Ethanol to be Featured at RNC AgNite

The Minnesota Agri-Growth Council is hosting a celebration of America’s food, agriculture and energy industries during the second night of the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities.

AgNiteAgNite is a non-partisan event independent from the RNC being coordinated by the council with the help of numerous sponsors, including the ethanol industry under the auspices of the Renewable Fuels Association. The companies and organizations will have exhibits and information available for the thousands of visitors expected, including delegates and policy makers attending the convention. The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council has provided the Team Ethanol show car for display on the floor during the AgNite event. Minnesota is the nation’s fourth largest ethanol producing state, with 17 plants producing 1.1 billion gallons per year.

Organizers are expecting as many as 4,000 people to attend the invitation-only event which is being held Tuesday, Sept. 2, from 8 pm to 2 am in the historic Minneapolis Depot.

Colorado Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Confirmed

A cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant is planned for Grand Junction, Colorado.

Lignol BiofuelLignol Energy Corporation has received approval from the U.S. Department of Energy to locate the facility on the western slope of Colorado. The approved location is a change from the originally proposed site adjacent to Suncor Energy refinery in Commerce City, Colorado. According to the company, the Grand Junction location offers logistical advantages including access to feedstock and ethanol distribution efficiencies.

In January 2008, the DOE approved Lignol’s funding application for a proposed cellulosic ethanol plant, including up to $30 million in funding to construct the facility. The proposed facility will be designed to process hard and soft woods and agricultural residues such as straw and corn stover.

Lab to Test Ethanol Feedstock Powders

Gulf Ethanol Corporation has contracted a commercial testing laboratory to perform analysis on its preprocessed feedstock powders.

Microbac Laboratories has over fifteen years’ experience in analyzing a wide range of biomass products. They work directly with national Renewable Energy Laboratories and various private entities to characterize and analyze biomass materials.

GulfAccording to a company release, Gulf Ethanol CEO Bill Carmichael says their goal is to establish the credibility of our cellulosic pre-processing technology and confirm the performance characteristics of our products. “Our clients as well as our investors will want to see scientific proof of the efficiencies created by this process,” Carmichael said. “We expect this processing technique to be a standard component of all cellulosic ethanol production in the future because of the increased yield and processing efficiencies we believe it will produce.”

Initial product samples will be provided to the lab this week.

Ag Secretary Defends Ethanol in WSJ

The Wall Street Journal published a letter to the editor this week from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer that defends ethanol and the nation’s biofuels policies.

Florida Farm to Fuel Ed SchaferSchafer wrote the letter mainly in response to an op-ed by Texas Governor Rick Perry that appeared in the paper after EPA’s recent decision to deny his request to waive the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Shafer writes:
This decision has recently generated some critical commentary in your pages. I, however, support and applaud the EPA’s decision. Renewable energy is a tremendous American success story. We are the world leader in biofuels. Since 2000, U.S. ethanol production has quadrupled. Biodiesel production soared from two million gallons to 450 million last year. Cellulosic ethanol, which will derive fuel from non-food feedstocks, is moving into production.

Schafer also noted that the rising cost of food in recent months is due to a number of factors, including higher oil prices. “…the sharp rise in global grain prices in recent years is driven primarily by soaring energy costs, improved diets in rapidly developing nations, two years of bad weather in some countries, and new export restrictions in several nations. U.S. biofuels production contributed only an estimated 0.2%-0.6% to the 5.1% rise in U.S. consumer food costs.”

Read the entire letter here.

Transition to Bioeconomy Conference

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer will be the keynote speaker at the Oct. 15-16 conference, Transition to a Bioeconomy: Environmental and Rural Development Impacts. Secretary Schafer will address public policy challenges for the bioeconomy. Also featured on the program will be Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas Dorr.

Transition to BioeconomyThe conference is is a collaboration of Farm Foundation, and USDA’s Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, Rural Development, Economic Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

“Building a biofuels industry puts demands on natural, human and community resources, while at the same time generating potential returns for investors, workers and communities where the industry operates,” says Farm Foundation President Neil Conklin. “This conference is designed to build understanding of the short-and long-term impacts of those demands and potential returns, identify issues that must be addressed and options for the future.”

The “Transition to a Bioeconomy” conference series is designed to inventory current knowledge of key issues of the bioeconomy, identify options for the future, and determine information and research needs. The conferences provide government, industry, academic and community leaders with objective information and analysis on key issues of the evolving bioeconomy.

More information about the conference can be found here on the Farm Foundation website.

USDA Announces Renewable Energy Grants

USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development, Tom DorrUSDA announced Wednesday that 639 individuals and businesses in 43 states and the Virgin Islands have been selected to receive $35 million in grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy systems or to improve energy efficiency in farm and business operations. USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development Tom Dorr announced the funding at the 2008 Farm Progress Show in Iowa on Wednesday.

The program provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to support renewable energy projects across a wide range of technologies encompassing biomass (including anaerobic digesters), geothermal, hydrogen, solar and wind energy. It also provides support for energy efficiency improvements, helping recipients reduce energy consumption and improve operations. Of the $35 million announced, $27.5 million are grants and $7.4 million are guaranteed loans.

You can listen to Sec. Dorr’s press conference here:

Agribusinesses Join Forces for Cellulosic Ethanol

Three global agribusiness giants have teamed up to explore technologies and processes to turn crop residues into feed and bioenergy products.

MonsantoADMJohn DeereArcher Daniels Midland Company, Deere & Company and Monsanto Company will work together to identify environmentally and economically sustainable methods for the harvest, storage and transport of corn stover that can be used as feed for animals, as biomass to generate steam and electricity or as a cellulosic feedstock for biofuel production.

The companies intend to address some of the challenges involved in utilizing corn stover for these multiple needs. For example, stover collection rates need to be adjusted on a field-by-field basis to ensure that sufficient stover is left on the soil to reduce erosion and maintain or improve soil quality for the next season’s crop. Also, the amount of moisture in the stover at harvest can present challenges in transportation and storage.

US and China to Study Sorghum for Ethanol

As athletes were racing for the gold in Beijing last week, representatives from the United States and China were in Texas teaming up in the race to develop new feedstocks for ethanol.

Sorghum ProducersThe U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China signed an agreement to collaborate on biofuels research during the International Conference on Sorghum for Biofuel in Houston.

The agreement establishes the intent to “cooperate in establishing processes and infrastructure for conversion of sweet sorghum and other feedstocks to ethanol.” It also encourages collaboration among scientists worldwide to contribute to alternative energy research through the development of alternative feedstocks. It was signed by USDA Undersecretary Dr. Gale Buchanan and Dr. Liu Yanhua, vice minister of science and technology for the Peoples’ Republic of China.

Sorghum“I think that if we are going to achieve sustainable energy security in this country we have to consider all opportunities and sorghum is one of those that I think can make a contribution.” Buchanan said. He added that sorghum has potential because of its drought tolerance and ability to produce high yields on marginal lands.

National Sorghum Producers CEO Tim Lust said the conference was a major step for the sorghum industry. “The world is taking notice of this crop in a big way and this conference is a meeting of the minds, so to speak, of some of the finest scientists and entrepreneurs in the world. We will all need to work together to solve the energy crisis and this meeting moves us in the right direction.”

See more photos from the event on the NSP blog here.

Louisiana Ethanol Plant Wants Sugar Cane

Louisiana Green FuelsA Louisiana group wants to buy sugar cane from farmers for an ethanol plant they are constructing from an old sugar mill.

Louisiana Green Fuels Group, which purchased a mill that was closed two years ago, met last week with St. James area growers about plans to construct a facility capable of producing 25 million gallons of ethanol annually from sugar cane. According to the group, farmers who committed to deliver all or a portion of their crop to the plant received bonus checks.

South Louisiana Sugars Co-op president Wilbert Waguespack said, “Having another high-capacity mill in operation will shorten the grinding season for other mills, lengthen our growing season, and increase the value of our crop.”

Roddy Hulett, chief operations officer for LGFG, said bringing the St. James mill back into operation will serve to support and enhance the market for Louisiana sugar cane farmers.

Supporters Sign Up For Ethanol

Ethanol SignHundreds of supporters have been “signing up for ethanol” on a website sponsored by the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council.

The website is tied in to an advertising campaign which started running in South Dakota at the beginning of August. The campaign highlights the role of ethanol in increased energy security, economic development and decreased gas prices.

The goal for the group is to get at least 4,000 state residents to register their support at the web site signupforethanol.com. However, the website is attracting ethanol supporters nationwide, not just South Dakota. Names of people from at least 25 other states are listed on the website ethanol supporter scroll. States from coast to coast are represented – including California, New York, Florida, New Hampshire, Washington, Arizona and more.

The site also offers links to information about ethanol and ideas for how supporters can take action.