Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ethanol roundup

Elbert: Corn ethanol goes from being a hero to a scapegoat: Ethanol was languishing since the 1970's Oil Embargo's, until 2005. "Congress had passed the Energy Act of 2005 and ethanol was gaining respectability as a patriotic fuel that could reduce pollution and help the nation achieve energy independence. The 2005 law set goals, like doubling the output of ethanol and biodiesel to 7.5 billion gallons a year by 2012. It created billions of dollars in tax incentives for service stations to install E85 pumps, for consumers to buy cars that could burn E85 fuel and for the creation of ethanol plants.... The number of new and proposed ethanol plants in Iowa and surrounding states mushroomed overnight, and the goal of producing 7.5 billion gallons is expected to be met in 2007, five years ahead of schedule....The average price for corn in Iowa when President Bush signed the energy law was $1.70 a bushel. It climbed to nearly $4 earlier this year, before sliding to the $3.50 range. Soybeans prices got a boost, climbing 30 percent to just under $10 a bushel today.... corn-based ethanol is not, and never has been, an efficient fuel. Corn alcohol was the original fuel for Henry Ford's first car 100 years ago. But as National Geographic reported last month, Ford "soon discovered that 'rock oil,' when slightly refined, held far more bang per gallon than plant fuel, and was cheap to boot.""

Ethanol industry battles a bottleneck: "Dennis McCoy can get part of his corn crop to the bellies of hogs without a hiccup. But he believes ethanol made from his other corn acres is hamstrung by truck and rail shipping. “I think the ethanol industry is overbuilt for time frame right now,” said McCoy, who has been growing corn for fuel for 25 years in eastern North Dakota. “Maybe the industry needs to step back and figure out the infrastructure to get it where it needs to go.”" The article goes on to suggest cross country pipelines for shipping Ethanol more efficiently. While that might improve efficiency I wonder how much it will offset the overall inefficiency of corn-based-ethanol as a fuel?

Ethanol's uncertain future grows risk for ADM: "Despite record first-quarter earnings reported Nov. 6 by Archer Daniels Midland Co., the company's good fortune could still turn on a dime. Some analysts see the Decatur-based company's increasing reliance on its bioproducts division, which makes fuel additive ethanol, as a risky position. Global weather conditions, long-term contracts and politics could all have an unfavorable impact on the company in the future. The analysts foresee lower earnings this fiscal year." Aaaaawwww, pooor little ADM....

Large European ethanol maker hit by cheap Brazilian imports: "German bioethanol producer Verbio says a combination of cheap imports from Brazil and high grain prices means commercial production of bioethanol in Germany is hardly possible. In a sense, this is good news, because it clearly demonstrates the need for and benefits of a 'Biopact' - a win-win strategy that allows developing countries to make use of their comparative advantages at producing efficient, sustainable and affordable biofuels, and European citizens to import them instead of making their own highly unsustainable and inefficient biofuels from grains, which drives up food prices. Under such a Biopact, poor countries with large land and labor resources and urgently in need of economic and agricultural opportunities can help lift millions of the rural poor out of misery. Objectively speaking, they have all the resources needed to produce a very large amount of biofuels, in an explicitly sustainable manner. With good policies and trade reform, such a mutually beneficial exchange relationship is possible. "

Gulf Ethanol Corporation: Grass Grows Under the Ethanol Industry: "Gulf Ethanol announced today the formalization of its cellulose based ethanol initiative. Cellulose ethanol is a renewable, advanced biofuel that can be used in today’s cars. The primary difference between the two types of ethanol products is that conventional fuel ethanol is derived from grains such as corn and wheat. Cellulose ethanol is made from the non-food portion of renewable feedstocks such as sorghum, switchgrass and corn stover. All automotive manufacturers warrant the use of 10% ethanol blends (E10). These same manufacturers warrant (E5), 5%, blends in Europe. Ethanol blends are sold at retail outlets across Canada, the United States and Europe. As well, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Mazda and many more vehicle manufacturers, sell cars, trucks and minivans that are flexible fuel vehicles designed to use ethanol in up to 85% (E85) blends. "

Wood pallets to help power ethanol plant: "Ethanol refineries typically run on natural gas, but the nation's top producer of the alternative fuel plans to use discarded wood pallets to help power one of its plants. Sioux Falls-based Poet is doubling the production capacity of its Chancellor plant to 100 million gallons a year, but a solid waste fuel boiler that will be 'essentially a giant furnace' will help reduce its use of fossil fuels... 'The solid waste fuel boiler will burn waste wood to generate steam and power our ethanol facility,' Moe said during a news conference Thursday."

Ethanol leaders urge U.N. to review biofuel report: "Leaders of the world's largest ethanol production and trade associations issued a joint statement on Monday condemning a United Nations' interim report that called biofuels production a "crime against humanity." They said the report has many "misperceptions" and ask for its revision, warning that it could threaten the development of the industry in places where biofuels directives are not fully implemented, like in the European Union. "The report was based on emotional arguments and we are trying to reestablish the truth about facts," Marcos Jank, president of the Brazilian Cane Sugar Industry Union (Unica), said in a news conference. "We urge the U.N. to review the report with a focus on sound science, credible data rather than exceptions or unsupported assumptions," Jank added."

BlueFire Ethanol CEO to Discuss Green Waste-to-Ethanol at Bank of America Energy Conference: "BlueFire Ethanol Fuels, Inc. CEO Arnold R. Klann will discuss BlueFire's patented, proven technology to profitably convert urban green waste destined for landfills to ethanol...As one of six awardees in the U.S. Department of Energy's program to increase the use of renewable and alternative fuels, BlueFire will receive $40MM as part of the $385MM grant program. The agreement with the DOE equips BlueFire Ethanol with funding for a commercial ethanol production facility using materials diverted from landfills and designed to demonstrate the economic feasibility and environmental superiority of producing ethanol from cellulosic waste materials. BlueFire was also awarded a $1MM grant from the California Energy Commission. Most recently BlueFire was one of sixteen pre-applicants, out of a total of 143, to submit a formal application under the loan guarantee program which will provide federal loan guarantees for clean energy projects and is expected to spur further investment in these advanced energy technologies."

Latin American ethanol: threat or hope?: "Omar Bros' hope for his country lies in an oily seed and a dying sugarcane industry. Bros, an agronomist and civil engineer in the Dominican Republic, is betting on biofuels. And his country's effort is just part of a global awakening to renewable energy. The Caribbean, which includes the Dominican Republic and Central America, offers examples of the uncertainty many regions face in the global energy grid. If those regions have the resources, they have to ask whether biofuels are worth the investment. “The other question is, ‘Do I want to produce ethanol for the domestic market, or do I want to export it?'” said Sergio Trindade, director of science and technology for International Fuel Technology in St. Louis and former assistant secretary general for the United Nations Science and Technology Committee. “It is a question whose answer depends on time.”"

U.S. exploring fuels with higher ethanol content: "The U.S. Department of Energy and other regulatory agencies are exploring the feasibility of gasoline products with a higher ethanol blend, a senior U.S. Department of Energy official said on Monday. "We will be testing for E12, E15 and eventually E20 and working together with the Environment Protection Agency and others," said Alexander Karsner, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. E10, a fuel with a 10 percent ethanol blend, is the fuel that most cars in the United States can run on. Some 'flex-fuel' vehicles can also handle both conventional gasoline and E85, a fuel that is 85 percent ethanol."

Breakthrough might solve food vs. fuel corn debate: "Corn ethanol as a clean, renewable fuel alternative to fossil fuels has always been seen as a stopgap. As much as agricultural giants and seed companies touted switching corn production from food to fuel, there always were limits. Using corn for ethanol production is not very efficient and inevitability will drive up the price of foodstuffs. People were already complaining about the rising costs of some foods as more corn crop was sued for fuel production. Now a new solution is on the horizon. Instead of using the ears of corn, the food portion, why not do what Brazil does with sugar cane, use the waste portion for fuel? A single crop yields a double pay for farmers and food supplies are not harmed."

Plant ethanol may help N.C.: "Technological advances have overtaken five ethanol plants proposed for Eastern North Carolina. One has been canceled and at least one other delayed. None will start production this year. The projects reflect a growing wariness among investors nationwide about pumping more money into ventures that make ethanol from corn. Now interest is rising in using cellulosic feedstocks, such as wood chips and corn stalks, to make ethanol. Scientists and engineers, who have been working on cellulosic ethanol production for more than 20 years, are fine-tuning the process so they can produce large quantities of fuel. The shift from corn to cellulose to make ethanol is unsettling a nascent industry."

Ethanol's Messy Fall: Ethanol companies are stumbling.

Ethanol clue under their feet: "Ten years ago, an assistant from a microbiology laboratory took a hike near the shore of the vast Quabbin Reservoir, which supplies water to Boston. At one point, he crouched alongside a brook in the shade of towering hemlock trees, dug up some moist dirt, put it in a jar and took it back to the lab. Today, some investors are betting that the jar of dirt could help change the biofuels industry. Inside the jar, microbiology professor Susan Leschine found curious lollipop-shaped microbes with an uncommon ability to break down leaves and plant fibers into ethanol. For 30 years, Leschine has been researching and writing about it for publications such as the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology."

Ethanol industry could run into wall: "The cure for the recent slowdown in South Dakota's booming ethanol industry could hinge on a proposal in Congress to require oil companies to add more ethanol to their gasoline. Ethanol producers and their investors are "getting real jittery" about putting more money into ethanol plants as long as the federal government's requirement for ethanol sales at gas stations nationwide tops out at 7.5 billion gallons" Uuuuhhh... I thought the republican (conservative) cause was free trade?

Backing away from ethanol makes sense: "Quebec's decision to back away from developing a corn-based ethanol industry in the province represents a rare victory of common sense over political expediency. Corn producers probably won't like it, but everyone else - including environmentalists - should be pleased. It was just over two years ago that Yvon Vallières, the agriculture minister of the day, announced with much fanfare the construction of Quebec's first ethanol-processing plant, in Varennes. From the way the politicians were talking back then, you would have thought that ethanol would be our salvation, rescuing us cleanly from an unhealthy addiction to polluting fossil fuels. The economic and environmental reasons for going into ethanol production, Vallières said at the time, were "obvious." Well, apparently not that obvious. Adapting thousands of additional acres of productive farmland to grow corn, it turns out, makes little sense, economically or environmentally."

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