The National Farmers Union (NFU) is concerned that Pres. Obama has left the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) out of his plan to cut greenhouse gases. This news release from the group says NFU President Roger Johnson isn’t pleased about the omission in the president’s formal submission of a plan to the United Nations that would cut the United States’ greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.
“The RFS offers America a cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuel sector with its support for biofuels,” said Johnson. “The president is ignoring agriculture’s great potential to help the country cut GHG emissions and mitigate climate change by excluding the RFS from his plan.”
Johnson noted that climate change poses a great risk to agriculture. Family farmers and ranchers are willing and able to help build climate resiliency.
“America’s family farmers and ranchers are already feeling the impact of increased weather volatility, resulting in fewer workable field days, increased potential for soil erosion, and increased crop insurance claims,” said Johnson. “The RFS provides these farmers and ranchers with a tool to help the country cut GHG emissions and mitigate the climate change that directly impacts their livelihoods.”
Johnson says he is also concerned that the president’s plan did not include any other ways agriculture or rural communities can be involved in reducing GHG emissions.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a new strain of yeast that will make biodiesel production more efficient. This news release from the school says the scientists used a combination of metabolic engineering and directed evolution to develop the yeast which will help make the biofuel more economically competitive with conventional fuels.
Hal Alper, associate professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, and his team have engineered a special type of yeast cell, Yarrowia lipolytica, and significantly enhanced its ability to convert simple sugars into oils and fats, known as lipids, that can then be used in place of petroleum-derived products. Alper’s discovery aligns with the U.S. Department of Energy’s efforts to develop renewable and cost-competitive biofuels from nonfood biomass materials.
“Our re-engineered strain serves as a stepping stone toward sustainable and renewable production of fuels such as biodiesel,” Alper said. “Moreover, this work contributes to the overall goal of reaching energy independence.”
Previously, the Alper team successfully combined genetically engineered yeast cells with ordinary table sugar to produce what Alper described as “a renewable version of sweet crude,” the premium form of petroleum. Building upon this approach, the team used a combination of evolutionary engineering strategies to create the new, mutant strain of Yarrowia that produces 1.6 times as many lipids as their previous strain in a shorter time, reaching levels of 40 grams per liter, a concentration that could make yeast cells a viable platform in the creation of biofuels. The strain’s high lipid yield makes it one of the most efficient organisms for turning sugar into lipids. In addition, the resulting cells produced these lipids at a rate that was more than 2.5 times as fast as the previous strain.
The development is expected to also help in the production of biochemicals.
As Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announces his candidacy for president, Growth Energy is reminding voters of what the ethanol group calls his “pro-fossil fuel, pro-drilling legislation attempts to kill the homegrown renewable fuels industry.” This news release points to Cruz’s American Energy Renaissance Act, which Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, says will promotes Big Oil and deny consumer choice.
“The recent legislation introduced by Senator Cruz is not only shortsighted in terms of a comprehensive energy policy, but it seeks to stifle all production and growth of homegrown, sustainable biofuels that help create American jobs and reduce our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels. This legislation fails to factor in the important role biofuels play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while also providing consumers with a choice and savings at the pump.
“Senator Cruz seems to believe that he is exercising leadership by attacking the only energy policy that has contributed to our economic, energy and national security. Yet Senator Cruz fails to challenge or acknowledge the excessive subsidies oil companies have received for 102 years and counting at the expense of the American taxpayer. Let’s be clear – this is not ‘profiles in courage,’ this is pandering to Big Oil.
“He says there are no benefits from renewable fuels; however, the Renewable Fuel Standard has helped reduce our dependence on foreign oil by nearly 50 percent, from 60 to 33 percent, saved consumers at the pump, cleaned our air and revitalized our rural economy. Furthermore, his legislation is a direct attack on America’s farmers, the backbone of this nation, who are working overtime to feed the world and fuel America.”
Growth concludes that Cruz’s legislation would take away the freedom of choice for consumers to choose higher performing, less expensive fuel for which there is a demand.
The 10th annual Ethanol 2015: Emerging Issues Forum is set for April 16-17, 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska hosted by the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB). The event is designed for ethanol producers and others integrally involved in production, technology, policymaking and marketing of ethanol and its co-products.
NEB has announced that Paul Argyropoulos, senior policy advisor to the Office of Air Quality and Transportation at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will be the featured speaker April 16th. Argyropoulos will address EPA’s plans for the final rule on Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2014 and plans for 2015 and 2016. In addition, he will address issues associated with the RFS including steps EPA is taking to get the RFS back on track.
“Paul is as knowledgeable as they come on these issues and we are absolutely delighted that he will be able to join us this year,” said Todd Sneller, NEB administrator. “He has worked on fuel and air quality programs for more than 20 years and with new ozone standards, the Tier 3 program and fuel economy standards all impacting the future of ethanol. It is a very timely addition to the program.”
Other topics during the forum include ethanol marketing challenges; domestic and international ethanol marketing opportunities and barriers; emerging trends in ethanol co-products; low carbon fuel standards; and integrating technology for efficiency, profitability and sustainability.
Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits (LBDS) along with Mascoma, LLC have been awarded a patent for the technology used in TransFerm Yield+ in the US (US 8,956,851 B2). As explained in Lallemand company materials, this yeast product provides for novel metabolic pathways that reduce or eliminate glycerol production subsequently increase ethanol yield by yeast or other microorganisms.
“We are extremely proud to have introduced these products into the marketplace. This drop-in, game-changing technology is one example of how our Mascoma business unit has produced real results,” said Angus Ballard, president, LBDS. “To be able to increase yields and thus increase the profitability of ethanol plants, at a time where margins are tight, is huge. This is just the beginning of a long line of Mascoma developed products that will be brought into the market by our team.”
During the past three years, LBDS and Mascoma introduced TransFerm and TransFerm Yield+ yeasts into the ethanol industry citing that the products help reduce the amount of glucoamylase needed in fermentation and also provide a substantial yield increase through the introduction of the glycerol reduction pathway. Today more than 50 ethanol plants have utilized the TransFerm platform producing over 4 billion gallons of ethanol.
Kevin Wenger, executive vice president of Mascoma, added, “Development of this technology is the result of years of dedicated R&D effort by Mascoma. We are quite pleased that the U.S. Patent Office has allowed the patent; we believe it shows how innovative and significant this new approach really is. TransFerm Yield+ is truly the first product of its kind to offer this type of step change technology in ethanol production.”
The new governor in Orgeon has signed a measure that ends the sunset on the state’s clean fuels law, something which is seen as a boost to biodiesel and ethanol on the West Coast. Governor Kate Brown cited global warming concerns and neighboring areas’ own rules on alternative energy for signing the Clean Fuels legislation:
“I strongly support SB 324’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is difficult to deny that we are seeing the effects of a warming planet. This year, 85 percent of our state is experiencing drought, with 33 percent experiencing extreme drought. This directly impacts 1.5 million Oregonians, hitting our rural communities the hardest. With California, Washington, and British Columbia moving forward with their own clean fuels programs, which will shape the West Coast market, it is imperative not only that Oregon does its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also that we build a program that meets the needs of Oregonians.
“I appreciate the years of work by countless Oregonians who helped develop this law, and I applaud the Oregon Legislature for its thorough examination of these issues. The work begins now to ensure this program is well implemented and well managed.”
The measure ending the sunset of the Clean Fuels program passed by a very narrow margin in the state legislature. It also comes on the heels of the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission approving earlier this year phase two of the Oregon Clean Fuels Program. The new rules, developed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, went into effect February 1.
A group of moms in Colorado are fighting proposed changes in that state’s legislature to Colorado’s renewable energy standards. The group, Colorado Moms Know Best, say they oppose the changes that would rollback from 30 percent down to 15 percent of the energy produced and consumed in the state.
“Moms believe we have a moral obligation to protect children’s health and future, ensuring they have clean air is one of the very basics,” said Data Gutwein with Colorado Moms Know Best. “The reality is that chopping the state’s renewable energy standard in half would mean relying more on coal-fired plants and more kids dealing with asthma and other respiratory problems.”
Colorado has been a leader in renewable energy. In 2004, Coloradans passed the first state ballot initiative to establish a renewable energy standards; 29 states and the District of Columbia have since adopted similar standards. In the years since, Colorado has added tens of thousands of clean tech jobs with an average salary of $78,000, according to the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Energy Cluster report.
“Renewable energy is not only good for kids’ health, it’s also great for their future career options,” said Colorado Moms Know Best’s Dana Gutwein. “If Colorado can remain on the cutting edge of the renewable energy industry, our children will be able to prepare for plentiful high-paying, clean tech job opportunities.”
The group has previously helped influence Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission to adopt stricter air quality standards for oil and gas operations in the state of Colorado.