Ethanol production increased another 14,000 barrels per day in February to 302,000 barrels (or 12.7 million gallons). That’s yet another new record, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) publicized by the Renewable Fuels Association. RFA president Bob Dinneen says, “These numbers completely dispel the myth of ethanol shortages this driving season.”
A company called Genesis in New Zealand is studying the use of a shrubby willow to produce ethanol. Genesis CEO Dr. Stephen Hall was at BIO 2006 in Chicago where Chuck met him. He gave us a call last week to do an interview over the phone about this plant and its potential as an ethanol source. Hall says salix could be a good alternative to using corn or sugarcane because of the amount of biomass it can produce and that it can grow very rapidly on marginal land. “We’re getting yields of 11 to 16 tons of dry matter per hectare per annum,” he says. In addition, Hall says salix can also produce lignin, “which can be used as a raw material for plastics or other polymers.”
I did some checking on salix and found out that is the genus name for willow and there’s a bunch of them. The one that is termed “shrubby” is the Common Osier (Salix viminalis), according to Wikipedia. That’s what I think Dr. Hall is talking about. He can correct me if I’m wrong.
Listen to Chuck’s interview with Dr. Hall here: Stephen Hall (8:00 MP3)
It’s called miscanthus and it’s a relative of switchgrass that’s WAY bigger, as you can see by the picture. University of Illinois researcher Stephen Long and graduate assistant Emily Heaton (in the picture, next to the giant grass – she’s only 5’4″) have been growing miscanthus for four years in Illinois. According to this article from Agriculture Online: In the 2004 trials, miscanthus out-performed switchgrass by more than double and in the 2005 trials more than triple. Long says “our results show that with Miscanthus the President’s goal of replacing 30% of foreign oil with ethanol, derived from agricultural wastes and switchgrass by 2030, could be achieved sooner and with less land.” Check these Wikipedia links for more info about miscanthus and switchgrass.
ADM, the world’s largest producer of ethanol, has picked a Big Oil exec to run Big Ethanol. According to a company release, Archer Daniels Midland Company announced that Patricia A. Woertz has been selected as President, Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors, succeeding G. Allen Andreas, who remains as Chairman of the Board. Woertz, 53, most recently was Executive Vice President of Chevron Corporation, in charge of the oil company’s “downstream” operations, including refining, marketing, lubricant, supply and trading businesses in 180 countries. The press is having a field day with this, since Chevron just posted a nearly 50 percent profit increase, and it signals that ethanol is really hitting the big time. While ethanol currently accounts for only about five percent of ADM’s multi-faceted agricultural business, the company intends to increase production by 50 percent within the next two years.
Nearly 200 articles on the story come up in a Google search. Here’s a good one from the Chicago Tribune.
It’s true that gas prices are high right now – although much lower than most other countries, except Saudi Arabia. And it’s true that we are trying to come with alternative, renewable, domestic fuel sources. But – the fact is – we also NEED TO USE LESS! We spend all of our time bemoaning the fact that gas costs so much as we fill up our low mileage vehicles and drive everywhere we go.
This article from the Washington Post would be amusing, if it were not so true. It talks about how our congressional representatives are busy blaming everyone else for high gas prices while they toodle around in luxury SUVs that get 14 miles to the gallon. Sadly, we can’t just blame Congress for being hypocritial. Anyone who drives a car that gets gas mileage in the teens is just as much to blame.
Just finding alternatives won’t solve the problem. We need to make some sacrifices and change our lifestyles.
And do it NOW, before it’s too late.
Thanks to Gary Dikkers for sending me the article.
Finally got around to editing some of the audio from the Senate Ag Committee hearing on biofuels yesterday. Separate sound files from each of the panelists, linked on their names, all around 5:00 in length.
Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen talks about importance of ethanol in today’s market. “Today’s industry consists of 97 biorefineries… blended in 40 percent of the nation’s fuel….no longer just a niche market in the midwest…4 billion gallons of ethanol produced last year has provided tremendous economic benefits for the country … added 153,000 jobs… some have questioned if there will be enough ethanol to meet demand and absolutely there will be.”
National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe focused comments on growth factors for biodiesel. “Amount of growth has been substantial … from 25 million gallons in ’04 to 75 million in ’05…. approximately 40 biodiesel plants … another 40 more under construction… majority of diesel is used in … trucking industry… average diesel prices have doubled in past four years… trucking association has endorsed use of B-5…. biodiesel contains oxygen so it burns cleaner… three federal policy measures effective in stimulating biodiesel development…all scheduled to expire … extension of biodiesel tax credit, extension of bioenergy program and extension of biodiesel fuel education program.”
CHS Inc. Executive Vice President Jay Debertin discussed CHS’s role in biorefining. “Largest fuel supplier, including diesel, for on-farm use… one of few refiners that have an equally strong committment to renewable fuels… marketed under CENEX brand … marketing fuels since late 1970s … took step of investing in U.S. Bioenergy … renewable fuels industry is still very young … challenges … include making sure the renewable fuels program is a true national program.”
Finally, Iowa State University professor Robert Brown, Ph.D compared U.S. ethanol industry growth to 1990s internet boom and talked about goals of bioeconomy. “Both internet and renewable fuels industry started from small basis, are dependent upon technological innovation for growth, and both were underinvested…converting corn to ethanol is not a goal of the bioeconomy, but rather a pathway … four goals for bioeconomy … reduce reliance on imported petroleum … improve environmental economy … expand markets for US agricultural products … provide economic development opportunities for rural economy.”
No, not how to drink it – how to make it.
For 25 years, The Alcohol School has been educating fuel ethanol and distilled beverage producers in the science of alcohol production. The week-long program is designed for lab, plant, and management personnel and is organized around lectures, laboratory demonstrations, seminars, and plant visits.
If France is not in the budget, they are planning another one in Montreal in late September.
If you’ve seen the news lately, you undoubtedly have seen a story about the high cost of gas. Bad news is, get used to it. Good news is there are clean burning alternatives that hold promise. Without doubt, blends of ethanol and biodiesel burn cleaner and extend the supply of oil. That’s why bills like the one that just advanced in Missouri to require a 10% ethanol blend for all gas sold in Missouri make sense. There is a similar one regarding biodiesel which hasn’t made it through yet. Why all the buzz about ethanol and not so much biodiesel?
The obvious answer is most passenger vehicles in America have gasoline engines. Biodiesel is quickly becoming popular with truckers and government fleets, and is gaining ground with consumers. The problem with alternative fuels however is replacing all the existing gasoline burning vehicles with clean burning models. That’s the reason blends make sense for transition. Meanwhile, as consumers we should demand new alternatives and more efficient engines.
Understandably, oil companies have resisted the switch to a new fuel because it destroys their business. We’ve come to the point where we can no longer be concerned about the welfare of big corporations. The future is now, and it includes domestic fuels.
JW is back from “spring fever” break and sent in this post from the future.
Here’s a link to a real cool short film about the positive impact of alternative fuels. I found it from Joel Makower who worked on the project and works to promote green business. The goal was to take the doom out of global warming and show how we can create a positive outcome using green energy like domestic fuels.
I had been meaning to do a post on this billboard, which I see every day crossing over the Missouri River bridge into Jefferson City, just because I thought it was great advertising. Now, the darn thing is causing controversy because it “implies hate and discrimination for no reason” according to the president of the St. Louis chapter for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Give me a break! Here’s a link to the AP article that appeared on the front page of the local paper yesterday. The farmer on the billboard is Missouri Corn Growers Association president Terry Hilgedick, the sheik is a former king of Saudi Arabia. The MCGA paid for this billboard and others around the state, some with different messages, to increase awareness of the ethanol bill in the state legislature that would require a 10 percent ethanol blend in Missouri gas whenever ethanol costs the same or less than gasoline. It passed the state senate yesterday and would make Missouri the fifth state to require ten percent ethanol blends. The others are Hawaii, Minnesota, Montana and Washington.