#COP21 Attendees Travel Carbon Free

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 12.07.22 AMThere is an incredible amount of news this week coming from Paris during COP21. Much of the focus this week is getting commitments from 143 countries to significantly reduce their carbon emissions, and many key attendees are practicing what they are preaching – traveling carbon free to and from the events. This week a network of carbon-free trains arrived in Paris from Asia and across Europe and many of these trains are also contributing to producing new renewable energy due to an agreement between ECOHZ and the International Union of Railways.

“We are delighted to support carbon-free travel to a United Nations COP meeting. The use of renewable energy is a key issues for our future. The UIC strategy for 2030 and 2050 aims at carbon-free railway operation in Europe and very-low carbon rail transport worldwide,” said Nick Craven from the International Union of Railways.

ECOHZ has provided Guarantees of Origin (GO) to the Train to Paris project and provided certificates to the International Union Railways. In addition, ECOHZ has delivered a GO2 solution that will unleash financing of new renewable energy production.

“We know that many people traveling to Paris really care about their carbon footprint. Choosing to travel by train is clearly more environmentally friendly than by air or private cars. Unfortunately a significant share of the electricity on the European grid comes from fossil fuels. So traveling by electric trains or electric cars is not clean unless you have a guarantee of origin,” explained ECOHZ CEO Tom Lindberg.

“Our solution GO2 has the additional benefit of contributing to unleashing financing of new renewable energy sources,” continued Lindberg. “Hundreds of renewable energy projects are not realized because they lack top-financing, and we have established a mechanism to funnel funds through to new renewable energy production. Our vision of the future is that individuals will demand to consume products and services that are clean from fossil fuels. The tools exist today and more and more leading companies adopt renewable energy solutions as part of their business strategy.”

Renewable Energy has been, in fact, a key focus to reducing carbon emissions with two major initiatives launched leading up to the official start of COP21: Mission Innovation and Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

Study Raises Doubts About Dev of New Fossil Fuels

A new study is raising doubts about future development of new fossil fuel resources. Published in Global Environmental Change and authored by Richard Heede and Naomi Oreskes, the report looks closely at the potential of global warming emissions that could be unleashed from carbon reserves held by the globe’s largest fossil fuel producers.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.04.41 PMSome key findings of the study include:

  • Burning the reserves of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers will result in emissions of 440 gigatons of carbon—far in excess of the 275 gigatons of carbon scientists say can be emitted this century if global mean temperature increases are to stay at or below 2 degrees Celsius.
  • The future emissions from the proven reserves of the largest 28 state-owned entities, including the National Iranian Oil Company, Saudi Aramco and Russia’s Gazprom, collectively make up more than three quarters (76 percent) of the world’s remaining carbon budget.
  • The future emissions from the proven reserves of the largest 42 investor-owned companies collectively make up 16 percent of the world’s remaining carbon budget.

Funded in part by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) also found that “profound risk” to the climate exists from the prospect of development of these reserves.

“This study shows just how important it is that the world reaches a strong international climate agreement in Paris next month,” said Alden Meyer, the director of strategy and policy at UCS who has been involved in the climate negotiations for 25 years. “The fact is, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other oil producing counties are continuing to ramp up production, despite the threat climate change poses to communities around the world.”

The study shows the reserves of most of the 42 investor-owned companies will be exhausted in 15 years or less. But oil and gas companies are investing hundreds of billions of dollars to explore for and develop new reserves to extend production in the decades to come. Heede says the threat of exceeding the 2 degree Celsius target comes primarily from the investor-owned companies tapping new reserves and he states the study’s findings can help inform shareholder action.

“The threat of exceeding the 2 degree Celsius target comes primarily from the investor-owned companies tapping new reserves, less so from their relatively small existing reserves,” said Heede, the principal of Climate Mitigation Services.

Oreskes, a Harvard history of science professor and former exploration geologist, added, “The bottom line is that if we’re to have any hope of avoiding a 2 degree temperature increase, the largest state-owned companies cannot fully tap all of their proven reserves and the big investor-owned companies need to decrease rapidly, and ultimately eliminate, their capital expenditures for exploration and development of new reserves.”

Joule, Red Rock Biofuels to Merge

joule logoCO2 liquid fuels pioneer Joule will merge with biofuel refinery maker Red Rock Biofuels. This news release from Joule says the merger will help them create an industry-leading carbon-neutral fuel production platform.

In association with this merger, after a year of important service at a critical transition phase for the company, Joule also announced that President and CEO, industry veteran Mr. Serge Tchuruk, will return to his previous board role. Dr. Brian Baynes, a current board member of both Joule and Red Rock and partner at Flagship Ventures, will succeed Tchuruk and will lead Joule as it enters a commercial deployment phase.

Red Rock Biofuels leverages a commercially proven Fischer-Tropsch technology to convert sustainably harvested biomass residues from forests and sawmills into jet fuel and diesel products. The company is poised to begin construction of its first refinery located in Lakeview, Oregon in early 2016. The project is supported by a $70 million grant from the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Navy and Energy, and the company has entered into substantial offtake agreements with Southwest Airlines and FedEx for the fuel that will be produced.

“By merging Red Rock Biofuels with Joule, we intend to accelerate the commercialization of carbon-neutral fuels and continue to build a world leading company,” said Tchuruk, outgoing President and CEO of Joule. He added, “Joule’s proprietary platform provides a path towards carbon-neutral mobility and Red Rock Biofuels will add an immediate commercial capability to produce renewable diesel and jet fuel, complementing our unique direct pathway through direct conversion of CO2 to drop-in fuels. I am very proud to have been part of this important transformation of Joule, which will now significantly speed up our commercialization. Red Rock’s Lakeview project will continue as planned with its current management team, beginning construction in 2016 and producing at a scale of 15 million gallons of renewable diesel and jet fuel when completed.”

“The world’s need for low carbon transportation fuels has never been greater. Having worked closely with both Joule and Red Rock, I am very pleased to be able to combine Red Rock’s near-term, commercial supply of drop-in low carbon fuels, with Joule’s novel and highly scalable low carbon fuel production platform,” said Baynes, incoming President and CEO. ”The Red Rock team also adds significant strength in project development and operations to Joule’s R&D expertise. We are seeing continued acceleration of our direct CO2 to fuel technology development, and the Red Rock platform will increase project opportunities worldwide.”

28 COP21 Countries Using Biofuels for CO2 Reduction

According to a new report from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), 28 countries attending the climate talks in Paris in December have submitted carbon reduction strategies that use biofuels to help meet goals. Not included in this number? The U.S. despite its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFA report found that America’s action plan did not acknowledge the important roles biofuels have played in significantly reducing GHG emissions from the transportation sector over the past decade.

RFA-RFS COP21 report coverThe report notes that transportation-related emissions, which account for 27 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, have “steadily trended downward since adoption of the RFS, and current levels are 10 percent below 2005 levels.” The report also notes that both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) cite that the use of biofuels has had a positive net impact on reducing GHG emissions.

“It is unquestionable that biofuels have delivered substantial GHG emissions reductions from the transportation sector over the past decade,” said RFA’s President and CEO, Bob Dinneen. “And these emissions reductions would not have been possible without the adoption of the RFS. Inexplicably, the United States’ initial submission to COP21 completely ignores past GHG reductions and the future promise of even greater reductions as the RFS drives further improvements in biofuels technologies.”

Dinneen continued, “It is ironic that the climate talks will take place just as EPA is due to release its final rule on the 2014-2016 RVOs. If EPA sticks to its initial proposal, it will roll back the single most successful climate change program the world has ever seen. The administration wants to be viewed as a leader on climate change; then it must do what nearly 30 other countries who are attending COP21 plan on doing and embrace, not ignore, biofuels.”

President Obama is heading to Paris later this month to participate in some preliminary discussions prior to COP21. In tandem with this visit, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and GREEN FOR ALL released a poll that found two-thirds of African Americans believe global warming is a serious program and want more action to curb its effects including increased used of clean energy technologies.

Energy Companies Sign On to Climate Pledge

Energy company across the U.S. have signed on to support the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, a program the White House announced in July 2015. The 81 companies are part of the third round of pledges and have committed to reduce their impact on Earth. Abengoa Bioenergy US, Aemetis, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Biogen, Novozymes, Pacific Ethanol and Tri-Global Energy are just a few of the energy companies who have signed on to increase low-carbon investments, deploy more clean energy and take other actions to build more sustainable businesses.

White house logoSome examples of actions taken by Pacific Ethanol include: by 2025, produce a minimum of 50 million gallons per year of ultra-low carbon ethanol that will reduce GHG emissions by 90% on a relative basis (g/MJ) compared to gasoline. They also pledged to reduce their process carbon emissions by 40% by 2025, “as part of an effort to develop long-term business plans that align with the deep decarbonization necessary to keep global average temperatures from rising less than 2C”.

Other examples include commitments to add more wind and solar energy from Tri-Global Energy while Abengoa has pledged to require contractors and suppliers to calculate and report their GHG emissions in order to accurately and affirmatively achieve further incremental emissions reductions in the supply chain; and continue to improve energy efficiencies and emissions controls in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10%, compared to a 2005 baseline, by 2025.

The measures taken by these hundreds of companies helped President Obama set an ambitious but achievable goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 26-28 percent. To date, 150 countries representing more than 85% of global carbon emissions have reported post-2020 climate policies to the United Nations. To read the American Business Act on Climate Pledge as well as to read the 81 companies’ pledges, click here.

Joule Receives EPA Cert for CO2 Ethanol

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 8.39.11 AMJoule’s fuel grade Sunflow-E ethanol has been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for commercial use in E10 and E15 gasoline blends. The fuel is derived from recycled CO2.

“We are approaching commercialization with a technology that is first of its kind, able to convert CO2 directly into multiple drop-in fuels. It is critical to prove its readiness by meeting government and industry requirements. Having secured EPA registration, our fuel grade Sunflow-E ethanol is now cleared for use,” said Serge Tchuruk, president and CEO of Joule.

Earlier this year Joule announced the results of its third-party testing of Sunflow-E ethanol. Key results included:

  • American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D4806 – Denatured fuel ethanol for blending with gasolines for use as automotive spark-ignition engine fuel
    German Institute for Standardization (DIN) EN 15376 – Ethanol as a blending component for petrol
  • Joule Sunflow-E ethanol is chemically identical to its traditional counterparts, but differs in the way it is produced. Joule converts CO2 to ethanol directly in a continuous process, using engineered bacteria as living catalysts rather than biomass feedstocks. At full-scale commercialization, Joule ultimately targets productivity of up to 25,000 gallons of Sunflow-E ethanol per acre annually.

Tchuruk added, “Following a full year of production at our demonstration plant, we have achieved a several-fold advance in outdoor productivity. Additionally, we have reached unprecedented levels in our lab reactors, and we know the steps required to replicate these results outdoors. This will further strengthen our position to initiate global deployment.”

GREET Model Advances

When determining how much a fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions as compared to pure gasoline, most use Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET Life-cycle model (Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation Model). In recent years, the model has seen some advancements and during the recent ACE Ethanol Conference, Dr. Jeongwoo Han, assistant energy system analyst with Argonne National Labs, discussed these changes.

HanAs he explained, GREET has been updated and used to evaluate/update the environmental impacts of ethanol. Han’s presentation discussed the recent life-cycle analysis results of ethanol with the technology advancement as well as key issues in life-cycle analysis.

To learn more about advancements in the GREET Life-cycle Model, listen to Dr. Jeongwoo Han’s presentation: Dr. Jeongwoo Han Presentation

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

EPA Releases Final Clean Power Plan Rules

Final rules for the Clean Power Plan have been released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as announced by President Obama. The plan calls for carbon reduction from the power sector (aka utilities) by 32 percent below 2005 levels in 2030. According to the EPA, power plants are the largest drivers of climate change in the U.S. emitting nearly one-third of all carbon emissions. This legislation is the first of its kind to set limits on carbon emissions for this sector.

During the announcement, the President said, “There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.”

The goal of the Clean Power Plan, and coupled with other pieces of legislation such as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is to reduce not only carbon emissions, but toxic emissions, from the two largest polluting sectors – power and transportation. By 2030, emissions of sulfur dioxide from power plants will be 90 percent lower and emissions of nitrogen oxides will be 72 percent lower, compared to 2005 levels. EPA said Americans will avoid up to 90,000 asthma attacks and spend up to 300,000 more days in the office or the classroom, instead of sick at home. And up to 3,600 families will be spared the grief of losing a loved one too soon. These statistics will be even better with the reductions from the transportation sector.

CCP infograph“We’re proud to finalize our historic Clean Power Plan. It will give our kids and grandkids the cleaner, safer future they deserve. The United States is leading by example today, showing the world that climate action is an incredible economic opportunity to build a stronger foundation for growth,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The valuable feedback we received means the final Clean Power Plan is more ambitious yet more achievable, so states can customize plans to achieve their goals in ways that make sense for their communities, businesses and utilities.”

EPA said they received and reviewed more than 4.3 million public comments on the proposal, and participated in hundreds of meetings with stakeholders. The plan, according to the EPA, works by building on strategies states and businesses are already using. Today, the U.S. uses three times more wind and 20 times more solar energy than it did in 2009, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. It safeguards energy reliability by setting common-sense, achievable state-by-state goals that build on a rapidly growing clean energy economy and gives states and utilities the time and flexibility they need to meet their goals.

The final rule establishes guidelines for states to follow in developing and implementing their plans, including requirements that vulnerable communities have a seat at the table with other stakeholders. EPA said it is proposing a model rule states can adopt, as well as a federal plan that they will put in place if a state fails to submit an adequate plan. Both the proposed model rule and federal plan focus on emissions trading mechanisms to make sure utilities have broad flexibility to reach their carbon pollution reduction goals. EPA also finalized standards to limit carbon pollution from new, modified and reconstructed power plants.

There were mixed emotions on the plan but general praise from environmental, health and the renewable energy industries that this was a bold move in a forward direction. Click here to read more about the Clean Power Plan from the White House perspective.

Time is Now for Non-Renewable Carbon Fee

Advanced Biofuels USA has gone public with a new idea for capturing externalities of non-renewable fuels for funding needed research – a Non-Renewable Carbon Fuel User Fee. The organization made the announcement during the Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO + Forum that took place in Washington D.C. on July 9, 2015.

“If we’re serious about reducing Climate Change caused by Green House Gases, then we need serious actions,” said Joanne Ivancic, executive director of Advanced Biofuels USA. Advanced Biofuels USA logoIn her presentation, Ivancic laid out the salient points of the plan. “The first steps are including the price of Green House Gas (GHG) effects in non-renewable carbon fuels and committing serious money to renewable fuel research and infrastructure development.”

The Advanced Biofuels USA proposal uses lower priced renewable fuels to drive the consumer market. When the true costs of fuel become apparent, they argue, consumers will demand higher renewable portions of fuels for transportation, power and heat. The fee, which they base on current scientific estimates of climate change effects and mitigation costs, applies to only the non-renewable portion of liquid and gas used for transportation and stationary source combustion.

The fee would be between $50 and $100/ton of non-renewable carbon and translates into only 3.5 percent to 7 percent increases in current transportation fuel prices; or, less than the volatility we commonly experience in gasoline prices. The fee, Ivancic explained, will disappear as lower priced renewable fuels take over the market. Revenues from the fee will be used for two purposes:

  • Renewable Fuel R&D: An immediate Apollo type program should be funded with between 50% and 60% of the fees. It should be administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and be focused on getting affordable non-food biomass fuels and gases into the pipeline in less than seven years.
  • Renewable Fuel Infrastructure: The upgraded fuel pumps, decentralized processing/distribution modules, and temporary rebates to people not able to afford the initial lack of renewable fuel would be funded with between 40% and 50% of the fees. These programs would be run by the states.

Ivancic said the proposal will spur investment, innovation, installation and use of renewable choices. “Not only will we see a rapid reduction in GHG emissions,” she said, “but more important, a sustainable renewable fuel industry will create good jobs for Americans in research labs, rural towns, and urban manufacturing plants.”

Collection of this user fee would not require new bureaucracies. Existing consumer point-of-sale fuel and utility tax collections systems (for natural gas) would be used.

Joule CO2-to-Ethanol Gets Financing, US & Europe Specs

jouleRenewable energy maker Joule has secured $40 million for its carbon dioxide-to-ethanol plant and has the green fuel meeting U.S. and European specifications. The company says the money will help build a staged industrialization of its patented, reverse-combustion process, including the near-term expansion of Joule’s production field in Hobbs, New Mexico and a longer-term build-out of a 1,000-acre plant to begin in 2017 able to produce 25 million gallons of ethanol per year.

“In the past six months alone, Joule has achieved rapid progress and impressive results that position the company well for industrialization. This progress will be bolstered by the newly committed funds and the continued support from our shareholders and strategic partners, including Audi,” said Serge Tchuruk, President and CEO of Joule. “Joule’s CO2-recycled fuel is on track to become a real answer for carbon neutrality. It provides a solution which is both practical and economical for global mobility and it can be implemented in the short term.”

“The call for global decarbonization is increasingly making headlines, and Joule is at the forefront of a CO2 recycling movement that can both reduce industrial emissions and generate economic growth,” said Noubar Afeyan, Co-Founder and Chairman of Joule and Senior Managing Partner and CEO of Flagship Ventures. “The company has proven the industrial viability of its approach and, with the strong new leadership team in place, is rapidly advancing towards market introduction within the next few years.”

Third-party testing of Joule’s ethanol meets the following standards in the U.S. and Europe, respectively:

– American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D4806 – Denatured fuel ethanol for blending with gasolines for use as automotive spark-ignition engine fuel
– German Institute for Standardization (DIN) EN 15376 – Ethanol as a blending component for petrol

Joule wants to use the meeting of the standard to get new government approvals needed for commercialization of its ethanol fuel.