011, followed by biomass (3.15%), biofuels (2.57%), wind (1.45%), geothermal (0.29%), and solar (0.15%).

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Extreme Biodiesel Launches Glycerin Product For Concrete and Asphalt

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: January 5, 2012

Corona, CA—BookMerge Technology, Inc (OTCBB: BRKM), a leading pioneer in the alternative fuel industry targeting the multi-billion dollar diesel fuel market; announced Jan. 5 that it has launched a new product line generated from the waste from Extreme BioDiesel product line.

Extreme BioDiesel has developed a new, more profitable use for its waste product, raw glycerin.

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The Importance of Due Diligence for Algae Startups

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Peter A. Letvin January 05, 2012

Algae holds promise as a next-generation biofuel, both for heat and electricity and especially for transportation fuels. Algae could potentially be a game changer for biofuels in the future. Critical to algae entering this game as a true contender is productivity.

Energy & Environmental Research Center research has shown that algae may be able to produce 100 times more gallons of oil an acre per year than soybeans. This is the one metric that has driven the algae-to-fuels industry to where it is today. Metrics are important, especially to biofuels. Of course, many important metrics must enter the conversation and be understood in order to determine if algae will be a successful biofuel feedstock of the future.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

EPA OK’s camelina as advanced biofuels feedstock

Biofuels Digest
Meghan Sapp January 9, 2012

In Washington, the EPA has published a proposed direct final rule allowing camelina as a feedstock for advanced biofuels.

The rule describes EPA’s evaluation of biofuels produced from camelina oil, energy cane, giant reed, and napiergrass; it also includes an evaluation of renewable gasoline and renewable gasoline blendstocks, as well as biodiesel from esterification, and clarifies the EPA’s definition of renewable diesel.

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Clearing a potential road block to bisabolane: Key enzyme structure identified
January 10, 2012 By Lynn Yarris

JBEI researchers determined the structure of the AgBIS enzyme and found it to consist of three helical domains, the first three-domain structure ever found in a synthase of sesquiterpenes. This discovery holds importance for advanced biofuels and other applications.

( -- The recent discovery that bisabolane, a member of the terpene class of chemical compounds used in fragrances and flavorings, holds high promise as a biosynthetic alternative to D2 diesel fuel has generated keen interest in the green energy community and the trucking industry. Now a second team of researchers with the U.S Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has determined the three-dimensional crystal structure of a protein that is key to boosting the microbial-based production of bisabolane as an advanced biofuel.

The JBEI research team, led by bioengineers Paul Adams and Jay Keasling, solved the protein crystal structure of an enzyme in the Grand fir (Abies grandis) that synthesizes bisabolene, the immediate terpene precursor to bisabolane. The performance of this enzyme – the Abies grandis α-bisabolene synthase (AgBIS) – when engineered into microbes, has resulted in a bottleneck that hampers the conversion by the microbes of simple sugars into bisabolene.

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Tiger Cars for Tiger Fuels: E100 Group calls for more ethanol-tuned engines

Biofuels Journal
Jim Lane January 9, 2012 4

What do E100 cars look like? The 2010 Koenigsegg CCXR Platinuss E100 Ethanol car
The E100 Group points to a superior path to ensuring ethanol distribution – more engines tuned to ethanol, not gasoline.

Is a flex-fuel vehicle mandate needed? At what cost? E100′s Don Siefkes addresses ethanol’s market opportunities in an unpublished letter to the Wall Street Journal.

In Michigan, the E100 Ethanol group wrote a letter to the editors of the Wall Street Journal, in response to their “The Cellulosic Ethanol Debacle” editorial on December 13th.

The letter from executive director Don Siefkes remains unpublished, but deserves a wide audience, because of its unique perspective on the opportunities and paths for expanding the market for ethanol.

How indeed is all the mandated ethanol going to find its way into the market?

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Positioned for Pellets

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson January 05, 2012

With port and rail expansions under development, Maine is on the cusp of entering the wood pellet export market.

The Port of Eastport in eastern Maine will be prepared this month to export wood chips to Europe, extending that capacity to wood pellets soon thereafter. It’s a significant milestone, as the wood pellet export industry has been delayed in the Northeast U.S., despite the fact that it has immense freight advantages to Europe over many other global pellet production hot spots, even the Southeast U.S.

The Northeast has only three deepwater ports, all in Maine and none with the infrastructure to handle wood pellets. Until now. All three of those ports are gearing up in some way to descend on the pellet export market, cashing in on numerous advantages, not the least of which being proximity to Europe’s growing demand.

“Back in ’08-’09, we saw on the horizon this was going to be a market that was going to explode and we looked up and down the coast of the Eastern United States and said, ‘There’s an opportunity here,’” says Chris Gardner, executive director of the Port of Eastport.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ZeaChem, and the Renewable Fuel Standard

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane January 9, 2012

ZeaChem launches its 250,000 gallon per year core process.

How could this possibly matter, in the context of a 500 million gallon cellulosic biofuels target for 2012, that was waived down to 10 million?

As it turns out, a lot. The RFS is in much better shape than its critics advertise. Here’s why.

In Colorado, ZeaChem reported they have begun core facility operations at their Boardman, Oregon biorefinery.

The core will initially produce 250,000 gallons of the intermediate chemicals acetic acid and ethyl acetate, which are high-value products for applications including paints, lacquers and solvents. ZeaChem will sell bio-based chemicals to commercial and industrial customers seeking renewable and cost-competitive alternatives to petroleum-sourced chemicals.

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BASF, DuPont Back Biofeedstocks

Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 2 January 9, 2012 p. 8
By Melody Bomgardner

Investment: Corporate money may speed commercialization of biomass-to-feedstock technologies

The Renmatix process extracts sugars from cellulose with supercritical water.
Credit: RenmatixChemical giants BASF and DuPont have made equity investments in two young industrial biotech firms focused on biomass-based feedstocks for chemicals and fuels. The start-ups say the corporate backing will help them reach commercial-scale production quickly.

BASF invested $30 million in cellulosic sugar firm Renmatix, based in King of Prussia, Pa. Renmatix has developed technology to extract C5 and C6 sugars from cellulosic biomass using supercritical water. The sugars can then be fermented to produce biofuels or basic chemical products. The company claims its new process is significantly less expensive than current cellulose digestion systems that rely on enzymes, acid hydrolysis, or gasification.

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Willow biofuels program ignites with new boiler

R&D Magazine
By Cornell University
Friday, January 6, 2012

Prospects for meeting energy needs with a locally grown bioenergy crop are heating up on a Cornell campus.

Associate professor of horticulture Larry Smart's shrub willow bioenergy program is celebrating two milestones: a new $950,000 grant for breeding willow and installation of a boiler that will heat two buildings at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva with willow biofuel produced right on campus.

"Willow is a renewable fuel option for people currently facing the high costs of heating with oil or propane," Smart said. "The scale of our demonstration plots and the new boiler would be appropriate for many businesses, municipalities, school districts, farms or non-farming landowners."

A recent land use assessment for the Northeast estimated that there are more than 6.9 million acres of idle or surplus agricultural land that is suitable for perennial bioenergy crop cultivation, without displacing acreage needed for food or feed production.

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U.S.-Brazil ethanol swap seen in '12

Des Moines Register
11:05 PM, Jan. 6, 2012
Written by PHILIP BRASHER, Gannett Washington Bureau

Pollution rules here, sugar prices there create odd demand for each other's product

WASHINGTON — The ethanol subsidy may be history, but government policies can still produce crazy economics in the biofuel business.

Exhibit A: Brazil and the United States, the world’s two largest producers of the gasoline additive, are expected to swap some of their supplies this year.

Last year, Midwest ethanol producers shipped an estimated 250 million gallons of their product to Brazil, which ran short of the biofuel for its domestic market. Production in Brazil has fallen amid high sugar prices and a succession of poor harvests.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

The Power of Punctilious Planning

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin January 05, 2012

Biomass power projects are not immune to failure, but with strong partnerships and careful planning, they can be successful.

Visiting Eastern Illinois University, one might have a difficult time finding its biomass energy plant. That’s because it’s housed in a beautiful, modern-looking building that’s a far cry from the typical appearance of a power plant.

The facility, which burned its last ton of coal in December of 2010, was completed in October after many years of careful planning. In fact, EIU realized that it needed to replace its current energy system in the 1990s, according to Ryan Siegal, EIU campus and sustainability coordinator. This was due to deferred maintenance and ongoing operational issues of the coal boilers that were installed in 1950 and housed in a steam plant built in 1928.

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Defining Biomass

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson January 05, 2012

ACORE presents its unified, simplified biomass definition to Congress.

When the American Council on Renewable Energy’s Biomass Definition Subcommittee pitched its unified biomass definition to members of Congress in early November, the consensus was clear: no one could remember ever seeing a biomass definition itself as a piece of legislation. So that’s the next step for the subcommittee.

“We’re going to have to find a way to get [our definition] in a piece of legislation to get introduced,” says Charles Brettell, subcommittee member and principal of Energy Asset Advisors. “So that’s sort of the blocking and tackling piece that needs to get done and that’s something we’ll be working on, trying to find the right entrée to get that in front of people legislatively.”

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Cellulosic Ethanol Industry Will Expand with Strong Policy

Farm Futures
Compiled by staff
Published: Jan 4, 2012

Continued support for development of commercial cellulosic ethanol is a must.

Ethanol interests are lobbying Washington to extend a $1.01 per gallon tax credit for cellulosic ethanol as the industry struggles to get off the ground.

EPA has called for 8.65 million gallons of cellulosic to be produced in 2012, up from 6.6-million this past year, but far below the 500 million envisioned by Congress two years ago.

Jeff Broin, chairman and CEO of POET, the world's biggest producer of grain-based ethanol, says holding onto the cellulosic tax credit is a must.

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Taking Bio-Based Products to the Next Level

The Wall Street Journal: MarketWatch
Jan. 5, 2012, 3:11 p.m. EST

MGP Ingredients, Inc. Teams Up With Kansas Alliance for Biorefining and Bioenergy, Universities on Research and Development

ATCHISON, Kan., Jan 5, 2012 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) -- MGP Ingredients, Inc. /quotes/zigman/8001434/quotes/nls/mgpi MGPI -1.35% (MGP), an expert in wheat- and corn-based ingredients, is teaming up with the Kansas Alliance for Biorefining and Bioenergy (KABB) and four Kansas universities to develop new technologies and products that use bio-based raw materials. Through this collaborative endeavor, KABB is awarding a grant of approximately $1.4 million, which is being matched through in-kind services estimated at approximately $1.5 million from MGP and the participating universities combined.

The three-year research-and-development efforts will seek to find innovative ways to produce cost-competitive bio-based foams, plastics, fuels and other materials from distillers dried grains and solubles (DDGS), which result from the production of alcohol made from agriculturally-derived raw materials.

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UT-ORNL research reveals aquatic bacteria more recent move to land

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Research by University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists has discovered that bacteria's move from sea to land may have occurred much later than thought
Research by University of Tennessee, Knoxville, faculty has discovered that bacteria's move from sea to land may have occurred much later than thought. It also has revealed that the bacteria may be especially useful in bioenergy research.

Igor Jouline, UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory joint faculty professor of microbiology and researcher at ORNL's Joint Institute for Computational Sciences, performed a genome sequence analysis of the soil bacteria Azospirillum, a species' whose forbearers made the sea-to-land move. The analysis indicates the shift may have occurred only 400 million years ago, rather than approximately two billion years earlier as originally thought.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Judge tosses California low-carbon rules

Des Moines Register
2:08 PM, Jan 3, 2012 by Philip Brasher

A federal judge is blocking California from imposing a low carbon fuel standard that would make it difficult for Midwest ethanol producers to sell their corn-based biofuel there. U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill of Fresno said the state rules are unconstitutional because they would discriminate against oil companies and biofuel producers outside the state.

The state air resources board said today it would appeal the decision. “The low carbon fuel standard is an evenhanded standard that encourages the use of cleaner low-carbon fuels by regulation fuel providers in California,” said board spokesman Stanley Young. “It does not discriminate against any fuels on the basis of geography.” He said the board will seek a stay in O’Neill’s preliminary injunction.

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Chromatin secures $5.7m from US DOE
4 Jan 2012

US bioenergy feedstock supplier Chromatin has won a $5.7m contract as part of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Plants Engineered to Replace Oil (PETRO) initiative.

The money will fund a three-year development programme to manufacture new variants of sweet sorghum for use as an energy-rich, low cost feedstock for transportation biofuels.

Dave Jessen, chief technology officer for Chromatin, said, ‘Building on our success deploying our proprietary technology that can add multiple sets of genes to sorghum, we are able to produce sorghum varieties that meet the specific needs of renewable-energy producers. In collaboration with academic and industry experts, this award will accelerate Chromatin’s optimisation of sorghum as a feedstock for drop-in biofuels and energy-rich replacements for coal and petroleum.’

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LanzaTech to Convert Acquired Ethanol Plant for Biochemicals

By Andrew Herndon - Jan 4, 2012 9:43 PM CT

LanzaTech NZ Ltd., a closely held biofuels company backed by billionaire Vinod Khosla, will convert a U.S. cellulosic ethanol plant it bought from Range Fuels Inc. to produce chemicals from biomass.

The $5.1 million deal completed on Jan. 3 provides LanzaTech with its first plant, Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Holmgren said yesterday in a telephone interview.

“We have been doing a lot of work on steel mill gases and other gases to ethanol mostly, but in the laboratory we have shown that we can make chemicals,” Holmgren said. “We don’t have any assets where we can control the feedstock that are large and are able to help us scale up,” she said.

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Brazilian ethanol price highest in a decade: CEPEA/ESALQ

Houston (Platts)--5Jan2012/639 am EST/1139 GMT

Tight supply and strong demand have boosted the average price for ethanol in Brazil in the current 2011/2012 sugarcane harvest to its highest level in a decade, both in real terms or deflated values, research institute CEPEA/ESALQ said on its website Wednesday.

Brazil produces two types of ethanol: anhydrous and hydrous. Anhydrous ethanol is used for mandatory blending into gasoline and hydrous ethanol is used as an alternative to gasoline by drivers of flex-fuel vehicles.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

First shipment of pellets leaves Va. port terminal

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Luke Geiver January 03, 2012

The Port of Chesapeake in Virginia has officially entered the biomass shipping business. On Dec. 31, Enviva LP, sent 28,000 metric tons of wood pellets to one of Enviva’s European utility customers aboard the MV Daishin Maru.

The inaugural shipment was the result of a construction process that started in February 2011 and included more than 25 independent contractors. The deep water terminal outside of Norfolk, Va., includes a 157-foot-by-175-foot wood pellet storage dome that can receive, hold or store up to three million tons of woody biomass set for export each year, all while withstanding large-scale hurricanes and earthquakes. Enviva’s new Ahoskie, N.C., pellet mill is currently supplying the Port of Chesapeake shipping site.

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End of ethanol subsidy will raise the price of gas

By Chris Woodyard
Updated 1/3/12

Gasoline could cost 4.5 cents a gallon more starting as early as this week, and it's not because of rising oil prices.

It's because Congress declined to renew the 30-year-old federal subsidy for ethanol, letting it expire Sunday.

Ethanol, denatured grain alcohol used as a proven smog-cutting ingredient, currently makes up 10% of most gasoline-based motor fuel for general use, so-called E-10. In a few areas, E-85 fuel, 85% ethanol, also is available. E-85 can be burned only by vehicles equipped for "flex fuel."

How much the end of the subsidy could add to gas prices, and how soon, is yet to be seen. Ethanol blenders got a 45-cents-a-gallon tax credit, which amounts to 4.5 cents for the amount blended into each gallon of E-10 fuel.

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New Route to Hydrocarbon Biofuels

Technology Review by MIT
Monday, September 22, 2008
By Prachi Patel

A simple catalytic process converts plant sugars into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a simple, two-step chemical process to convert plant sugars into hydrocarbon fuels. The compounds created during the process could also be used to make other industrial chemicals and plastics.

Several companies are making hydrocarbon biofuels--which can be cheaper to produce than ethanol and have higher energy density--using microbes. Startups such as LS9 and Amyris are trying to genetically engineer the metabolic systems of microbes so that they ferment sugars into useful hydrocarbons.

The Wisconsin researchers, led by chemical- and biological-engineering professor James Dumesic, employ chemical reactions instead of microbial fermentation. They use catalysts at high temperatures to convert glucose into hydrocarbon biofuels. The process works thousands of times faster than microbes do because of the higher temperatures, so it requires smaller, cheaper reactors, Dumesic says. The catalysts and reformer systems that they use are similar to those used in oil refineries, which would also make the process simpler.

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After Three Decades, Tax Credit for Ethanol Expires

The New York Times
Published: January 1, 2012

WASHINGTON — A federal tax credit for ethanol expired on Saturday, ending an era in which the federal government provided more than $20 billion in subsidies for use of the product.

The tax break, created more than 30 years ago, had long seemed untouchable. But in the last year, during which Congress was preoccupied with deficits and debt, it became a symbol of corporate welfare. Fiscal conservatives joined liberal environmentalists to kill it, with help from a diverse coalition of outside groups.

In the United States, most ethanol is produced from corn. The demise of the subsidy is all the more remarkable because it comes at the peak of the political season in Iowa, where corn is king.
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EPA: Ethanol production expected to grow in 2012

Des Moines Register
11:05 PM, Dec. 31, 2011
Written by DAN PILLER

But cellulosic ethanol output is likely to fall short of a 2007 law's goals.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday said ethanol production in 2012 should reach 15.2 billion gallons, an increase of about 1.25 billion gallons from this year.

The agency’s 2012 targets for renewable biofuels, however, shows non-corn ethanol made from crop residue, grasses or wood chips falling short of the goals set in the 2007 federal law mandating biofuel use.

In a statement, the EPA projects that cellulosic ethanol will hit 8.65 million gallons, or 0.06 percent of the 15.2 billion gallon total. That is considerably short of the 500-million-gallon target for 2012 set by Congress in 2007 when it wrote the law mandating that 36 billion gallons of non-petroleum biofuels be used in the nation's transportation fuel mix by 2022.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Key Iowa Issue: Ethanol Subsidies. Where Do Republican Candidates Stand?

Huffington Post
by Paul Abrams
Posted: 12/27/11 05:07 PM ET React Important

One way to avoid discussing a key issue for Iowa voters is to make such over-the-top statements about other matters that the issue is never joined.

Republicans seem to have succeeded. In the circus masquerading as the Republican Iowa caucus, there has been nary a word about ethanol subsidies, a major issue for Iowans.

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2011 a Productive Year for Ethanol

Hoosier Ag Today

Posted on 27 December 2011

by Andy Eubank

The year has been a memorable one for the ethanol industry with the start of one thing and the end of another topping the list of landmarks. The industry has allowed the expiration of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) at the end of the year to come and go without a fight, essentially agreeing it was time for it to end.

But Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen says the year started on a high note when EPA gave final approval for 15 percent ethanol to be used in model year 2001 and newer vehicles.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vilsack, heads of BP, Amyris, Raizen, Solazyme head Top 100 People list

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane December 26, 2011

In Florida, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack headed the “Top 100 People in Bioenergy” as voted by the readers of Biofuels Digest and the Digest’s editorial board, just edging out BP Biofuels chief Philip New, and the heads of Raizen, POET, Solazyme and Amyris.

In total, industry executives from 11 countries made the list. Overall, more than 400 individuals received votes.

“For the second year in a row, readers and our editor overwhelmingly identified US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as the most significant personality in the global bioenergy movement and industry.

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The 11 Top Biofuels Trends of 2011

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane December 27, 2011

It’s that holiday time, time to look-back with misty eyes at the glories of yesteryear. In our case, at the 11 Hottest Trends of 2011, in what proved to be a vintage year for biofuels. There were IPOs a go-go, a big comeback from biodiesel. The global ethanol fleet has acquired new popularity amongst advanced biofuels developers looking for capital light steel in the ground. Meanwhile, gasification got hot. Seemed like every algae venture headed for Algstralia, and Brazil and the US Navy became everyone’s new best friends.

But it wasn’t all holly-jolly and ho-ho-ho. The long awaited biofuels shakeout began, with the are-they-with-us-or-are-they-not at Qteros, and the keel-over of Range Fuels. Who’s next, we wonder? Meanwhile, alcohol-to-jet fuel technology got hot, in part because oilseed-to-jet is so darn hard to find at scale.

We celebrate the holiday season with this look back at the 11 Trends for 2011.

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Top Ethanol Stories of 2011
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – December 26th, 2011

Ethanol industry developments in 2011 have set the stage for a new era. The Renewable Fuels Association has identified five top stories for the ethanol world from 2011 that will change the future.

They are:

1. EPA approval of 15 percent ethanol for use in 2001 and newer vehicles
2. The end of the blenders tax credit and secondary tariff on ethanol imports
3. Surge in U.S. ethanol exports
4. New strides in advanced and cellulosic ethanol development
5. Emergence of the integrated biorefinery model

In this edition of “The Ethanol Report,” Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen comments on the year in review and some of the top ethanol stories of 2011.

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US Government Lifts Tariffs on Import of Ethanol
Published on December 27, 2011 at 4:24 AM
By Cameron Chai

The US Government has done away with all the tariffs that were imposed for thirty years on the subsidies at the domestic ethanol industry and those on the import of ethanol. Effective from January 2012, the US market will be open for the import of ethanol, without any tariffs.
The taxes imposed on ethanol currently are $ 0.54 per gallon for imported ethanol and $ 0.45 per gallon for blenders.

A Washington-based representative of the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) stated that with the lifting of the tariffs, the US market, which is the largest for ethanol, will be more open to import of ethanol, including that made from sugarcane. Sugarcane-based ethanol has been recognised by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an advanced biofuel mainly due to the significant reductions it causes in the greenhouse gas emissions. The tariffs that have been in effect so far were put in place to keep the Brazilian sugarcane ethanol out of the US market. With the tariffs being scrapped out the US market will be able to derive benefit from the fossil fuel that is readily available at a much lower cost and be able to improve environmental sustainability. The lifting of the tariff is the result of prolonged efforts by UNICA in fighting against unnecessary subsidies levied by the US. The President of UNICA explained that they will first focus on fulfilling the demands of the domestic market and then work towards new investments.

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The Bullseye Fuel: BAL and its macroalgae-based biofuels

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane December 29, 2011

In Chile earlier this month, Bio Architecture Lab broke ground on an experimental pilot facility producing ethanol from Macrocystis pyrifera (macro algae).

Macroalgae: that’s seaweed, and more about why macro algae is really, really important, in a moment.

The Pilot Facility
The facility, expected to be operational in 2012 will allow the company to demonstrate a complete value chain from feedstock cultivation (seaweed farming) to advanced biofuel production; the company expects to scale-up by the end of 2015. BAL currently operates three seaweed farms in Quenac and Ancud in the Los Lagos region, and Caldera in the Atacama region of Chile.

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End is nigh for ethanol blenders' credit Jeff Caldwell
12/29/2011 @ 11:26am

Multimedia Editor for and Successful Farming magazine.

In June, the U.S. Senate voted toe nd the ethanol blenders' tax credit, a move decried by some ag groups and shrugged off by others.

Now, that tax credit, formally known as the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) is slated to end with the end of calendar year 2011. With it will go the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol. Ethanol industry groups were understandably upset with the decision, while cattle industry groups, namely the National Cattlemens Beef Association (NCBA) called it a "giant step toward leveling the playing field for a bushel of corn."

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World eyes German efforts to become leader in reneable energy resources

The Washington Post
By Associated Press, Published: December 29

FELDHEIM, Germany — This tiny village in a wind-swept corner of eastern Germany seems an unlikely place for a revolution.

Yet environmentalists, experts and politicians from El Salvador to Japan to South Africa have flocked here in the past year to learn how Feldheim, with just 145 people, is already putting into practice Germany’s vision of a future powered entirely by renewable energy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government passed legislation in June setting the country on course to generate a third of its power through renewable sources — such as wind, solar, geothermal and bioenergy — within a decade, reaching 80 percent by 2050, while creating jobs, increasing energy security and reducing harmful emissions.

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US Congress adjourns without ethanol tax credit renewal

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane December 26, 2011

In Washington, the 112th Congress adjourned without renewing the $0.45 VEETC tax credit for blenders of corn ethanol and the $0.54 per gallon tariff on imported ethanol. “With Congress in recess, there are no opportunities for further attempts to prolong the tax credit or the tariff, so we can confidently say these support mechanisms will be gone at the end of 2011,” said the Washington Representative for the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), Leticia Phillips.

“For the first time ever, the two top ethanol producers, which together account for more than 80% of world production, are not imposing an import tariff. Brazil zeroed its tariff in early 2010 and now the US is moving in the same direction. It’s time for these two countries to show leadership and work together to develop a truly global free market for ethanol, without trade barriers, as is already the case for oil,” said UNICA CEO Marcos Jank. He described the moment as “a great opportunity” for Brazil and the US to foment increased ethanol production and use throughout the globe.

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