Bachelor Chris Soules’ Delivers Pro RFS Message

The end of this week mark’s the final countdown to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 required volumes for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). To continue to gain support for the renewable energy legislation, Iowa-based America’s Renewable Future (ARF), has tapped in to Bachelor Chris Soules’ fame, who is an Iowa farmer, to raise awareness of the benefits of the RFS. He is also sharing the message of the importance of caucusing for pro-ethanol, pro RFS candidate for president.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 10.51.30 AM“As a farmer and an Iowan Chris knows firsthand just how important the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is to preserving 73,000 Iowa jobs, our agricultural economy, and our environment,” said ARF Co-Chair Rep. Annette Sweeney, “We are thankful that he is using his voice to tell Iowans about the choice we face this election. The choice is stark—politicians who do Big Oil’s bidding and want to repeal the RFS and candidates who stand with Iowans and support this commonsense policy.”

ARF has been following the candidates’ views on biofuels and the RFS, as have we at DomesticFuel, during the campaign process and this week marked the 100 day countdown to the Iowa caucuses. (And in case you missed it, yesterday fellow Iowa-based journalist Jerry Perkins with Biofuels Journal and I announced our “run” across Iowa for the 2015 presidency at the Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo in Omaha Nebraska. Running T-Shirt compliments of Fleet Feet Sports in Des Moines, IA.)

The video shows Soules on his farm in Northeast Iowa as he harvests field corn, which will eventually be turned into ethanol and Distiller’s Grain (DDG) for livestock feed. For farmers like him, the RFS protects his livelihood and the economic well-being of his tight-knit rural town of Arlington.

“Choosing who to caucus for is a very important decision – especially for Iowa farmers. We need to know if the candidates support the RFS and if they’ll defend this industry for farmers like me,” says Soules says in the video. “I hope you’ll join me in caucusing February 1st for a presidential candidate who stands with us and protects our livelihood through the RFS.”

The Clean Power Plan: The Fight is On

Fighting over the Clean Power Plan is getting heated with the Republican Attorneys General filing a lawsuit against the Obama Administrations for the recently published legislation. Focused on utilities, the goal of the program is to reduce carbon pollution by 32 percent. In response to the suit, Americans United for Change launched a digital ad campaign challenging the Attorneys General to quit doing the work of their “corporate polluter donors” like the Koch brothers. The campaign will be seen on Twitter and Facebook.

A December 2014 New York Times exposé revealed an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” and coordination between Big Oil and Republican AGs against environmental regulations. The article cited one Attorney General literally copying and pasting a letter drafted by energy lobbyists and sending it to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on official letterhead. Such legal and legislative efforts have been rewarded with campaign contributions to the tune of $2.4 million in the last two election cycles according to Americans United for Change.

While accusations fly that the EPA has overstepped their bounds, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the EPA’s authority to take action to limit carbon pollution three times. The argument also points to the Clean Power Plan hurting the economy, but according to Americans United for Change, limits will save the average American nearly $85 a year on energy bills as well as bring down costs for asthma, lunch cancer and other air pollution-related illnesses while supporting more than a quarter million new jobs.

“Some might call it a coincidence that the Republicans AGs who’ve taken tens of thousands of dollars from dirty energy interests are the same ones filing lawsuits against the Clean Power Plan, but I’d call it a serious conflict of interest and a breach of the public trust,” said Brad Woodhouse, president, Americans United for Change. “When a state AG chooses to serve as part of dirty energy’s unofficial defense team, who is left looking out for the public interests? If you’re a public servant and find yourself standing in the way of something that will save thousands of lives and leave millions of Americans less susceptible to air-pollution related illnesses like lung cancer to asthma attacks in children, maybe it’s time to consider a clean break from your dirty energy friends. Or perhaps a new line of work.”

U.S. Census Fun Fact: Wind

Did you know that the first practical wind turbine generator dates back 74 years to 1941? It was then that Palmer Putnamof Vermont demonstrated his device. His 1.5 MW wind turbine had blades 66 feet in length, and in 700 hours of operation, produced nearly 300,000 kilowatt hours.

Innovators were working on wind turbines between the World Wars, mostly for rural areas in Canada and America where people had difficulty getting power. However, it was Putnam who realized that to generate more power, more efficiently, location and high wind speeds were vital. When searching for his ideal location, Putnam looked for wind speeds in excess of 30 mph. He also wanted to be able to supply alternating current to the grid without the losses incurred by converting direct current to alternative current.

According to his patent, he found his “advantageously exposed” location in that of Grandpa’s Knob, a 1976 foot high forested summit with a rocky base. During the winter of 1940-1941, workers built the 120 foot (36 meter) tower and turbine. The wind turbine featured just two steel blades, each weighing 7.5 tons each and were 66 feet (20 meters) long —bigger than the wings of all but a handful of bombers flying at the time. The turbine was designed to operate in wind velocities between 30 and 60 miles per hour and to withstand gusts stronger than 140 mph.

Today, there are more than 2,700 electric power generating facilities (i.e. wind farms) producing 4.1 million megawatt hours. Wind power now provides 4.5 percent of the U.S. electricity production. Siemens is building the world’s longest blade that is 74 meters long, nearly 243 feet, the length of an A-380 Airbus airplane,

Brookings Institute Hosts RFS Panel

The Brookings Institute hosted a panel discussion today entitled, “Ten years of the Renewable Fuel Standard: What’s been the impact on energy and the environment?“. Two of the featured speakers were Chris Knittel and Tim Searchinger and prior to the event, Americans United for Change called on them to fully disclose their past work against the biofuels industry. Back in 2008, Searchinger released a report on the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) elements of biofuel production, that even though was found to have been found highly flawed, discussions around ILUC continue today.

According to Americans United for Change (AUC) Communications Director Jeremy Funk, criticism of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would be put in proper context for the audience if they knew if was coming from those who benefited financially from the oil industry, who has aggressively lobbied against biofuels and the RFS.

The organization cites Knittel as a long-term academic critic of the RFS who between 2007 to 2009 received nearly $500,000 in grants from Chevron. Knittel is currently an associate scholar at the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, which is sponsored by BP, Chevron and Shell among other companies. Also, notes AUC, the ‘event materials’ the Brookings panel attendees are encouraged to download are all, with the exception of a CBO report, co-authored by Knittel.

“We hope Mr. Knittel and Mr. Searchinger will be transparent about their financial ties to Big Oil and not present themselves as objective critics of the RFS,” said Funk prior to event. “Refusing to disclose their relationship with the oil industry would put them in poor company with Dr. ‘Willie’ Soon who controversially published a number of academic papers playing down the consequences of climate-change without disclosing that his work was financed with over a million dollars from the fossil-fuel industry, which of course is a leading producer of carbon pollution. It’s only fair the audience knows whose interests are really being represented at the table. And those interests hate the fact that over the last 10 years, the RFS has successfully displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil with cleaner homegrown fuels like ethanol. When Big Oil pretends to care about the environment, it should be taken with a grain of tar sand.”

Funk added, “And in case it doesn’t come up among the panelists, we would also encourage the Brookings moderator to note there is mountain of independent academic research showing that ethanol use significantly cuts down carbon emissions compared to gasoline made from dirty fossil fuels, whether it be from the Argonne National Laboratory, Purdue University, the University of Nebraska, Michigan State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Duke University, the University of Illinois-Chicago and others.”

The panel was moderated by Ted Gayer, Vice president and Director, Economic Studies Joseph A. Pechman Senior Fellow and also featured Bruce Babcock, Director of the Biobased Industry Center and Economics Professor for Iowa State and Terry Dinan, Senior Advisor, Microeconomic Studies Division of the Congressional Budget Office.

Free 10 Percent Ethanol at Sturgis Buffalo Chip

sturgis-15-woodyThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has been providing free E10 fuel fill-ups for bikers at the Buffalo Chip Campground during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally for the past four years, and every year Chip owner Rod “Woody” Woodruff is first in line.

“RFA has been here for a long time getting the word out about ethanol, that it is safe, because there’s all that false information going out there,” said Woodruff. “But, what’s important, when they’re at the Buffalo Chip, they’re extending the hand of friendship in good faith to anybody that wants to accept it and it’s very well received here.” Woodruff has been a strong supporter of ethanol since 1999 when he bought the motorcycle he rides all the time and he says he has never used anything but E10 in it.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota and the 34th anniversary of the Buffalo Chip Campground, the place where a big percentage of bikers call home during the rally. Woodruff says they made lots of improvements to the facility in anticipation of increased traffic this year. Early estimates were for a million plus visitors to the rally, which is called “one of” the biggest in the country – but probably really is the biggest.

In addition, earlier this year Buffalo Chip became South Dakota’s newest town. “The idea of the town was to be a town for bikers, by bikers, just to have as little regulation and government intervention as possible,” said Woodruff.

RFA will be providing free 93 octane premium E10 fuel from 1-4 pm through Thursday at the Buffalo Chip.

Listen to my interview with Woody here: Interview with Woody Woodruff, Buffalo Chip Campground

You can also watch Woody in action in this video:


2015 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally with RFA at the Buffalo Chip Photos

Voters Want Pro Clean Energy Prez Candidates

NextGen Climate has released the results of a survey that finds voters in key presidential swing states support transitioning to at least 50 percent clean energy by 2030. Hart Research conducted the poll in eight battleground states including: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. In particular, the survey found that young voters (Millennials) are more likely to vote for a candidate who embraces aggressive climate change goals.

The survey also found:

  • 70% of voters had a favorable reaction to a goal of at least 50% clean energy by 2030 — including 69% of independents and 54% of Republicans.
  • 61% of voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who embraced this goal, while only 14% say they would be less likely.

“Transitioning to a clean energy economy is an ambitious goal, but one that is necessary and achievable — and politically potent, ” said NextGen Climate President and Founder Tom Steyer. “It’s time for presidential candidates in both parties to produce plans to achieve at least 50% clean energy by 2030 and put us on a path to a completely clean energy economy by 2050—creating millions of jobs across the country and protecting our economy from the most devastating impacts of climate change.”

The survey supports that swing state voters believe achieving at least 50 percent clean energy by 2030 is an “important priority” and “necessary” and favor specific policies and initiatives that will build a clean energy economy. Millennial voters are particularly likely to support the goal, and see it as “inspiring.”

The poll is part of an NextGen Climate initiative to call on leaders to embrace policies that accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.

Koolbridge’s Smart Load Tech Heads to NCCETC

The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) at North Carolina State University has signed a five-year Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with North Carolina-based Koolbridge Solar, Inc. NCCETC will work with Koolbridge to test their Smart Load Center technology, a smart circuit breaker panel for integrating a photovoltaic and energy storage system with a home’s or commercial building’s loads and the electric grid. In other words, when the sun is shining, the technology transfers the loads from the grid to the off-grid solar and battery system for use when the sun goes down. Koolbridge Solar’s technology was invented by Paul W. Dent, who according to Wikipedia is the co-inventor of Bluetooth wireless technology.

“Koolbridge Solar, Inc. has a new advanced inverter, Smart Load Center, and other patented and patent-pending energy management technology designed to lower the costs of distributed photovoltaic systems and increase value by allowing for easy integration of energy storage and by allowing continued operation in case of electrical outage with the local power company,” said Stephen Burnett, chairman & CEO of Koolbridge Solar. Burnett also stated his company values the support of the NCCETC and will actively seek funding to allow for more significant input from the Center.

As part of the collaboration, The Center will provide high-level policy, market, and technical guidance to Koolbridge on their products and strategies. The Center will also support Koolbridge’s pursuit of federal and state grants and other funding opportunities wherever possible and appropriate. NCCETC is known for their work in solar policy, markets, and technology as well as related codes and standards and has received two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot grants.

Professional Engineer and Renewable Energy Program Coordinator of the NCCETC, Tommy Cleveland, added,”The Center is pleased to have entered into the first MOA with Koolbridge Solar in accordance with its mission to improve North Carolina and citizens’ access to affordable and reliable solar energy.”

GEA Good Source for Clean Power Plan

During the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO and Policy Forum that took place in Washington, D.C. on July 9, 2015, Karl Gawell, executive director for the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), called on bipartisan action. “In the world market, policymakers are working to address the upfront risk of geothermal projects and shortening lead times. Congress needs to take action on pending legislation to make similar progress in the U.S.,” Gawell said.

He added that geothermal projects are subject to extensive bureaucratic delays. “Geothermal development projects can go through as many as six NEPA analyses,” explained Gawell. As a result, geothermal projects cannot effectively take advantage of short-term tax incentives. We need longer term incentives.

There are currently several pieces of legislation pending in the U.S. House and Senate that seek support for renewable energy including geothermal energy development (S.562, S.822, S.1057, S.1155 and S. 1407, in the Senate). Gaswell called out to legislators: “We urge the sponsors of the individual pieces — Senators Heller, Wyden, Tester, Risch, Crapo, Merkley, Murkowski and others (as well as Representatives Simpson, DeFazio and Gosar) – to work together on a bipartisan basis if an energy bill moves forward.” Continue reading

DOE Invest $18M in Algae

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $18 million to six projects aimed at reducing the costs of algae-based biofuels to less than $5.00 per gallon equivalent by 2019.

The funds are being used to help meet the DOE’s goal of $3 per gallon for advanced algal biofuels by 2030. These biofuels can be used as replacements for petroleum-based diesel and jet fuels as well as products derived from algae can be used as petroleum replacements for products such as chemicals, beauty products, plastics and more. In the near future, algae-based technologies can achieve higher yields of oils. However,  to achieve the goals set forth by the DOE, barriers that still remain in place such as efficient cultivation, harvesting and conversion to bioproducts must be deconstructed.

The projects selected include:

  • Producing Algae and Co-Products for Energy (PACE), Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO – Colorado School of Mines, in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory, Reliance Industries Ltd., and others, will receive up to $9 million to enhance overall algal biofuels sustainability by maximizing carbon dioxide, nutrient, and water recovery and recycling, as well as bio-power co-generation.
  • Marine Algae Industrialization Consortium (MAGIC), Duke University, Durham, NC – Duke University will receive up to $5.2 million to lead a consortium including University of Hawaii, Cornell University, Cellana and others to produce protein-based human and poultry nutritional products along with hydrotreated algal oil extract.
  • Global Algae Innovations, Inc., El Cajon, CA – Global Algae Innovations will receive up to $1 million to increase algal biomass yield by deploying an innovative system to absorb carbon dioxide from the flue gas of a nearby power plant.
  • Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ – Arizona State University will receive up to $1 million for atmospheric carbon dioxide capture, enrichment, and delivery to increase biomass productivity.
  • University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA – The University of California, San Diego will receive up to $760,000 to develop an automated  early detection system that can identify and characterize infestation or infection of an algae production pond in order to ensure crop health.
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will receive up to $1 million to protect algal crops by developing “probiotic” bacteria to combat pond infestation and increase ecosystem functioning and resilience.

Urban Air Initiative: Ethanol Reduces Engine Wear

The Urban Air Initiative (UAI) has released a study that finds ethanol free gasoline blends actually increase the wear and tear on engines including hoses, seals and fuel tanks. In other words, the data supports ethanol blends lead to cleaner engines. The findings were presented at the semi-annual meeting of ASTM by Steve Vander Griend, technical director for UAI who also works for ICM.

The report demonstrated that high aromatic content of gasoline, including toxic aromatics like benzene and toluene, negatively impact engine parts. Vander Griend explained in his presentation that the toxic aromatics create a significant increase in the escape of harmful emissions that can have a devastating impact on public health as these are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency has known and suspected carcinogens.

“What we are seeing is that benzene and toluene are increasing permeation, which means increasing the amount of fuel vapors that seep from a vehicle. For anyone who has a garage at home and smells gasoline, vapors are escaping through the vehicles fuel system or small engine gas tank,” said Vander Griend.

Also during his presentation Vander Griend explained that extensive testing was conducted on fuel lines, gas containers, and plastic components. The materials were each soaked in straight gasoline (E0) and a 10 percent ethanol blend (E10) for extended periods of time. In every case, said Vander Griend, the ethanol free gasoline increased the damage to fuel lines, gas containers, and plastic components, while the materials soaked in E10 were impacted less. Continue reading