Engineers Pursue Flexible Electronics, Self-folding Structures and Controlled Photosynthesis on a Grand Scale
National Science Foundation
Press Release 12-157
August 23, 2012
This blog is produced by the Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research CABER) at the University of Illinois. CABER is under the direction of Hans P. Blaschek, professor and Assistant Dean of the U of I College of Agricultural,Consumer and Environmental Sciences Office of Research. This blog is a roundup of research news and related topics dealing with biofuels. It does not cover biofuel production and prices at this time.
National Science Foundation
Press Release 12-157
August 23, 2012
David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
Genetically modified organism could turn carbon dioxide or waste products into a gasoline-compatible transportation fuel.
OnlineAthens (Athens Banner-Herald)
August 24, 2012
By Mario Parker on August 23, 2012
Ethanol, the best-performing energy commodity this year, is cheaper than gasoline, encouraging refiners to use the biofuel even if President Barack Obama’s administration ends a requirement to do so.
A 49 cent-per-gallon discount to gasoline provides companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Valero Energy Corp. (VLO) an opportunity to profit by blending the corn-based additive into fuel, while easing prices at the pump for consumers. Marketers may use ethanol as they look for the cheapest way to boost engine performance and reduce pollution.
East Bay Express
Nate Seltenrich — Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 4:42 PM
Waste equals food. At least that’s what we were taught in ecology class. In the eyes of California’s Bioenergy Interagency Working Group, organic waste equals something a bit more 21st-century: low-carbon biofuels, biogas, and renewable electricity. In its 2012 Bioenergy Action Plan, released on Wednesday, the working group lays out a plan to convert more of the state’s considerable wood, forest, agricultural, food, yard, and animal wastes directly into energy through anaerobic digestion, biomass burning, landfill gas capture, and other technologies.
The plan, developed by representatives the California Natural Resources Group, the Department of Food and Agriculture, Cal EPA, the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission, and others, lauds bioenergy in all its forms as a win-win-win. Though of course, it’s not that simple.
First, the logic goes, we can divert organic waste from the landfill (by weight, it represents nearly 60 percent of the material trashed each year in California) and move the state toward its new goal of recycling, composting, or source-reducing 75 percent of its solid waste by 2020. Second, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and farms caused by decaying organic matter by capturing it and converting it to usable energy. And third, we can increase production of all-important baseload (that is, not intermittent like solar and wind) renewable electricity in the state, continue to wean our buildings and vehicles off fossil fuels, and march ever toward — or beyond — California’s 30-percent-by-2020 Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
By Nat Williams
SIMPSON, Ill. — One crop that may hold promise in the biofuels industry looks pretty familiar to Illinois farmers.
Unlike perennial grasses such as miscanthus or switchgrass, tropical maize holds promise as a biomass crop that may have some advantages over its less-familiar relatives.
University of Illinois Extension environmental and energy stewardship educator Gary Letterly discussed the crop at a recent field day at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center.
Promotion of crops such as miscanthus has been an uphill battle, since there is no solid market, and demand is fleeting.
“We don’t have an end-use market that’s reared its head yet, so it’s pretty difficult to convince someone to just grow it,” Letterly said. “Farmers say, ‘I’m not going to dedicate land and resources to establish it.’”
Published: August 22, 2012
By Ceres, Inc.
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Aug. 22, 2012 — /PRNewswire/ -- Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. (Nasdaq: CERE) today announced that former BP Chief Scientist and Undersecretary of Energy for Science, Steven E. Koonin, PhD, has joined the company's board of directors. Ceres' board will now have 12 members, including 10 independent directors as defined under the rules of the Nasdaq Stock Market.
"It is a great pleasure to welcome a board member with such a valuable combination of experience from both the energy industry and public service to join our efforts to commercialize our pipeline of non-food, bioenergy products," said Richard Hamilton, President and CEO of Ceres. "Continued high oil prices, despite the current economic uncertainty, underscore the unique value of liquid transportation fuels as well as the imperative to rapidly develop alternative feedstocks for biofuels."
August 21, 2012
In Illinois, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange says that ethanol production has fallen low enough to begin sucking up the surplus that has been hanging over the market, which will lead towards higher ethanol prices. Data from the DOE shows that ethanol production has slipped 15% since reaching a record high in December.
Volume 15, Number 34: 22 August 2012
In an invited editorial in the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy, Schulze et al. (2012) set the stage for their analysis of this important question by writing that "climate change impacts resulting from fossil fuel combustion challenge humanity to find energy alternatives that would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions." And one of the strategies that they indicate could substantially diminish our dependence on fossil fuels without competing with food production is the use of bioenergy obtained from forests, either by direct combustion of wood or its conversion to cellulosic ethanol. However, they say "there are important questions about GHG reduction, economic viability, sustainability and environmental consequences" that are associated with this strategy; and they go on to discuss them in some detail.
First of all, the five scientists - hailing from Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland and the United States - argue that "such an increase in biomass harvest would result in younger forests, lower biomass pools, depleted soil nutrient stocks and a loss of other ecosystem functions," such that "the proposed strategy is likely to miss its main objective, i.e. to reduce GHG emissions, because it would result in a reduction of biomass pools that may take decades to centuries to be paid back by fossil fuel substitution, if paid back at all." In the long run, therefore, they feel that "depleted soil fertility will make the production unsustainable and require fertilization, which in turn increases GHG emissions due to N2O emissions," which ultimately makes the large-scale production of bioenergy from forest biomass, in their opinion, "neither sustainable nor GHG neutral."
August 20, 2012
In West Virginia, the DOE’s CCS and biofuels project producing algae in four ponds photosynthesizing CO2 captured from a small, coal-fired combustor at Touchstone Research Laboratory is moving into its next phase. The next stage will include using a new material to cover the algal ponds that will absorb sunlight during the day and later release it at night to maintain a constant temperature, while also minimizing evaporation and preventing other species getting into the ponds.
August 21, 2012
In Pennsylvania, at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society scientists described development and successful laboratory testing of a new “biorefinery” intended to change food waste into a key ingredient for making plastics, laundry detergents and scores of other everyday products.
The report covered their work, launched in cooperation with the Starbucks restaurant chain – concerned with sustainability and seeking a use for spent coffee grounds and stale bakery goods. The biorefinery process involves blending the baked goods with a mixture of fungi that excrete enzymes to break down carbohydrates in the food into simple sugars.
Kaustubh Katdare Aug 21st, 2012
Research engineers at the United States Argonne National Laborator (ANL) have developed a mobile Endurance Bioenergy Reactor (EBR) that can turn the waste from your kitchens or restrooms directly into biofuel. The fuel produced by this reaction needs no further processing and can be directly fed to your car. Interesting, right? The EBR produces approximately 94.6 to 189.2 liters of biofuel per day from waste streams. It uses photosynthetic bacterium, that convert the waste into long-chain alcohols. After separation from fermentation broth, these alcohols serve as surrogates for the diesel fuel. This fuel can be used alone or blended with other fuels to power generators. One EBR is capable of charging about 60 electric vehicles (EVs) with a range of about 50 miles each.
Read article and watch video
Wisconsin Ag Connection
USAgNet - 08/17/2012
America's agriculture secretary says investment in U.S. ethanol production, which along with a drought-plagued crop is being blamed for near-record corn costs, may decline should federal use requirements for the biofuel be reduced. That's what Tom Vilsack said in Iowa State Fair this week after learning that 25 U.S. senators and 156 House members have signed letters asking the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend or lower mandates on how much ethanol the country must use this year and next.
"My concern is that we send a signal to investors of perhaps, less confidence in the industry," Vilsack. "We need to see whether the market is responding with lower demand in the face of higher prices, before making a decision to relax use requirements."
By Sara Forden - Aug 17, 2012 12:30 PM CT
A challenge to an Environmental Protection Agency rule allowing higher concentrations of corn- based ethanol in gasoline was thrown out by a U.S. Appeals Court ruling that the groups pressing the case had no right to sue.
Grocery, auto and petroleum industry associations filed suit against the agency in November 2010, saying that rules allowing for increased used of corn-based ethanol in auto fuel would push up the price of food and gasoline and harm engines. The court today ruled the groups couldn’t show they had suffered specific harm as a result of the EPA’s decisions.
(AP) – August 17, 2012
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court has rejected a challenge to Environmental Protection Agency decisions allowing an increase in ethanol content in gasoline.
In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said trade associations of engine manufacturers, food producers and petroleum producers did not have standing to sue because they failed to show that their members are harmed by the EPA action.
In two decisions, the agency approved the introduction of a gasoline blend of up to 15 percent ethanol for use in light-duty vehicles from model-year 2001 and later. The national gasoline supply is largely a blend with 10 percent ethanol. Ethanol producers, who sought the 15 percent option, say the ruling keeps a pathway open that could enable ethanol demand to expand.
August 19, 2012
By DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY, email@example.com , Messenger News
Rationing demand called, good for this kind of market
The impact of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Aug. 10 crop production report was expected to come down to demand, and the report didn't disappoint.
"It looks like we're seeing the initial movement of a demand slowdown in all three major categories, including feed, ethanol and exports," said Darin Newsom, a DTN senior analyst. "This is exactly what has to happen in this type of market."
Even so, the report painted a bleak outlook for supplies. According to USDA's projections, U.S. corn production for 2012 is forecast at 10.8 billion bushels, down 13 percent from 2011's 12.4 billion bushels and the lowest production since 2006.
Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Renewable Fuels Association
August 16, 2012
The Renewable Fuels Association, Norfolk Southern Corp., CN Railway and Archer Daniels Midland Co. will co-host an Ethanol Safety Seminar in Decatur, Ill., on August 22 at the Richland Community College in the National Sequestration Education Center. This seminar is free. To accommodate schedules and reach as many participants as possible, the seminar features a morning session from 9:00am to 2:00pm and an evening session from 5:30-10:00pm. Lunch and dinner will be provided.
Attendees will receive in-depth information on proper training techniques that first responders, hazmat personnel, and safety teams need to effectively respond to an ethanol-related emergency. While primarily targeting first responders, hazmat teams, safety managers, and local emergency planning committees, it is also open to the general public.
August 16, 2012
In Washington, two separate studies released this week by Iowa State University and Purdue University, directly refute the suggestion from livestock and poultry groups that waiving the US Renewable Fuel Standard would dramatically reduce corn prices and increase availability. The Purdue University analysis showed that the flexibility built into the RFS—namely the ability of refiners to use excess RIN credits accumulated in past years—serves to reduce corn price without a waiver being necessary. However, the Purdue economists found, if Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did waive the RFS, corn prices might decrease further by approximately 5.6% in 2013.
Meanwhile, the Iowa State University analysis, an update to an earlier report, found that fully waiving the RFS would result in just a 7.4% reduction in corn price in the 2012/13 marketing year.
August 14, 2012
In Illinois, University of Illinois researchers have found that DNA’s code can similarly shape metallic structures. The team found that DNA segments can direct the shape of gold nanoparticles – tiny gold crystals that have many applications in medicine, electronics and catalysis. Led by Yi Lu, the Schenck Professor of Chemistry at the U. of I., the team published its surprising findings in the journal Angewandte Chemie. Lu states, “Such a discovery has potential impacts in bio-nanotechnology and applications in our everyday lives such as catalysis, sensing, imaging and medicine.” Next, the researchers plan to investigate exactly how DNA codes direct nanoparticle growth. They also plan to apply their method to synthesize other types of nanomaterials with novel applications.
August 16, 2012
The centerpiece of the USDA’s push to sell biobased products through the federal government and in the costumer market – Biopreferred.gov – is on the move, but not without its challenges.
Perhaps the single most impressive driving force these days in terms of direct US government activity on the biobased front is its Biopreferred.gov program. The goal there? To translate a Congressionally mandated federal buying preference for biobased products into actual buying.
It’s a small team with mighty tasks – hindered, from the outset in that the US government has not ever measured its biobased product purchasing – not inside the USDA, not anywhere. So, there’s been quite a bit of work to be done in establishing standards, baselines, and some kind of a federal scorecard.
By RYAN TRACY
Refiners and oil importers are required to buy certain amounts of fuel made from plants every year under a 2005 law designed to reduce US oil imports. But the market has been in turmoil since last year, when it became clear that some companies were selling fraudulent numbers.
WASHINGTON -- The US Environmental Protection Agency late Tuesday made its first specific promises to address fraud in the alternative fuels market, a signal that months of negotiations with industry representatives are making progress.
In a letter to Rep. Gene Green, a Texas Democrat who was among lawmakers pressing the agency to act, EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy said the agency would formally propose a new regulation for the alternative fuel market by the end of this year.
A Better Iowa
8:53 AM, August 16, 2012
President Obama, during his three-day bus tour of Iowa, mocked Republican Mitt Romney for saying you can’t put a windmill on top of your car.
Obama was pressing his point that he supports tax breaks for wind energy and Romney doesn’t. But Obama didn’t say anything about that other Iowa-grown, renewable fuel that Romney and just about everybody else can put in their cars.
Ethanol used to be one of the few things every politician had to talk about in Iowa. But this summer, it’s an uncomfortable subject. Drought has heightened the ongoing “food versus fuel” debate. Corn ethanol has long drawn the criticism that you shouldn’t put corn in gas tanks when there are hungry bellies to fill.
Ethanol has raised the demand for corn and driven up prices. The drought adds scarcity to the mix, pushing prices even higher. That’s great for farmers who have a decent crop to sell. It’s not so great for those who have to buy it for food for their livestock.
16. August 2012
Novozymes has developed a robust microorganism that enables efficient production of biobased malic acid. The technology makes it possible to produce plastic and other oil-derived products from renewable raw materials.
Novozymes, the world leader in bioinnovation, has succeeded in developing a fungus that enables production of malic acid from renewable raw materials instead of oil. Malic acid is used as a flavor enhancer in the food industry and can be converted into other chemical derivatives used for a variety of plastic, polymer and resin products. Novozymes is now out-licensing the technology to partners who are interested in producing and commercializing malic acid and derivatives made from renewable raw materials instead of oil.
Compiled by staff
Published: Aug 15, 2012
Non-food biomass production coupled with processing plants could create sustainable infrastructure for fuel conversion.
This summer's drought has "stirred the pot" in the fuel vs. food debate, but researchers at the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry are collaborating with the U.S. Dept. of Energy to study how second generation biofuels—those from non-fuel crops grown on marginal land—could become profitable and sustainable.
By Christopher DeMorro
With so much focus on electric cars these days, it can be easy to forget how much money and effort is being funneled into biofuels. Ethanol has gotten a bad rap in recent years, with everyone from conservative deficit hawks to liberal environmentalists deriding it as a dead end. But a new breakthrough from researchers at Michigan State University increases the amount of recoverable energy by about 2000%.
A Biofuel Breakthrough Of Epic Proportions
The new process uses bacteria and fermentation processes optimized to extract as much energy as possible from corn stover, the leftover stalk, stem, and husks from corn plants. This leftover farm waste is sometimes utilized as fodder, but just as often it goes to waste. Traditional biofuel processing methods have been able to extract just 3.5% to 4.5% of the recoverable energy.
But a new bioelectrochemical process pioneered by Gemma Reguera utilizes microbial electrolysis cells, or MEC’s, to break down and ferment ethanol feedstock. The difference is that this new procedure used carefully-selected fermantative bacteria that were optimized to deliver the most energy, the least waste, and to produce byproducts that could also boost recoverable energy. “Basically, each step we take is custom-designed to be optimal,” says Reguera. The first fermentation step alone boosts recoverable energy to the 35% to 40% range.
Southwest Farm Press
Aug. 14, 2012 3:52pm
Adam Helms, Texas A&M
•Agreement will advance biofuel feedstock development.
•The collaboration will utilize AgriLife Research’s diverse high biomass energy crop breeding program.
•BP Biofuels’ is one of the few global energy companies growing commercial-scale biomass crops for liquid fuels.
BP Biofuels and Texas AgriLife Research, part of The Texas A&M University System, have signed a three-year agreement to develop and commercialize cellulosic feedstocks for the production of advanced biofuels.
The collaboration will utilize AgriLife Research’s diverse high biomass energy crop breeding program and BP Biofuels’ position as one of the few global energy companies growing commercial-scale biomass crops for liquid fuels.
Research @ ACES at University of Illinois
Published August 14, 2012
URBANA – A new discovery should make the alternative fuel butanol more attractive to the biofuel industry. University of Illinois scientist Hao Feng has found a way around the bottleneck that has frustrated producers in the past and could significantly reduce the cost of the energy involved in making it as well.
“The first challenge in butanol production is that at a certain concentration the fuel being created becomes toxic to the organism used to make it (Clostridium pasteurianum and other strains), and that toxicity limits the amount of fuel that can be made in one batch. The second issue is the high energy cost of removing butanol from the fermentation broth at the high concentrations used by the industry. We have solved both problems,” he said.
In the study, funded by the Energy Biosciences Institute, Feng’s team successfully tested the use of a non-ionic surfactant, or co-polymer, to create small structures that capture and hold the butanol molecules.
By Barbara Lewis and Ivana Sekularac
Wed Aug 15, 2012 8:24am EDT
BRUSSELS/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Drought-stricken crops and record-high grain prices have strengthened critics of the European Union biofuel industry, adding fears of a food crisis to their claims that it does not ultimately reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The renewed anxiety adds to pressure on the EU's executive Commission to forge a deal this year to help ensure that EU biofuels do not clash with food production or the environment.
Such an agreement would remove some of the uncertainty that has hung over the multi-billion euro bioenergy industry during years of debate.
By Erin Voegele
August 14, 2012
On August 14 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 106 projects have been awarded funding under the USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program. The REAP program, which was authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, provides grants and loan guarantees for agricultural producers and rural small businesses to reduce energy consumption and costs, use renewable energy technologies in their operations, and conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects.
August 14, 2012
Initial studies show a fungus grown in the leftovers of ethanol production could be a good energy feed for pigs and chickens.
In separate feeding trials, nursery pigs and chickens have eaten high-protein fungi that Hans van Leeuwen and other Iowa State University researchers have produced in a pilot plant that converts ethanol leftovers into food-grade fungi. The production process also cleans some of the water used to produce ethanol, boosting the amount of water that can be recycled back into biofuel production and saving energy on water cleanup and co-product recovery.
So far in the feeding trials, researchers have found pig performance wasn’t impacted when dried fungi were substituted for corn or soybean meal, said Nicholas Gabler, an assistant professor of animal science. Researchers are still studying the effects of the feed on amino acid availability, tissue growth, and intestinal health.
By Gus Trompiz and Nigel Hunt
* Conference call to discuss possible Rapid Response Forum
* Want to avoid grain export embargoes, unilateral action
* French minister analyzing situation with U.S.
* Pressure grows on U.S. to change ethanol policy
* Brazil source sees little action short of crisis
PARIS/LONDON, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Leading members of the Group of 20 nations are prepared to trigger an emergency meeting to address soaring grain prices caused by the worst U.S. drought in more than half a century and poor crops from the Black Sea bread basket.
France, the United States and G20 president Mexico will hold a conference call at the end of August to consider whether an emergency international meeting is required, aiming to avoid a repetition of the food price spike that triggered riots in poorer countries in 2008.
Yet even as the third grain surge in four years stirs new fears about food supply and inflation, many say the world's powers are no better prepared to rein in runaway prices. Apart from a global grain database, which has yet to be launched, and the Rapid Response Forum that authorities are considering convening for the first time, the G20 has few tools.
Cary Blake Penton Business Media
A retired U.S. Navy vice-admiral urges the continued expansion of the biofuels industry to enhance U.S. national security and help ward off threats from petroleum-exporting countries with opposing political views to the U.S.
“Those who wish to do the U.S. harm can exploit our vulnerability of our single mindedness on fossil fuels as our energy portfolio,” Vice-Admiral Dennis McGinn said during the 2012 Biomass Conference in Washington, D.C. in July.
McGinn’s point is from a report called “Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security” written by McGinn and other retired military three- and four-star admirals and generals who concur on energy, the environment, and national security.
August 13, 2012
In Iowa, the DOE’s Ames Laboratory has used spectrometry to map the lipids in cottonseed, a process which may hold the key to understanding biosynthesis and alternative energy production. The process, which allows scientists to understand the structural framework for molecules within cottonseed plant material, will create a new method for viewing plant molecules.
August 13, 2012
A two-part series in which Digest contributor Tim Sklar looks at where the wood pellet and torrified wood markets are headed.
By Tim Sklar
In Part I, here, we looked at the Current and Projected Market for wood pellets and torrified wood, plus Biomass Procurement, co-firing, CO2 tax policy, and risk mitigation strategies. Our series today picks up with purchase agreements, sustainability concerns and more on the economics.
WP Purchase Agreements and Other Contracting Issues
One utility representative presenting at the Summit explained in some detail the sustainability standards certifications that his company uses as part of their “Standard” biomass procurement contracts. He also had mentioned the audits that his company is subjected to by Government officials to determine CO2 savings offsets that reduce the amount obtained from sale of the credits issued them for WP they use in lieu of coal. As TW was not discussed, it would be safe to assume that CO2 credits earned on using TW would also be subject to audits and possible offsets. This is a further complication when trying to determine a TW price that is acceptable to all.
By Charles Abbott
Fri Aug 10, 2012 7:32pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The worst drought in more than 50 years has caused more damage than expected to corn and soybean crops, the government said on Friday, heightening calls for a suspension of ethanol quotas to head off another global food crisis.
While benchmark corn and wheat futures closed lower in Chicago, experts say food prices appear set to keep rising after a 6 percent jump last month, escalating a food-versus-fuel debate centered on a law that dictates that about 40 percent of the corn crop must be converted into ethanol.
Hours after the Department of Agriculture said the corn yield would likely fall to its lowest since 1995, worse than forecast, the governors of two poultry-producing states asked the Obama administration to waive the ethanol requirement, the first formal request for relief.
The Wall Street Journal
August 11, 2012
The corn fuel mandate is raising food prices and hurting the poor.
In 2007 and 2008, food prices spiked, resulting in much higher U.S. grocery bills and far more hunger in the poorest countries as the global supply chain buckled. The world may now be on the cusp of a 2012 reprise amid the drought in the Midwest farm belt, the worst in 50 years. Luckily, there are plenty of simple, modest things Washington can do to alleviate and even prevent another crisis.
The problem is that these fixes are opposed by a minor industry that adds little if any value to the economy, even counting its prodigious Beltway operations. Yup, the ethanol lobby strikes again. It can't succeed without a mandate that forces consumers to buy its product every time they fill up the tank, and if the resulting corn shortages drive food prices up in a way that punishes consumers around the world, so be it.
The Washington Post
By Mario Parker and Roger Runningen, Published: August 10
Updated: Saturday, August 11, 9:20 AM
Bloomberg Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration is reviewing the country’s ethanol policy amid calls from both political parties and the United Nations to suspend annual targets as the worst drought in 56 years spurs corn prices.
Twenty-five U.S. senators, both Republicans and Democrats, asked Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to halt or lower mandates on how much ethanol the country must use this year and next. The senators’ Aug. 7 letter followed an Aug. 1 petition from a bipartisan coalition of 156 members of the House of Representatives.
“I would simply say that the EPA, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, is looking at this,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said today in Washington. “I don’t have a statement one way or the other predicting what the experts are going to say.”
By ANDREW RESTUCCIA
8/12/12 6:06 PM EDT
The environmental community fumed this weekend when Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, condemning the House Budget Committee chairman’s crusade to slash clean energy funding while painting him as a bedfellow of Big Oil.
But what greens hate about Ryan, the GOP loves.
The Wisconsin Republican has been an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s clean energy agenda, offering a fiscal plan earlier this year that neatly mirrors the GOP’s policy priorities. The plan would expand oil and gas drilling, limit the reach of the EPA and kill the Energy Department’s clean energy loan program.
By Tim Sklar
August 10, 2012
A two-part series in which Digest contributor Tim Sklar looks at where the wood pellet and torrified wood markets are headed.
Many experts familiar with the WP industry he expect demand for wood pellets in Europe to increase from 10 million metric tons per year today to 5 times that by 2020. In recognition of this optimistic outlook, a “Biomass Trade & Transport Summit”. It took place on July 17th and 18th in Charlotte, NC. This summit was organized to provide the opportunity to bring together those that are already participating in the trade of wood pellets between North American suppliers and European end users, to get a better understanding of this growing market and the profit opportunities that are expected.
The primary objective of this Summit was to convey information about the white wood pellet industry and where it is headed, specifically with respect to the US-EU WP Trade.
This “Summit” consisted of ten panel discussions covering a range of topics of interest to the U.S. wood pellet (“WP”) industry, and the market outlook European market it expects to serve.
August 10, 2012
Codexis expects to lose all of Shell funding, win freedom to operate globally (excepting Brazil). Pyrrhic victory or the necessary price of freedom?
In California, Codexis (CDXS) announced that it expects to obtain rights from Shell to market its CodeXyme cellulase enzymes to other cellulosic biofuels developers, (excluding Brazil) and that Shell will discontinue its $60 million enzyme R&D program, which will result in the loss of 116 full-time jobs, or a third of the company’s staff. Raizen, the Shell-Cosan JV, will remain Codexis’ largest shareholder.
Yesterday, as the company reported Q2 earnings, Codexis CEO John Nicols said that “given the recently announced Exclusive Negotiation Agreement we entered into with Shell, we are expecting and are planning for Shell to deliver notice of a reduction in funding under our collaborative agreement by 48 FTEs effective September 1,” said Nicols. “In addition, although we have not received any formal notice from Shell, we do not currently expect any continued Shell FTE funding after October 31.”
By Anna Simet
August 09, 2012
The U.S. EPA released its top 25 onsite green power generators through its Green Power Partnership program for this quarter, and Coca-Cola has ranked third, mainly because of a 6.5 combined-heat-and-power (CHP) system the company commissioned in April.
The facility was developed by and is owned and operated by Mas Energy. Located at Republic Services’ Hickory Ridge landfill in Atlanta, Ga., it’s located adjacent to Coca-Cola’s syrup plant and supplies it with all of its electricity, steam and chilled water needs.
Methane collected at the plant is cleaned, upgraded and delivered to the CHP plant via a six-mile pipeline owned by Atlanta Gas Light. There, three GE reciprocating engines convert the gas into power, and three Kickham heat-recovery engines use heat from the GE engines to produce steam. A York steam turbine-driven chiller then uses that steam to produce chilled water.
August 10, 2012
In the US, the Financial Times reports that the UN has called for an immediate suspension of government-mandated US ethanol production, putting pressure on the government and Barack Obama to address the food-versus-fuel debate in the run-up to presidential elections. Most US ethanol is made from corn and the UN argues that dispute over ethanol promotion pits states like Iowa that benefit from higher corn prices against livestock-raising states such as Texas that are helped by lower corn prices. But the real cause for alarm could be the impact of higher ethanol prices on European producers still sidelined by cheap US ethanol, who would then increase ethanol production and pricing using typical EU food crops such as wheat and rye.
Mon Aug 6, 2012 4:14pm EDT
* Ethanol mandates "must be cut substantially"
* U.S. is major corn, wheat, soybean exporter
* Urges using stockpiles in emergencies, avoiding export bans
WASHINGTON, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Drought in the U.S. farm belt may result in higher prices for poor people around the world, according to the head of an agricultural think tank who on Monday also recommended a halt to ethanol production from corn.
Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, said the global spike in food prices in 2008 showed how poor crops and tight supplies have wide impact. I FP RI is the analytical arm of a coalition of agricultural research facilities.
Fan suggested six steps to rein in prices and head off out-of-control prices caused by this year's drought.
Wed Aug 8, 2012 5:00pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Exports of corn-based ethanol may suffer from the country's worst drought in more than 50 years, but prices for gasoline blended with the domestic fuel should not rise significantly, the government said on Wednesday.
The drought has shriveled crops and boosted prices for corn to record levels late last month. The higher corn prices have also boosted prices for ethanol and helped push some distilleries to close until market conditions improve.
The Energy Department's statistics wing, the Energy Information Administration, forecasted this week that U.S. ethanol output should fall by 70,000 barrels per day to 830,000 bpd for the second half of the year.
Published August 07, 2012
Dow Jones Newswires
Brazilian state-run oil giant Petroleo Brasileiro (PBR, PETR4.BR), or Petrobras, expects a recovery in the country's sugarcane ethanol production in the next two years to "resolve" its need for gasoline imports, Chief Executive Maria das Gracas Foster said Tuesday.
In a press conference, Ms. Foster said she believes Brazil's ethanol output, which has been in decline for the past two years because of weak cane harvests, should be "back" by 2014.
"What I hear from the cane millers, with whom I have very little contact...is that there's a positive expectation that alcohol will start coming back next year and that by 2014 it will be present," Ms. Foster said.
By The City of Raleigh
August 01, 2012
The city of Raleigh has received a $100,000 grant from the Biofuels Center of North Carolina to purchase processing equipment and begin biofuel production at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant.
In 2010, the City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department staff planted 27 acres of sunflowers on effluent-irrigated lands, which yielded 1,258 gallons of biodiesel. One lesson learned from the pilot project was the unanticipated cost of crushing seed and the lack of local processors. The Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant currently uses approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel per year for agricultural equipment operation. The plant’s staff is pursuing the development of an oilseed processing facility on site to displace at least 50 percent of the diesel fuel used annually with biodiesel.
Posted: 08/07/2012 6:05 pm
WASHINGTON, Aug 7 (Reuters) - As the worst drought in more than 50 years withers the Midwest corn crop, 25 U.S. senators urged the Environmental Protection Agency to cut the mandate that requires fuel blenders to add grain-based ethanol to gasoline.
The senators representing 25 percent of the chamber urged EPA chief Lisa Jackson to adjust the Renewable Fuels Standard, or RFS, that requires fuel blenders to mix 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol into gasoline this year.
August 7, 2012
In New York, Brookhaven National Laboratory scientists have created a new enzyme that effectively “masks” the synthetic precursors of lignin. When it was expressed in plants, this enzyme substantially reduced lignin content in the cell wall and increased the digestibility of cell wall biomass, which should make it easier to convert plant biomass into biofuels [and biochemicals]. In Arabidopsis plants, scientists saw a drop in lignin content by up to 24 percent, leading to a 21 percent increase in the release of cell wall sugars. The next step for the scientists is to test the enzyme’s function in poplar trees or other crops, to see if it will improve cell wall biomass digestibility by reducing lignin.
By Whitney McFerron on August 07, 2012
Potential changes in a U.S. government mandate for ethanol are unlikely to “materially impact” demand for the gasoline additive made from corn, Morgan Stanley said.
Livestock producers and some U.S. lawmakers have asked President Barack Obama’s administration to cut a requirement that refiners use ethanol, after drought spurred corn prices to surge to a record last month. Blenders are unlikely to stop using ethanol even if the mandate is scrapped, because the fuel additive is trading at a discount to gasoline, Morgan Stanley analysts including Vincent Andrews and Hussein Allidina wrote in an e-mailed report today.
Posted by Arthur “Butch” Blazer, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, USDA, on August 3, 2012 at 1:52 PM
Across rural America, biomass like wood pellets and wood chips is helping communities diversify their energy sources, create jobs, and save money on utility bills. At the Forest Service, we are working to support biomass projects that help us manage wildfire threats, and also serve as economic engines for rural communities. Last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced grants of $4 million for renewable wood energy projects that will provide 20 small businesses, tribes and community groups with the technical engineering and design services they need to explore installing wood heat and electricity projects.
By Zack Colman - 08/05/12 06:00 AM ET
Eight biofuels groups are forming a coalition to coordinate messaging to combat calls to limit a federal mandate for renewable fuels because of the drought.
The groups said the drought has raised the profile of the renewable fuel standard, which requires 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into traditional transportation fuel by 2022.
Various lobbying groups argue this requirement should be waived because of the drought, which they say has caused the price of corn used for food and animal feed to skyrocket.
Washington (Platts)--6Aug2012/1257 pm EDT/1657 GMT
As a severe drought shrinks the expected US corn harvest, the market should not take it as a given that the Environmental Protection Agency will lift this year's ethanol mandate, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst said Monday, pointing to ample storage, exports and renewable fuel credits.
The prospects of an extremely poor harvest have sent corn futures past $8/bushel to record highs, driving ethanol producers to curb their output while also amplifying calls from livestock groups for cuts in EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard requirement for refiners to blend 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol into the US motor fuel supply in 2012.
by Isabel Lane
August 6, 2012
In Canada, researchers from the University of Ottawa have published a report on the use of microalgae in a number of different industries. The report identifies the design of photobioreactors that maximize solar energy capture and conversion as one of the key challenges in scaling micro algae biomass technology.
Read more and link to report
ScienceDaily (July 22, 2012) — A new technique will allow plant breeders to introduce valuable crop traits even without access to the full genome sequence of that crop. The technique, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, links important agronomic traits in crop plants with active regions of the genome. Instead of requiring knowledge of the crop's complete genome, it identifies only expressed genes.
"For many crop plants, markers are still lacking because of the complexity of some plants' genomes and the very high costs involved," said Professor Ian Bancroft, who led the study at the John Innes Centre. "We have succeeded in developing markers based on the sequences of expressed genes, widening the possibilities for accelerated breeding through marker assisted selection."
By Mark Drajem and Mario Parker on August 02, 2012
More than 150 U.S. lawmakers of both parties prodded President Barack Obama’s administration to cut a requirement that refiners use ethanol, as corn prices climb amid the worst drought in a half century.
Rising corn prices are hurting livestock producers, food manufacturers and consumers, the lawmakers led by Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said today in a letter to Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA regulates the renewable-fuels market, and Jackson can adjust or waive the ethanol requirement if it would cause “severe harm to the economy or environment.”
August 3, 2012
In California, Cobalt Technologies and Rhodia announced they will begin joint development and operation of a biobutanol demonstration facility in Brazil. The Cobalt/Rhodia plant will utilize sugarcane bagasse to make n-butanol; bagasse is used at sugar mills to provide process energy to drive the mill and to supply power to the local grid; the Cobalt project will utilize that fraction of the bagasse that generates power for the grid, or any residual biomass that is burned as waste. Work will begin in August 2012 and will move to a mill site in early 2013 for integration testing. Operational testing at the demonstration plant is expected to be completed by Mid-2013. The exact production capacity of the plant was not disclosed.
NASA: Global Climate Change: Energy Innovations
By Bob Silberg
Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good,
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.
— Ogden Nash
If you’ve had to deal with termites in your house, you probably hate their guts. But not Jared Leadbetter. He loves termites, especially their guts!
"It turns out termites do something we'd like to do," said Dr. Leadbetter, a microbiologist at Caltech. That something is turning wood into biofuel, and doing it at a nice, civilized temperature, pressure and acidity level.
But what Leadbetter is after isn't really the biofuel termites use to power their daily functions, it's the substance they convert wood into on the way to forming what they ultimately use for energy -- an intermediate substance called "pyruvate."
By Lux Research
August 01, 2012
The bio-based materials and chemicals industry needs to tap newer, non-food sources of biomass and cellulosic material and raise volumes of feedstock before it can emerge as an economically viable alternative to petroleum-based products, according to a Lux Research report. Currently, high cost of capital and operations limit bio-based materials and chemicals to a few facilities located where corn and cane are plentiful and cheap.
“Bio-based materials and chemicals manufacturers need syngas and sugar to fuel their growth. Gasification and enzymatic hydrolysis are key technologies for securing vast amounts,” said Mark Bünger, research director and the lead author of the report titled, “Pruning the Cost of Bio-Based Materials and Chemicals.”
August 3, 2012
In North Carolina, Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov published his most extensive analysis on next-gen biofuels in the past year. Titled “Is the Renewable Fuels Standard Withering on a Vine?,” the report looks at declining U.S. oil demand, surging liquids production from onshore shale plays, and a thesis that the is moving towards oil independence by 2020.
“Whereas there is inherent uncertainty in forecasts for the rig count and well productivity, Gen2 biofuel production – at least in theory – should be set in stone,” Molchanov writes. “This is because of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), passed in 2007 and extending through 2022. However, as we detail today, the RFS has become virtually irrelevant when it comes to providing visibility on scale-up of Gen2 biofuels, particularly cellulosic biofuels. Due to a combination of financing constraints and (to a lesser extent) technical hurdles, the industry is far behind on meeting its targets – and getting further behind by the year.”
Biobased Product Digest
August 1, 2012
In Colorado, Gevo was awarded its 11th patent by the USPTO, #8,232,089 which futher enhances biobutanol production in yeast. Brett Lund, Executive VP and General Counsel stated the patent as another in a series that makes changes in the yeast pathway by eliminating byproducts and improving efficiency, that altogether “… enable a process efficiency exceeding 90%, compared with less than 1% in the naturally occurring pathway in yeast.” This was followed by Gevo filing lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Marshall, Texas charging infringement of the new patent by E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company and Butamax.
August 1, 2012
In Germany, a joint publication of the Friedrich Schiller University and the Max Planck Institute of Economics looks at uncertainties about the GHG Emissions Saving of Rapeseed Biodiesel and tears apart associated assumptions made by the EU’s Renewable Energy
Renewable Energy Focus
30 July 2012
Algae biofuels technologies are ripe for double-digit growth potential over the short term, claims a new study.
According to energy research firm SBI, algae biofuels will post a compound annual growth rate of 43.1% that will lead the market to $1.6 billion in 2015
“Investment into algae biofuels is shifting as government grants, which were a major funding source in 2009 when over $100 million in funding from the US Department of Energy was distributed, is being replaced by strategic partnerships and slowly growing internal company revenues,” it says.
Stanford University News
Stanford Report, July 24, 2012
By Mark Shwartz
Most methane comes from natural gas, a fossil fuel. Stanford and Penn State scientists are taking a greener approach using microbes that can convert renewable electricity into carbon-neutral methane.
Microbes that convert electricity into methane gas could become an important source of renewable energy, according to scientists from Stanford and Pennsylvania State universities.
Researchers at both campuses are raising colonies of microorganisms, called methanogens, which have the remarkable ability to turn electrical energy into pure methane – the key ingredient in natural gas. The scientists' goal is to create large microbial factories that will transform clean electricity from solar, wind or nuclear power into renewable methane fuel and other valuable chemical compounds for industry.
Kyodo News International, Inc.
TOKYO, July 31 -- (Kyodo) _ Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday it will launch the world's first hybrid vehicle that uses ethanol in Brazil later this year.
The Prius hybrid, with a fuel economy of 32.6 kilometers per liter, will be manufactured in Japan and exported to the country, the automaker said.
Noting that Brazil produces ethanol from sugar cane, Eiichi Tomizawa, Toyota's general manager of the Latin America and Caribbean division, said the combination of ethanol and hybrid vehicles can limit emissions even more than the current hybrid models.
The Wall Street Journal
By LIAM PLEVEN
BROOKINGS, S.D.—Padu Krishnan thinks he has a recipe to help Americans eat healthier. He has been cooking up treats using a special ingredient he says can make baked goods more filling and nutritious.
Padu Krishnan, a food scientist at South Dakota State University, tests recipes in a lab.
."I'm about changing people's food habits," says the 57-year-old professor at South Dakota State University. "There's no reason why it shouldn't take off."
One hurdle: His superfood of the future is the stuff left over from turning corn into fuel ethanol.
By Colin Packham
Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:23pm EDT
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The U.S. government is unlikely to bow to pressure for a waiver on quotas requiring a proportion of corn is used to make ethanol before November, at the earliest, traders said, despite the expected slump in global corn production due to severe drought.
And any change in the Renewable Fuels Standard, requiring that over a third of the corn crop is made into fuel ethanol, could cause market chaos after dwindling corn stocks had already been priced in, traders at an Australian grains conference said.
The earliest the mandate might be removed would be after the U.S. elections in November, Peter Nessler, president of commodities trading firm FCStone LLC said.
By Michael Hirtzer
Mon Jul 30, 2012 2:46pm EDT
(Reuters) - Hard-hit livestock and poultry producers petitioned the government on Monday to reduce or cancel the required use of ethanol in gasoline for a year, asking for "a little help" to ride out the worst drought in 56 years.
The request for a first-ever waiver from the federal Environmental Protection Agency's mandate, which in essence requires that more than a third of the U.S. corn harvest be converted into ethanol, comes as grain prices surge to record highs, driving up feed costs and squeezing profits for producers.
Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Holly Jessen
July 31, 2012
A recent decision by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service means Roundup Ready sugar beets and energy beets can now be sold commercially—and that’s exciting news for potential biofuels producers. “We’re very delighted that we have this Roundup Ready beet,” said Roger Ford, CEO of Patriot Bioenergy Corp., a company working to build three energy beet-to-ethanol production plants in Kentucky. “The weed control is a big issue so that’s going to help us quite a bit on getting that solved.”
In response to a petition from Monsanto Co. and German company KWS, on July 19 APHIS announced a determination of nonregulated status and the availability of a record of decision. The sugar beets and energy beets are genetically engineered with resistance to the herbicide glyphosate, which is known commercially as Roundup, and are commonly referred to as event H7-1 or Roundup Ready beets.
By Cornell University
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
The commercialization of shrub willow as a bioenergy crop could be years closer, thanks to a $1.37 million grant that will allow Cornell researchers to take advantage of the newly mapped shrub willow genome to study hybrid vigor and yield.
Larry Smart, associate professor of horticulture, has partnered with Christopher D. Town, professor at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Rockville, Md., to study the genetics of superior growth in hybrids of shrub willow, a fast-growing, perennial cool-climate woody plant.
"Determining the precise genetic mechanisms that produce hybrid vigor has been a scientific challenge for a century," said Smart.
Unlocking those mechanisms and then developing simple techniques for finding the genetic fingerprint for hybrid vigor in parent species could cut the time it takes to identify promising progeny, Smart said. And time is money; for farmers to adopt a new crop like shrub willow -- and for companies to accept the end product -- they need assurance of long-term profitability before taking on the associated higher risk.
Journal-Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel July 28, 2012
The race to create a better, less controversial biofuel has spawned plenty of research into a variety of potential new sources - including switchgrass, cornstalks and algae.
One goal behind the next generation of ethanol fuel is to end the debate over whether crops that could be used for food or animal feed are being converted into fuel. It's a debate that's dogged traditional ethanol, made from corn.
A team of Wisconsin researchers say they may have found an abundant and eminently Dairyland ingredient for ethanol - cow manure from the state's dairy farms.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a coalition of state firms have been awarded $7 million for bioenergy research that would use a manure byproduct to produce ethanol at a dairy farm in Manitowoc County.
By Elizabeth Campbell and Mario Parker - Jul 30, 2012 12:43 PM CT
Livestock and poultry producers formally asked the Obama administration today to suspend the nation’s renewable fuels standard because it is causing “severe economic harm” as corn prices surged to a record.
A coalition including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and National Pork Producers Council, sent a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency today asking for a waiver “in whole or in substantial part” the output requirements under the Renewable Fuels Standard for 12 months.
Date Posted: July 27, 2012
Washington—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced July 27 payments for 125 advanced Biofuel producers across the country to support the production and expansion of advanced biofuels from a wide variety of non-food sources, including waste products.
"Advanced biofuels are a key component of President Obama's 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy to reduce the Nation's reliance on foreign oil and take control of America's energy future," said Vilsack.
"These payments represent help spur an alternative fuels industry using renewable feedstocks grown in America, broadening the range of feedstock options available to biofuels producers, helping to create an economy built to last."