Neil Young Fills ‘er Up with Cellulosic Ethanol

Earlier this month, Hall of Fame recording artist Neil Young stopped by Sioux Falls, South Dakota to fill up his LincVolt with POET-DSM cellulosic ethanol. LincVolt is a hybrid-electric 1959 Lincoln Continental with onboard charging powered by cellulosic ethanol. He’s on a cross-country tour to highlight renewable energy.

During his visit, Young said you don’t see much about what is going on with the climate in the media. “It’s just not a fast moving subject. It’s a slow moving big story. But it’s not going to be going away unless we do something.”

He supports American-made fuel and noted that when he filled up with cellulosic ethanol, his vehicle is able to get an 80 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) over traditional gasoline. “This is just incredible for the planet,” added Young.

Check out the video here and I must say his refurbished Lincoln is “DYNOMITE”.

Ten Ways Renewable Fuels are Enviro

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) has unveiled a list of 10 ways the renewable fuels industry is helping to improve the environment. According to IRFA, renewable fuels offer positive impacts on the environment compared to petroleum-based counterparts.

“Renewable fuels make our planet a better place to live with healthier air and water, and that’s exactly what Earth Day is all about,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Smart energy policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) encourage the production and use of cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuels like E15 and B20 that significantly reduce the environmental harm that is caused by petroleum-based fuels.”

Corns impact source NCGAThe following Top 10 list highlights ways in which ethanol and biodiesel have benefited the environment over the past decade through improvements at the plant, on the farm, and out of the tailpipe.

1.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), for every unit of fossil energy needed to produce biodiesel, 5.5 units of energy are gained, while ethanol generates 2.3 units of energy for every unit of fossil energy input. By comparison, gasoline and diesel fuel have negative energy balances.

2.  The adoption of regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTO) has significantly reduced volatile organic compound emissions from ethanol plants.

3.  On a per gallon basis, today’s ethanol plants require 28% less thermal energy and 32% less electricity than a decade ago, according to the University of Illinois at Chicago.

4.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), biodiesel reduces greenhouse gases (GHG) by up to 86% compared to petroleum diesel, while Yale University found that ethanol reduces GHG by up to 59% compared to gasoline.

5.  Water used to produce a gallon of ethanol has dropped 40% over the last decade, while biodiesel production reduces wastewater by 79% and hazardous waste by 96% when compared to petroleum diesel.

6.  Increased income from ethanol demand for corn has allowed farmers to invest in precision farming equipment and stronger conservation and environmental protections.

7.  The environmental footprint of U.S. corn production has improved greatly since the advent of the ethanol industry, including significant reductions in soil loss, irrigation, energy use and the amount of land required to produce a bushel of corn.

8.  Ethanol and biodiesel are both biodegradable and non-toxic.

9.  Biodiesel and ethanol significantly reduce tailpipe carbon monoxide emissions, air toxics, fine particulate matter and smog pollution compared to petroleum diesel and gasoline, making our air healthier to breathe.

10. Since the beginning of the RFS, biodiesel use alone has reduced lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by nearly 74 billion pounds, the equivalent of removing 5.4 million vehicles from U.S. roads.

PowerPot Turns Heat and Water into Electricity

Although this story doesn’t fit the traditional mold of renewable energy, it does honor Earth Day. Power Practical, a student startup that sprang from research at the University of Utah (the U), is selling a portable cook pot, coined the PowerPot, that transforms heat and water into a power source. The technology uses thermoelectricity to gPowerpot2enerate power by capturing the electrons moving from the heated pot to the cooler water inside. The greater the temperature difference, the more electricity is generated.

The students behind the company have been surprised by its rapid growth and are struggling to keep up with growing interest and demand. David Toledo, co-inventor and founder said, “We knew we were on to something when we got requests from around the world and more than doubled our goal during our Kickstarter campaign. We just shipped all of those orders, and we are quickly getting our product into more stores.”

Paul Slusser is the other co-inventor and founder. Other members of the Power Practical team include Matt Ford, the CEO who graduated with a degree in finance from the U in 1990; Wafiq Ali, who is graduating this May with a business degree from the U; Caleb Light, a business graduate from University Valley University; and Kenyon Ellis, an international studies student at the U.

Powerpot3The company has already shipped more than 1,000 units after attracting $126,000 in funding from its debut on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, and they recently raised an additional $750,000 in seed funding.

“David and Paul are examples of what makes engineering so exciting ­ by mixing creativity, science, math and design education, they came up with a product that improves the quality of life for people around the world,” said Richard Brown, dean of the College of Engineering at the U. “Being entrepreneurial comes naturally to many engineers. In fact, 41 percent of the spinoff companies from the U are from engineering.”

The PowerPot is geared toward camping enthusiasts but also for those in developing countries who need electricity, such as to charge a cell phone. The company has a growing variety of PowerPots that serve different needs. The basic model, the PowerPot V, weighs less than a pound and produces 5 volts, enough to charge a cellphone in 60 to 90 minutes. Larger models, like the PowerPot X, produce 10 volts and can charge larger devices, like a tablet computer.

American Ethanol Helps NASCAR Go Green

nascar-race-greenIn honor of Earth Day, racing is shifting gears this month to focus attention on environmental awareness with the NASCAR RACE TO GREEN™ campaign and American Ethanol is part of the effort.

The campaign is hosting a National Tree Planting initiative this month encouraging racing teams, tracks, drivers, partners and fans to pledge to plant some trees today – Earth Day – to help offset carbon emissions produced over the three national series over the season. Through the course of one mature tree’s lifetime, it absorbs about one metric ton of carbon dioxide – the same amount of carbon dioxide emitted by a NASCAR Sprint Cup™ car driving 500 miles.

American Ethanol has pledged to plant a tree for every mile raced in April. With almost 4,000 miles fuels by Sunoco Green E15 over the month, the 4,000 trees planted will be enough to offset the carbon emissions of all the miles driven on American-made ethanol in practices and qualifying laps.

“American Ethanol shares the commitment of NASCAR to operate sustainably and do our part to protect and preserve the environment,” said National Corn Growers Association board member Jon Holzfaster of Nebraska. “Farmers manage their farms every day with the tandem goals of making a profit but doing it in a way that is better for the environment. So we are proud to expand our commitment to NASCAR Green.”

NASCAR has also released a 30-second TV ad featuring Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle and spotlighting the use of ethanol. “So, wanna be eco-friendly?” the announcer asks Biffle, who answers “Of course.”

ANNCR: “Ok, got corn?”
BIFFLE: “We got that.”
ANNCR: “Got some of it blended into fuel?”
BIFFLE: “Got it.”
ANNCR: “Got a car to use that fuel?”
BIFFLE: “Sure do.”

Watch it here:

IEA: Need Major Scale Up in Global Biofuels Production

Today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released their Tracking Clean Energy Progress report in New Delhi that details the increased role that biofuels will need to play in reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) as part of their Climate Change Scenario by 2020. The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) applauded this finding, stating that biofuels are already significantly reducing global GHG emissions.

According to the report, globally, the world is not on track to meet the IEA’s goal of holding global climate change to a 2°C rise by 2020. According to the IEA’s Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index (ESCII) average CO2 emissions have only improved by 0.02 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of oil equivalent in the last 20 years. In Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013order to reach the 2020 target the IEA recommended that annual biofuels production needs to more than double and advanced biofuels capacity must increase six-fold.

“Biofuels are the only real viable option available today to reduce emissions in the transportation sector,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA. “We agree with the IEA that biofuels offer real GHG emissions reductions today and that we must increase biofuel usage if we want to mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

In order to facilitate this major scale up in global biofuels production, the IEA released some specific recommendations for governments in their report:

  • Lessen the risks for early investors through mechanisms such as loan guarantees, guaranteed premiums for advanced biofuels, or direct financial support for first-of-a-kind investments.
  • Targeted policy support for advanced biofuels is required to ensure large-scale deployment.
  • Monitor sustainability in feedstock production.

“Frankly, the GRFA is not surprised by these findings, despite the commitments from world leaders we are clearly struggling to reduce emissions in the transportation sector,” concluded Baker.

IU Bloomingdale Achieves GHG Emission Reductions

Indiana University Bloomington has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 43 percent last year from the previous year and has now cut its direct emissions by more than half in the past two years, according to campus officials. The major reduction in GHG emissions over the past two years reflects a concerted shift from coal to natural gas usage at the campus’s Central Heating Plant according to Mike Jenson, director of IU’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety Management. The campus has already exceeded a goal set forth in IU Bloomington’s 2010 Campus Master Plan, which called for a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

IU Bloomindale Central Heating Plant“This is a very positive step — perhaps the most significant step the campus has taken so far — toward carbon neutrality,” said Mike Jenson, director of IU’s Office of Environmental, Health and Safety Management.

The Campus Master Plan, spanning several years, established a goal to build “fuel flexibility” into the boiler system, ensuring the campus could take advantage of falling natural gas prices to dramatically cut its carbon footprint. “In recent years, there has been a strong dedication among our utilities group toward reducing our emissions and increasing our energy efficiency as much as possible, so when there were changes in the marketplace, we were in a position to shift more and more resources to natural gas,” said Jenson.

“Still, we were surprised by the magnitude of our reduction,” he added. “Because we were burning so much more natural gas than ever before, we knew it was going to drop, but we didn’t expect it to drop that much.” The campus power plant now uses 95 percent natural gas and only 5 percent coal. Among the next steps for the campus is increasing its focus on energy efficiency in its buildings and facilities.

In December, IU trustees approved a new Integrated Energy Master Plan for the IU Bloomington campus that provides detailed guidelines for reducing campus energy use and cutting carbon emissions while maintaining sound economic rationales for conservation-related improvements. The plan benchmarks energy consumption by campus buildings and addresses the current and future effectiveness of the Central Heating Plant, Central Cooling Plant and utility distribution systems for electricity, chilled water, and steam and condensate.

Is Winter in Trouble?

Earth Day is around the corner and 75 Olympic medalists, including White House “Champion of Change” awardee and pro snowborder Jeremy Jones, along with other winter sport athletes are urging President Obama to take action on climate change and clean energy and delivering the message that “winter is in trouble.” The athletes signed a letter to Obama and delivered it in tandem with the “Champion of Change” ceremony honoring ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”

Jeremy-Jones-ChampsChangePanelDiscuss“Without a doubt, winter is in trouble,” the letter states. “… at risk are the economies of tourist-dependent states where winter tourism generates $12.2 billion in revenue annually, supports 212,000 jobs and $7 billion in salaries. Those are the jobs and businesses owned by our friends and families, generators of billions in federal and state income.”

Jones was recognized for his contribution to raising awareness about the impact of climate change on the winter sports industry by creating “Protect Our Winters,” a foundation established in 2007 to unite and mobilize the global winter sports community against climate change.

“This nomination is an absolute honor for me and the work we’re doing at POW. But it’s now my responsibility to take this recognition and help secure a place in the climate discussions in Washington,” said Jones. “The letter that’s been enthusiastically signed by so many amazing athletes is a strong showing of solidarity from the leaders in snow sports on climate action, so together, we have to keep that momentum going.”

The letter to the president references a December 2012 report published by #ProtectOurWinters and the @NRCS (Natural Resources Defense Council) highlighting the economic impact of inconsistent winters on the U.S. snow sports community and tourism-dependent states. It calls for Obama to follow through on the promise he made in the State of the Union address to fight climate change. The athletes say he can do so by using executive authority currently available to reduce carbon pollution emitted by America’s power plants, the largest source of carbon pollution worsening climate change, and by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, which would add millions of tons of new carbon pollution to the atmosphere.

“Mr. President, it’s time to force our transition to clean energy, and we need your leadership,” the letter states. “…on behalf of 23 million of us who love winter and depend on it for our economic livelihoods, please take the action on climate change you have promised.”

Climate Change Causing Americans Big Bucks

With Earth Day a week away (Monday, April 22) there is a greater focus on climate change and the environment. According to Ceres, a nonprofit organization Layout 1mobilizing business leadership on climate change, a growing chunk of American tax dollars is footing the bill for increasing floods, fires, droughts and other climate-related changes. Ceres compiled data showing rising costs to three federal programs, as well as growing financial exposure for state taxpayers in hurricane-prone states.

“Climate change is fundamentally changing the United States, and American taxpayers are paying a huge price for it,” said Ceres President Mindy Lubber. “The cost of withered crops, submerged streets, hurricane damage and wildfires eventually comes out of our own wallets. Crop insurance losses from last year’s drought alone cost every person in America $51.”

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is staggering under massive losses after Hurricane Sandy, which triggered more than 115,000 new claims in just the first two weeks after the storm. Although NFIP collects about $3.5 billion a year in premiums, the amount of claims the agency has paid out has exceeded the amount of premiums collected in four of the past eight years. Last year’s losses in Sandy’s wake are expected to approach $8 billion.

“That’s $25 for every American, and that figure doesn’t even include the $50 billion of disaster relief that Congress approved in January for Sandy-impacted states,” Lubber said. Continue reading

Advanced Biofuels USA to Host “Freedom”

Advanced Biofuels USA is teaming up with HEAT, an environmental advocacy team based at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, to present a showing of the documentary “FREEDOM“. Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring local leading advanced biofuel researchers and supporters. The event takes place on Earth Day, Monday, April 22, 2013 at Hodson Auditorium in Rosenstock Hall. The event is FREE to the public.

The two groups plan to bring to light the finiteness of the fossil fuel industry, the grip it has on our country’s economy, and the negative impacts on our environment. They will also inform attendees about the growing biofuel industry and how it can help to remedy America’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The documentary FREEDOM, created by Josh and Rebecca Tickell, the makers of the Sundance Film Festival Award Winning “FUEL,” takes place in the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The documentary includes insightful and inspirational interviews from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former NATO Commander Wesley Clark, Amy Smart, and more.

FREEDOM invites people, “Not to just get mad, but get motivated and calls for ‘a revolution in how we live.’ The documentary states a need for, “a shift in the types of houses and cities we live in. We must rethink the way we work and the way we treat each other and the planet. And most importantly, we must transform ourselves.” The New York Times stated that their previous movie, ‘FUEL’ “would make, “Al Gore weep all over his PowerPoint.”.

Following the showing of the documentary, the two organizations plan to hold a group panel discussion featuring local leaders in the research, use, and education of advanced biofuels. The panel will tentatively include: moderator Joanne Ivancic, the president and executive director of Advanced Biofuels USA; Robert E. Kozak, treasurer of Advanced Biofuels USA and president of Atlantic Biomass Conversions will talk about policy roadblocks currently confronting the industry; Dr. Craig Laufer, Hood College biology professor and secretary of Advanced Biofuels USA will talk about the science of advanced biofuels research.

AFPM Compares E15 to MTBE

The American Fuel and Petroleum Manufacturers Association (AFPM) had compared the recent New Hamsphire Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) lawsuit loss by the oil industry to E15. MTBE  has been found to contaminate ground water and as a result nearly half the states in the U.S. have banned its use. E15, the most test fuel in the history of the country has never been shown to contaminate ground water and is a more environmental friendly option.

RFA-logo-13Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), called the statement “reckless” and “revisionist”. “AFPM and the oil companies are living in a fantasy parallel universe if they think they can revise history to tarnish E15 and the RFS.  MTBE did not go through the same 211F waiver process that E15 did.  MTBE did not undergo six million miles of testing like E15 did.  The oil companies pushed 15 percent MTBE approval under a much less rigorous waiver process that did not require the robust emissions and drivability testing that E15 has successfully completed.”

“Oil companies also did not conduct extensive 211(b) health effects testing prior to the registration of MTBE for commercial use,” continued Dinneen.  “Oil companies chose MTBE over biodegradable ethanol because it was a product they produced and it increased their profits.  In fact, they used MTBE to keep ethanol out of the market because the two fuels could not be used together. Unfortunately, MTBE was not compatible with the fuel distribution system. It leaked from tanks and quickly migrated to drinking water supplies.  MTBE is toxic.  Oil companies losing the court case in New Hampshire screams a dire warning that oil companies should not be trusted with our energy future.  Oil companies have a disturbing track record of putting their monopoly ahead of innovation and progress, and their profits ahead of consumer pocketbooks.”

Growth_Energy_logo-1Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy called the statement “absurd” and noted that in terms of the New Hampshire lawsuit, AFPM, refiners and oil companies refused to use cleaner-burning, biodegradable ethanol, and instead chose to use an oil-derived alternative that ended up contaminating water systems throughout the U.S., and is also suspected of having carcinogenic properties.

“This is just another example of the length the refiners will go to avoid using renewable fuels,” said Buis. “They chose MTBE over ethanol until it polluted water systems because of leaks – and switched to ethanol after states and local communities started banning its use. The only consistency among the oil companies and its affiliates like AFPM is that they will say and do anything to block market access for biofuels to protect their near monopoly on the liquid fuel system, as well as their bottom line – even if it is at the expense of their customers.”

“In a wild stretch of the imagination that ignores reality and facts, AFPM are trying to say the most tested fuel ever in American history, which is cleaner and biodegradable, will have the same negative effects as a toxic additive produced by AFPM. Give me a break. Big Oil – why don’t you tell the American people just what is in the oil spilling in communities across America, such as the Yellowstone river, the Mississippi river, Kalamazoo, Mayflower Arkansas and all over the Gulf of Mexico? I can tell you one thing – it isn’t environmentally safe, biodegradable ethanol,” concluded Buis.