Hawaii is finally making some progress in its requirement to blend 10 percent ethanol in 85 percent of the gasoline sold in the state. Chevron this week became the first energy company in Hawaii to begin blending ethanol, as required by the state by April 2, according to this story from the Hawaii Channel. As posted previously, Hawaii is running behind in plans to require ethanol in gasoline. The state made that requirement law ten years ago to help the sugar cane industry, which is now apparently non-existent, according to this story. I thought it was cute that Chevron workers gathered for a Hawaiian blessing at the new facility.
Here’s an MSNBC story from Buffalo, NY that talks about biodiesel developments happening there – from a student at the University of Buffalo making biodiesel from waste grease to two small area businesses that have big plans for biodiesel production. Blue Sky Optimium Energy was started three years ago by a young Erie Community College graduate and Greenway Energy Group is a new company started by a Buffalo restaurant owner. Both are young start-ups – and I can’t find websites for either one – but they are both interested in making the product available on a local level. Here’s a good quote from the UB student in the article: “Biodiesel from a business standpoint and political standpoint is wonderful because it’s just surrounded with all of these great buzzwords: foreign oil dependency, emissions controls, domestic energy production, alternative fuel, supports farmers because all the virgin oil is coming from soy.”
This is your final reminder to get your entry in for the New Holland “Down on the Farm” Classic iPod Keepsake Contest. It’s easy and the odds are better than the lottery. We’ve had a lot of entries so far but you’ve still got until the end of the day March 15. Don’t wait.
We have the iPod and it’s loaded and ready to find a new owner. On it the winner will get the video of Michael Peterson’s performance at Commodity Classic, his new CD, all the pictures I took at Classic and the interviews and speeches I recorded. It comes out of the box ready to entertain and inform!
Go ahead, enter. Do it. You might be glad you did.
An Associated Press story on the wire about ethanol producers being encouraged by “new study” is the study that came out at the end of January (see previous post) Just want to make that clear in case someone sees the story and thinks that this is a different “new” study. It is a very positive story for the ethanol industry, so it’s good to see it resurface for another round. This story, which datelined in Iowa, interviews one of the University of California-Berkeley researchers who did the study. Alex Farrell, co-author of the latest study, said previous research didn’t take into account ethanol byproducts such as distiller grains and corn oil. Corn turned into ethanol also feeds animals and is used for other purposes, he said, which displaces competing products that require energy to make. “Studies with a negative impact ignored that,” Farrell said. Since the latest research wasn’t funded by any special interest group and used the most up-to-date data, Farrell said his group’s information is the most accurate.
Most people never heard the word “switchgrass” before it was immortalized by President Bush in his State of the Union address, but someday we could be running our cars on fuel made from the stuff. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service just released a new study on the feasibility of switchgrass for energy production, focusing specifically on the economics of growing the crop and how to get the most yield per acre. According to an ARS report, “two switchgrass plants per square foot the first year ensures a successful bioenergy crop harvest in subsequent years.” The studies were done on farms in Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, since switchgrass is a native prarie grass in those states. Normally the grass is used for conservation purposes or cattle feed. The guy in the picture is Ken Vogel, a geneticist at the ARS Grain, Forage and Bioenergy Research Unit at Lincoln, Neb. who led the study. Here’s a link to the report on “Establishment Stand Thresholds” reported in the January issue of Crop Science magazine, if you’re into that.
A big plus for switchgrass is that as a perennial plant, switchgrass has the advantage of not needing annual planting and tillage. Skipping these can save soil and energy. It can also reduce sediment and other pollutant losses to waterways.
By the way, research into switchgrass for energy production has been going on for at least a decade. I know that because I remember doing a story about it when I still worked at Brownfield Network – and I left there in 1997!
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman spoke to the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce today. According to this KC AP article, Bodman echoed the adminstration theme that we need to make ethanol from other sources besides corn. Bodman said the ethanol industry now consumes roughly 14 percent of the country’s corn crop. The crop’s regular purpose as human and animal feed will eventually compete with the demand for ethanol, driving up prices. “We’re beginning to run into a limit of how much ethanol we can get from corn,” Bodman said, He also told the AP that he expects the oil industry to “come around” and start using and selling more ethanol.
The biggest biodiesel plant in the world is being built in Claypool, Indiana, according to this article from IndyStar.com. The project, which was announced last year, combines a soybean processing plant with a biodiesel production plant. The facility will crush nearly 50 million bushels of soybeans a year, producing more than 1 million tons of soybean meal for animal feed and 80 million gallons of biodiesel. The plant is being bulit by global agribusiness giant Louis Dreyfus, a French conglomerate that is into just about everything from citrus to coffee to cotton, real estate and manufacturing to telecommunications – you name it. They have offices in Asia, Argentina, Canada and Kansas City, just to name a few. My question is, why Claypool Indiana? This little burg with a population of 311 according to the 2000 census is located about halfway between Ft. Wayne and Chicago – which might be a reason. During the aforementioned Ag Energy Summit in Washington, DC, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels announced that the state is providing between somewhere in the neighborhood of $6.5 million in tax credits and other incentives to Louis Dreyfus to build the plant.
According to the press release from this week’s energy summit in Washington, DC, “Energy, enthusiasm and excitement marked the unveiling of 25x’25 to those attending the second National Agriculture and Forestry Renewable Energy Summit.” One of the most interesting news items from the summit was a survey of registered voters that shows overwhelming support for renewable energy initiatives. There is nearly unanimous support for a national goal of having 25% of our domestic energy needs met by renewable resources by the year 2025. Ninety-eight percent of voters see this goal as important for the country, and three out of four (74%) feel that it is “very important.” Ninety percent of voters believe this goal is achievable. The survey, which interviewed 1000 registered voters, can be found in PDF form on this page of the 25 X ’25 website.
This survey does not directly ask this question, but I believe that Americans would support a switch to domestic fuels and energy sources – even if it means they might be a bit more expensive and/or less efficient in the short term. I know I would. I would like to see a survey that asks American if they would be willing to make certain sacrifices to achieve a greater degree of energy independence as a nation. Let me know if there is one.
With a goal of providing 25 percent of the nation’s energy supply from renewable resources by 2025, the Ag Energy Work Group held it’s second National Ag and Forestry Renewabe Energy Summit, in Washington, DC this week. I apologize for having been remiss in doing posts about this group’s activities, especially since good friend Sara Wyant sent us some info about this at least a month ago that got lost in my email filing system.
Anyway, here is a picture of Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns addressing the group on Tuesday. There were numerous other political types on hand, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle. Text of Secretary Johanns speech can be found here and I also downloaded a radio story from USDA’s newsline about his speech – listen to that here. Besides ethanol and biodiesel, Johanns talked about wind power and biomass – and the exciting potential for American agricultural and forest lands to provide our nation’s energy. In the future we may have the opportunity to not only provide for agricultural power needs, but also to provide power back into the grid. Wouldn’t that be a great day for rural America? We’ve always considered our forests and farms to be precious resources. That notion has taken on a new meaning as America embraces renewable energy.