Energy Secretary on Ethanol in Iowa

During a visit to Des Moines Monday, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu gave some hope to ethanol supporters hoping that the federal government will approve a waiver that would allow up to 15 percent ethanol blends for standard vehicles.

iowa chu culver“I don’t want to prejudge what they’re going to find, but if the existing automobile fleet can handle 15 percent, I would say let’s make that a target and go to 15 percent,” Chu said. “This is very important for decreasing our oil independence.”

Chu was in Des Moines Monday to announce more than $16 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Iowa during a news conference with Governor Chet Culver.

“Energy independence is more than simply an Iowa initiative, it’s something of national importance,” said Culver. “We are well on our way to making Iowa the renewable energy capitol of the United States and the Silicon Valley of the Midwest.”

Secretary Chu also suggested that car manufacturers ought to make all new automobiles able to run on E85 ethanol-blended fuel. “I’ve been told it costs about $100 in gaskets and fuel lines to turn a car so that it can go all the way to E85,” Chu said. “But a new car , it would only cost $100 out of $15,000. Wouldn’t it be nice to put in those fuel lines and gaskets so that we can use any ratio we wanted. It’s just a thought, I don’t think you’re going to get any objections in this audience.” He said that requiring companies to make all vehicles flex-fuel is “beginning to be discussed” but first “we’ll see about whether the current fleet can take 15 percent or 13 percent ethanol.”

Chu spoke optimistically about making cellulosic ethanol commercially viable in the near future and said the agency is doing all it can to make that happen. “Department of Energy is funding three biofuels research institutes,” he said. Once it becomes a reality, Chu says agriculture could provide about half the transportation fuel needed for the nation. “The United States has incredible potential so we want to push this as hard as possible.”

However, Chu avoided direct comment about how EPA may choose to determine indirect land use changes that could be detrimental to biofuels when asked by a reporter about concerns that it could impact the future of corn ethanol. “It’s out for peer review and we’ll see how it plays out,” he said.

Listen to audio of Chu’s answers to some of the questions posed.

MN E85 Promotions

cleanairchoiceMinnesota is the place this summer for biofuel promotions! The state that boats the most E85 fueling locations will offer E85 at a discounted rate at a handful of sites within the next couple of months.

The Meeker County Corn Growers, Minnesota Corn Growers Association & MN Clean Air Choice Team will be sponsoring a promotion at the Valley Quick Stop in Eden Valley, MN on Thursday, June 25 from 2 pm – 5 pm. The station will offer E85 for 85 cents off per gallon. Also, the Renville County Corn & Soybean Growers, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association & MN Clean Air Choice Team will offer the same discount at the Bird Island Handi Stop in Bird Island, MN from 10 am – 1 pm on June 26. This fueling site will also offer B5 at a discount of 10 cents per gallon.

In July, promotions will take place at:

July 8, 2009
Fairfax Mobil Mart in Fairfax, MN
10 am – 1 pm
E85 85¢ off per gallon, B5 10¢ off per gallon

July 9, 2009
Consumer’s Coop Cenex in Litchfield, MN
2 pm – 5 pm
E85 85¢ off per gallon

July 24, 2009
Cenex C-Store in Glenwood, MN
2 pm – 6 pm
E85 85¢ off per gallon

July 31, 2009
Jack’s BP in Watkins, MN
2 pm – 5 pm

For more detailed biofuel promotions, go to www.CleanAirChoice.org.

Five Steps to Becoming an EcoDriver

guide-for-discount-rental-carsSummer is officially here and with it summer driving season (and high gas price season). As people pack their bags and head to the gas station to fill up for summer vacation,  EcoDriving USA, a campaign from the Auto Alliance, is encouraging people to become “EcoDrivers.” EcoDrivingUSA claims that practicing “green driving” produces the highest miles per gallon, regardless of size or age of your car–and can reduce gas use and carbon emissions by as much as 15 percent or more.

You can be on your way to better fuel-efficiency and a smaller carbon footprint by following three simple steps from EcoDrivingUSA and two simple steps from me.

1.  Turn off the engine when waiting at a curb. This can save more than half a gallon of fuel for every hour that the car would otherwise have been idling.

2. Maintain proper tire pressure. Tire pressure changes an average of one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit change in temp. By keeping your tires properly inflated, you can improve gas mileage by approximately 3 percent earning drivers a “free” tank of gas every year.

3. Avoid rapid starts and stops. This can save more than $1 per gallon according to the EPA while improving fuel economy by up to 33 percent.

4. Use biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel when available. Not only are biofuels less expensive at the pump and can save an average family up to $500 per year, but using a 10 percent ethanol blend (E10) can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20 percent over traditional gasoline and it can increase to more than 80 percent reduction if you use an 85 percent ethanol blend (E85).

5. When your travels require renting a car, choose a vehicle from the rental company’s “green collection.” The green collection features flex-fuel vehicles, hybrid vehicles and in some locations electric cars. These technologies help reduce your carbon footprint and can help increase your fuel economy.

And remember, by following the driving green tips, you can save also save some green.

NREL & Google Launch Alternative Fuel Map

nrelmap2Don’t know where to buy your biodiesel? Un-enlightened about ethanol’s whereabouts? Perplexed about propane? Well, a new tool from the National Renewable Energy Labs and Google could help you be a more active alternative fuel buyer.

Ecogeek.org reports that the two have launched TransAtlas, an interactive map that shows all existing and planned alternative fuel stations across the country:

The mapping tool allows you to view each type of fuel station as a layer, so you can view one at at time or all fuel types simultaneously. The seven alternative fuels mapped are hydrogen, propane, electric, liquified natural gas, compressed natural gas, E85 and biodiesel.

The tool also allows you to view vehicle density layers for hybrid-electric, flex-fuel and diesel cars. Electric and hydrogen stations are far behind fuels like E85 and biodiesel, but their locations correspond pretty neatly with the areas where those cars are being driven. I’d like to think that if more of those types of stations are built in more areas, the corresponding vehicles will follow.

This should help solve the problem that too many well-intentioned, potential alternative fuel-using people are having: not being able to find their favorite green fuel.

E85 Comes to Sacramento

e85-nozzleIn recent weeks, the city of Sacramento has added 25 E85 fueling locations. The city is now boasting as being the nation’s ethanol epicenter, at least west of the Mississippi.

California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols, recently unveiled the E85 fueling facility at a Valero on Madison Avenue. She said, “This is a test market for the state. We’re in the early stages of the revolution. Consumers will see a lot of new fuels coming onto the market.”

carbThe clean burning alternative is selling for $.66 less per gallon than regular unleaded at the Valero. Sasha Faught of Natomas, who owns a flex-fuel Chevy Tahoe, has been using E85. “I want to be green,” she said. “Let’s face it, we’re using up our resources. It’s smart to get on with it.”

The new E85 dispensers were funded mainly by a grant administered by the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. The grant from the California Resources Board totaled $3.5 million.

There are currently 23,000 flexible fuel vehicles registered in Sacramento that can use E85.

Flex-Fuel Photo Challenge

Photos from your summer vacation could mean cash in your pocket if you enter the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) “Flex Fuel Challenge” Summer Photo Contest. All you have to do is submit a photo of photo of yourself on vacation and submit it.

RFA e85A panel of judges will choose one lucky first place winner, based on equal parts creativity and quality, to receive a $1,000 fuel gift card. The submission with the most on-line votes will receive a $100 fuel gift card and four weekly drawings will be held for $100 gift cards. In addition, the first 500 submissions automatically receive a $10 fuel gift card.

The contest deadline is July 31st and is open to all U.S. residents over the age of 18. Once all submissions are accepted, then the entries are open to receive votes from August 3rd through the 28th. Anyone and everyone can vote for their favorite photos.

Contest rules, deadlines and entry form can be found at e85challenge.com.

Navy Exchange Opens New E85 Station

navalA grand opening celebration will be held tomorrow, June 11 at 11:00 a.m. to celebrate the opening of a new Navy E85 fuel pump. The dispenser will be located at the Navel Station in Everett, Washington. This is the first NEX E85 dispenser available on the west coast to not only official vehicles, but to both military and civilians who have access to military installations.

The E85 now available at Naval Station Everett supports Executive Order 13149, “Greening the Government Through Federal Fleet and Transportation Efficiency.” The purpose of the order is to ensure the Federal government exercises leadership in the reduction of petroleum consumption through improvements in fleet fuel efficiency and the use of alternative fuels.

“This is a major step forward in our goal of reducing petroleum consumption in fleet vehicles by 2% annually through 2015,” said CAPT Gregory Harshberger, Executive Officer, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest.

The contract for the installation of the E85 tank was awarded on September 24, 2008 to Weston Solutions and construction started on February 26. The cost of the contract was $387,225.

“The availability of an alternative fuel supply on base clearly helps decrease NAVSTA’s “carbon footprint.” Plus, we now have an opportunity to do something for the environment every single day of the year, and not just an annual event to observe Earth Day-type programs,” said CAPT Thomas Mascolo, NAVSTA Everett Commanding Officer.

Phoenix Airport Taxis Could Run on E85, Propane

phoenixskyharborCatching a cab at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport could soon be a greener proposition.

The Arizona Republic reports that the city council has voted in a new rule that will require taxis at the airport to use one of several alternative fuels:

Under the new rules taxicabs would have the choice of using compressed natural gas; liquid propane gas, or LPG; or E85 ethanol fuel…

Gasoline-powered cars – even hybrids like the Toyota Prius – won’t be allowed. Although hybrids use less gasoline than regular cars, they don’t meet the city’s new standard for greenhouse gas emissions and oil use.

Under the old airport policy, taxis with airport permits had to be powered by compressed natural gas. Clean Energy is the only firm with CNG fuel pumps for taxis at the airport.

In practice, however, a loophole allowed the airport to make exceptions to the CNG rule. Because of this, many of the airport’s 170 airport taxis are powered by gasoline.

The change could be implemented by early next year.

85 Cents off E85 in Alexandria, MN

ptp_stopThe first Minnesota E85 Promotion of the season will be next Friday, June 12th in Alexandria. The alternative fuel facility will sell E85 for 85 cents off per gallon from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Kelly Marzak of Clean Fuel & Vehicle Technologies, American Lung Association in Minnesota, and American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest noted that the Pipeline Travel Plaza is a new truck stop that opened and began selling E85 in November. The E85 promotion will coincide with their grand opening celebration. Invitations have been sent to more than 1200 flex fuel vehicle owners in the Alexandria area.

ala-mnThe Pipeline Travel Plaza is located at Highway 27 W & Cty Rd 45 (3181 Evergreen Ln) in Alexandria, Minnesota. “If you or someone you know drives an FFV, stop by for a great price on E85,” said Marzak.

Supporters of the event include Douglas County Corn & Soybean Growers, Minnesota Corn Growers Association and members of the MN Clean Air Choice Team.

“Funky Fresh Flex Fuel” Wins Online Ethanol Contest

Thousands of people across the country defined “What is renewable to you?” when they selected the video, “Funky Fresh Flex Fuel” created by Chip McAfee from Arizona as the winner of the E85 Flex-Fuel Challenge. The contest was launched by the Renewable Fuels Association in early March to get a new generation of Americans, mainly college students, engaged in the promotion and support of ethanol. Promotion of the contest was done primarily through social media networks such as Facebook.

Submissions for the contest ended on April 3 and then peer voting took place between April 4-May 29, 2009. From there, a panel of judges selected the final winner, based on creativity, quality and relevance. McAfee won a Macbook Air computer for his winning entry.

173449690374156_mediumA people’s choice award was also given to the entry that received the highest number of total votes through the duration of the contest. The photo submission, “University of Wisconsin-Platteville,” won this award and the photographer received a Passport hard drive.

The Fuel-Flex Challenge was sponsored by the Kansas Corn Commission, the Kentucky Corn Growers Association, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program and the Renewable Fuels Association. The fun will continue this summer with the launch of a new photo contest. Stay tuned for more details.