Ethanol Conversion Kit Market Grows

The business for flex-fuel conversion kits is booming, according to a company selling low-cost units worldwide.

curtis lacy FFIFuel Flex International (FFI) provides technology to allow any fuel-injected vehicle to run on ethanol or gasoline “without pushing a button or flipping a switch,” says FFI president for marketing and distribution Curtis Lacy, who was talking up his product with everyone at the recent Ethanol Conference and Trade Show in Omaha.

“Our system is very simple for the average user. It’s a simple plug and play device which you attach to your fuel injector connectors and ground to your battery and start using ethanol – anywhere from E100 to regular gasoline.” Lacy says the technology was developed in Brazil and is now being marketed in 34 countries, including most recently Thailand and the Philippines. “We currently manufacture our own unit now, so it’s an all-American made product,” he said. The units retail for between $289 and $459.

Fuel Flex InternationalOne of the most common questions from potential customers in the United States is whether installing the kit will affect their vehicle warranties, but Lacy claims they have had no problems with that. There is also the issue of EPA certification, which currently has only been granted to another company, Flex Fuel US. Lacy says they are working on getting that approval.

Lacy believes the demand for flex-fuel conversion kits will grow as higher ethanol blends become more available nationwide because even if car makers start selling only flex-fuel vehicles in the US there will continue to be a large segment of used vehicles for sale that are not flex-fuel capable.

Listen to an interview with Lacy from the ACE conference here:

Analyst Calls Food Versus Fuel a “Sound Bite”

Analysts with a major agricultural financial institution say alternative fuels are just one of the many factors causing higher food prices.

RabobankKarol Aure-Flynn, executive director of the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory department, says “food versus fuel” is basically a misleading sound bite. “The fallacy of the headline is that there is a direct competition between the two; that it’s either or. The reality is that strong global economic growth has changed the demand equation for U.S. commodities,” he said in a recent Rabobank podcast. “The depreciation of the U.S. dollar, soaring energy costs and changing trade policies are also contributing to the cost of commodities, which in turn is raising the cost of food — it’s not just fuel, it’s a combination of all of these factors.”

Aure-Flynn also notes that while prices at the farm level have increased this year, they have been outpaced by production costs for farmers.

“Farmers’ profitability doesn’t change retail prices. And farmers’ profitability isn’t guaranteed by high grain prices. The same factors that are lifting grain prices are lifting production costs,” said Aure-Flynn. “So, yes, the farm price index is at 162 percent of what it was 1990-1992, but at the same time the price index measuring what farmers pay — for services, farm wages — is 189 percent of base.”

Rabobank is a global financial services leader providing institutional and retail banking and agricultural finance solutions in key markets around the world.

Florida Farm to Fuel Summit On-Line

The third annual Florida Farm-to-Fuel Summit was a huge success with more than 460 participants, exceeding last year’s attendance according to organizers.

FL Farm to FuelPresentations are now available online at the conference website. The wide variety of presentations includes some very interesting information about alternative biofuels feedstocks, such as sweet sorghum, sugarcane, jatropha, perennial grasses and even sweet potatoes.

Organizers of the event say that due to the favorable response from attendees, they expect the conference to be returning to the Rosen Shingle Creek next year.

Georgia Ethanol Plant Progress

Bill SchaferConstruction on what is expected to be the nation’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in southeast Georgia is making good progress, according to plant officials.

Range Fuels senior vice president of business development Bill Schafer gave an update on the project at last week’s Ethanol Conference and Trade Show in Omaha.

“We expect to be producing ethanol next year,” Schafer said of the plant that will use woody biomass as a primary feedstock.

Schafer says they have been experiencing many of the usual construction-related delays with the project. “Everything costs more and takes longer than you thought it would,” he said. “It’s nothing exceptional, it’s the things you would expect. But anything that constitutes a delay is a real disappointment for us because we really want to get this up and going as quickly as we can.” Range Fuels received a grant from the Department of Energy for the project, as well as private financing.

Range FuelsIn addition to using woody biomass as a feedstock, they are experimenting with energy crops that can be grown in the region. “We have test plots we have established with Ceres on our Soperton site,” he said. “We intend for the site to be a showcase for some of the technologies we see in the future feeding this industry.”

Schafer noted that the restrictions on woody biomass that can be harvested from federal lands that are included in the energy bill passed by Congress last year concern them when it comes to the development of cellulosic ethanol. They support legislation proposed by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) that would broaden the definition of cellulosic ethanol within the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to include more biomass gathered from federal lands.

Listen to an interview with Schafer from the ACE conference here:

Citizens for Energy Freedom Conference

A group dedicated to energy independence and fuel choice is holding a conference to bring other like-minded Americans together to “organize and win the battle against the oil cartel.”

citizens for energy freedomThe Founding Conference of the Citizens for Energy Freedom in Des Moines, Iowa on September 13-14.

The group is pushing for congress to pass a law requiring that all new cars sold in the United States be flex-fuel vehicles. The Open Fuel Standard Act, has already been introduced in the Senate (S3303) and the House of Representatives (H6559).

By making flex fuel the American standard, we can open the fuel market worldwide, as all foreign car makers would be impelled to convert their lines over as well. Around the globe, gasoline would be forced to compete at the pump against alcohol fuels made from any number of sources, including not only corn and sugar, but cellulosic ethanol made from crop residues and weeds, as well as methanol, which can be made from any kind of biomass, as well as coal, natural gas, and recycled urban trash.

Conference information and registration are available on-line at energyfreedomconference.com.

Continuation of RFS Good for Consumers

The decision by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month to deny a request that would have cut the Renewable Fuels Standard in half was obviously good news for corn growers and ethanol producers. But it was also good news for consumers, according to the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.

e-podcastIn this edition of “Fill Up, Feel Good,” EPIC executive director Toni Nuernberg talks about how the RFS is helping to keep gasoline prices lower than they would be otherwise and ethanol production continues to help America become more energy independent. The EPA’s decision also allows EPIC to continue with its mission of consumer education about ethanol.

The podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link) or you can listen to it by clicking here (4:30 MP3 File):

The Fill Up, Feel Good theme music is “Tribute to Joe Satriani” by Alan Renkl, thanks to the Podsafe Music Network.

“Fill up, Feel Good” is sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.

Ethanol Branding at the Pump

Flex stationA new fuel station in Colwich, Kansas could be the poster child for ethanol branding.

TJ Convenience store, which is supported by local ethanol plant designer ICM, offers four different ethanol blends – E10, E20, E30 and E85. The higher blends can only be used in flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs).

Flex stationSenator Sam Brownback (R-KS) helped ICM president Dave Vander Griend cut the ribbon during a pump promotion held Monday to celebrate the opening of the new station and to kick off a new initiative in Kansas that will help fuel station retailers obtain funding and the equipment needed to sell higher blends of ethanol.

The station is literally branded from top to bottom with the “e” logo, developed as a brand for ethanol by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council. One of the primary goals of the new Kansas initiative is to increase the state’s blender pump infrastructure by installing a minimum of 100 blender pumps over the next year. Currently there are three.

According to Kansas Corn Commission chairman Bob Timmons, the program “will help strengthen our economy by encouraging blender pump infrastructure development, and take us one step closer to weakening our dependence on foreign oil.”

Ethanol Hearing in Nebraska

Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) brought the Senate Agriculture Committee to the heartland Monday to get to the heart of the food vs. fuel debate. The hearing was the culmination of a statewide energy tour Nelson kicked off last week that also included stops at an E85 fuel station in Omaha and an ethanol plant in Hastings.

Ben Nelson at Hastings ethanol plantDuring the hearing held at University of Nebraska-Omaha, Nelson commented that ethanol has been “been blamed for practically every problem under the sun. What’s next? Summer colds? Computer viruses? Bad hair days?”

Witnesses at the hearing came from both sides of the ethanol debate, including poultry and livestock producers who argued that ethanol production was driving up their feed costs.

Tim Recker, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, testified on behalf of his organization as well as the National Corn Growers Association, the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and the Nebraska Corn Board. “The world is hungry for both protein and petroleum, and the American corn grower can help satisfy both in the form of energy from ethanol and protein from corn-fed red meat and poultry,” Recker said.

Jim Jenkins, chairman of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, also testified at the hearing. “Ethanol, in addition to the rapidly growing wind industry, offers our nation a significant opportunity to begin the important diversification our energy portfolio away from fossil fuels,” Jenkins said.

Other witnesses included Dean Oestreich, Chairman of Pioneer Hi-Bred and Vice-President DuPont Agriculture and Nutrition; Dr. Thomas Foust, Biofuels Technology Manager with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and Jeff Lautt, Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations with POET.

Kansas Launches Ethanol Blender Pump Program

EPICKansas Corn CommissionKansas is now the second state to lead the nation in raising public awareness for higher blends of ethanol as the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC), ICM and the Kansas Corn Commission Monday launched a blender pump incentive program for the Sunflower State.

EPIC Deputy Director Robert White says the blender pumps will allow gas stations to sell more blends of ethanol-enriched fuel to consumers driving flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs). “This program will provide support and incentives to fuel station retailers who want the opportunity to offer blender pumps, and raise awareness among consumers,” White said during a kickoff event to announce the program Monday in Colwich, KS.

The initiative will help fuel station retailers obtain funding and the equipment needed to sell higher blends of ethanol, which range from E20 to E50 and can only be used in FFVs. One of the main goals is to increase the state’s blender pump infrastructure by installing a minimum of 100 blender pumps over the next year. Currently, three blender pumps are open in the state thanks to a pilot program adopted by the Kansas Department of Agriculture that made Kansas one of the first states in the nation to allow ethanol blender pumps.

Earlier this year, South Dakota launched a similar program.

Kansas Ethanol Initiative to be Announced

EPICKansas Corn CommissionA new program and pump promotion will help raise awareness for higher blends of ethanol in Kansas.

The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC), ICM and the Kansas Corn Commission are holding the event, which will include discount prices on ethanol blends for flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) at TJ’s Convenience Store in Colwich from 6:30 to 8:30 am on Monday. FFV owners will have a 40 cents discount on E20, 60 cents discount on E30 and E85 will be offered for just $1.85/gallon. All drivers can save 20 cents per gallon on E10 fuel, approved for use in any gas powered vehicle or engine.

Immediately after the pump promotion, EPIC and the Kansas Corn Commission will announce a major new initiative for the state. Speakers will include Robert White, deputy director of EPIC; U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback; Adrian Polansky, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture; Dave Vander Griend, president and CEO of ICM, Inc.; and Bob Timmons, chairman of the Kansas Corn Commission.