Lone Star State on the Road to Renewables

Cindy Zimmerman

TX Tea Texas Tea may one day be Texas-E. The Texas State Energy Conservation Office is holding a two-day workshop and expo in Austin this week called “The Road to Renewables.” According to the agenda, the event will introduce perspectives from ethanol and biodiesel producers, production technology providers, and government researchers. Attendees will explore the challenges and opportunities presented from various different perspectives such analytical methods, production technology, applications for use and sharing information related to barriers to increased use of biodiesel and ethanol. The event is being held Wednesday and Thursday this week at the Hilton Austin Airport and registration is $35.
One of the “Road to Renewables” sponsors is the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council – our friends at EPIC.

Biodiesel, EPIC, Ethanol

Ethanol vs. Methanol

Cindy Zimmerman

AmEnt Here is a link to an article from The American Enterprise by Dr. Robert Zubrin, president of the aerospace engineering and research firm Pioneer Astronautics, who wrote The Case for Mars and other books. Basically, he’s a rocket scientist. “An Energy Revolution” discusses in detail the “alcohol solution” to America’s dependence on foreign oil, including a relatively balanced comparison of ethanol and methanol, detailing their pros and cons. Here is a portion of that comparison:
Methanol is cheaper than ethanol. It can also be made from a broader variety of biomass materal, as well as from coal and natural gas. And methanol is the safest motor fuel, because it is much less flammable than gasoline (a fact that has led to its adoption by car racing leagues). ***please note that major car racing leagues, like Indy, are now switching to ethanol – cz***
On the other hand, ethanol is less chemically toxic than methanol, and it carries more energy per gallon. Ethanol contains about 75 percent of the energy of gasoline per gallon, compared to 67 percent for methanol. Both thus achieve fewer miles per gallon than gasoline, but about as many miles per dollar at current prices, and probably many more miles per dollar at future prices.
Methanol is more corrosive than ethanol. This can be dealt with by using appropriate materials in the automobile fuel system. A fuel system made acceptable for methanol use will also be fine for ethanol or pure gasoline.
Both ethanol and methanol are water soluble and biodegradable in the environment. The consequences of a spill of either would be much less than that of petroleum products. If the Exxon Valdez had been carrying either of these fuels instead of oil, the environmental impact caused by its demise would have been negligible.

Now, Dr. Zubrin’s ultimate conclusion is that methanol is better in the long run – my conclusion is that there is room for everyone in this domestic fuel boat, but that’s just me. He also completely discounts hydrogen as an alternative fuel possibility -but I would say that it may have its niche as well. Again, that’s just me – and I am no rocket scientist, just an observer.
Thanks to Gary Dikkers for pointing me to this article.

Ethanol

Alternative Fuel Essay Could Be Worth $1000

Cindy Zimmerman

Ag DayAny kid between 7th and 12th grade who can complete a 450 word essay on alternative fuels from agriculture and get it sent in before the deadline on February 15 could win $1000. It’s the National Ag Day contest and I was remiss in not posting this last week when I saw it, since the theme is “Growing our energy: Alternative fuels from agriculture.” So, the deadline is now literally just around the corner – well, more like on the doorstep at this point. Besides the $1000, the winning essay writer will receive a trip to Washington DC and recognition during the National Ag Day Luncheon at the National Press Club. According to information from the Ag Day website: At the luncheon, the winning essayist will have the opportunity to join with industry representatives, members of Congress, federal agency representatives, media and other friends in a celebration of agriculture. Statewide winners of the contest will also be selected. Each will receive a $100 prize.
All entries should be sent to: Ag Day Essay Contest (MC), 1201 NW Briarcliff Pkwy., Ste. 200, Kansas City, MO 64116, or msandfort@mccormickcompany.com.

Biodiesel, Ethanol

Blue Jackets Unveil Newest Green Car

Cindy Zimmerman

FFA Chevy FFA members from Illinois helped Chevy unveil their newest E85-powered vehicle last week at the Chicago Auto Show. A dozen blue jackets took part as Chevrolet made public the new 2007 Avalanche at the nation’s largest auto show on February 8. According to an FFA release pairing with Chevy to introduce the new truck, shows the FFA members dedication to finding new and innovative ways to succeed into today’s global economy. The Avalanche is the latest in an explosion of flex-fuel vehicles to hit the marketplace as American auto makers rush to try and outdo each other climbing aboard the ethanol express. Chevy’s idea to have the FFA kids – who, by the way, are among the best and brightest youth in this country – introduce the new vehicle was a nice PR move to highlight ethanol’s farm connection.

Ethanol

Pros and Cons

Cindy Zimmerman

Two syndicated articles out today express differing opinions about ethanol. Actually, one is a purely editorial piece, written by Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and distributed by Bloomberg. With the title “Ethanol’s a Big Scam, and Bush Has Fallen for It,” it could hardly be more negative about ethanol – mainly stressing the facts that corn farmers receive government subsidies and that it does currently require a significant amount of fossil fuels to produce ethanol. The commentary also cites the controversial Pimentel/Patzek study that has been discredited by other sources, including the newest report out of Berkeley just released a few weeks ago. In my opinion, the worst thing about a commentary such as this is that it offers only criticism, with no constructive suggestions.
Contrast that with this AP article, which discusses research being done to find cheaper ways to produce ethanol. The article begins – The key to kicking what President Bush calls the nation’s oil addiction could very well lie in termite guts, canvas-eating jungle bugs and other microbes genetically engineered to spew enzymes that turn waste into fuel. It quotes Nathanael Greene with the Natural Resources Defense Council, and discusses the work in the field being done by Iogen. It talks in a positive, constructive way about research being done to address some of the issues brought up in the negative commentary. I especially like this quote from the article: Thanks to biotechnology breakthroughs, supporters of alternative energy sources say that after decades of unfulfilled promise and billions in government corn subsidies, energy companies may be able to produce ethanol easily and inexpensively. Positive and constructive thinking is what it will take to overcome obstacles in making good domestic fuel economical and viable.

Ethanol

Make Sure You Get Quality Biodiesel

Chuck Zimmerman

Canadian RFAI just received the following statement from Tim Haig, Chair of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association. He issued the following statement today in regard to recent biofuel issues in the Halifax area:

The Halifax Regional Municipality recently purchased what we now understand to be partially converted fish oil for use as a biofuel blend. Despite the best of intentions, the partially converted fish oil did not meet the universally recognized American Society of Testing Material (ASTM) biodiesel standard of quality.

The ASTM standard exists to ensure the highest quality of biodiesel fuel is available for consumers and its trouble free use in transportation. The Canadian Renewable Fuels Association does not recommend or support blending any biofuel which does not meet the very specific standard of ASTM D6751. Biodiesel can be produced from fish oil but it must be manufactured to meet ASTM standards. Meeting the ASTM specification is the only guarantee of a reliable and efficient fuel.

Quality for biodiesel is going to be a big focus with the industry this coming year. That was made very clear at the just completed National Biodiesel Conference in San Diego.

Biodiesel, International

Environmentally Friendly Shredding

Cindy Zimmerman

Ecoshred
A Michigan-based paper shredding company has begun using biodiesel fuel in its mobile shredding trucks. Secure Eco Shred, which carries the motto “Protecting Your Business and the Environment” destroys documents on site and carries them off in shreds to be recycled. According to recycling news sources,“Biodiesel is a proven alternative to petroleum-based diesel fuel,” said Steve Kalapos, president of Secure Eco Shred. “It is safe, biodegradable and reduces toxic pollutants such as soot, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and other air toxins. Blends of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel can be used in unmodified diesel engines, and its high lubricity helps the engine run smoother, quieter and more efficiently, Kalapos said.

Biodiesel

Is Ethanol Driving Corn and Sugar Prices?

Cindy Zimmerman

With all the buzz about ethanol, some market watchers are predicting an increase in corn futures, while sugar futures are high and expected to go even higher, or maybe not. Market Watch Commodities Corner quotes CKFutures.com analyst Chris Kraft saying, “Corn futures have the potential to explode higher due to increased demand from ethanol production.” Demand for the alternative fuel has already helped sugar prices double in the past six months to trade over 19 cents per pound on the New York Board of Trade — their highest levels since 1981. Corn has a long way to catch up. March corn trades around $2.25 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade, a five-month high. High sugar futures caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal this week as well, an article which was critiqued by Elliot Wave International’s Futures Focus. Sugar has tripled in value during the past two years. Prices have doubled in the past five months. They jumped 20% in just three sessions in mid-January. In short, sugar has been rallying. Just in time to explain the move, Thursday’s (Feb. 9) Wall Street Journal includes an in-depth look at this soft market that seeks to explain “Why Sugar Costs More And More.” At the top of their list: Ethanol. … Yet ironically, on the same day that the Journal finally devoted a thorough news story to sugar’s surge, prices for the soft saw their biggest single-session decline in months.
Bottom line – who really knows?

Ethanol

BioWillie On the Road in CA

Cindy Zimmerman

Willie Willie Nelson outshone the other stars at the National Biodiesel Conference in San Diego this week, creating somewhat of an odd media sensation for a city so close to Hollywood. Biodiesel conference blogger Chuck Zimmerman said it was a media circus when Nelson, his wife Annie, and several hundred conference attendees went to Pearson Ford Fuel Depot in San Diego to celebrate the opening of California’s first fulltime “BioWillie” B20 retail outlet. Chuck describes Pearson’s as a “fuel supermarket” offering just about every type of alternative fuel available in one spot. Pearsons Could be the fueling station of the future. With the addition of California, BioWillie is now sold in four states – including Texas, South Carolina and Georgia.
Prior to the Pearson event, Willie wowed the crowd all morning at the Biodiesel Conference – receiving the Eye on Biodiesel Award and participating in a live XM Satellite Radio broadcast hosted by Bill Mack, The Satellite Cowboy. Check out all of Willie’s activities at the conference – with audio, video and photos – on the Biodiesel Conference Blog.

Biodiesel

ADM Committed to Co-Gen

Cindy Zimmerman

ADMExpect the a lot more plants like this one to be built to lessen the ethanol industry’s dependence on natural gas. Archer Daniels Midland has announced its fourth coal-fired co-generation (Co-Gen) plant in Columbus, Nebraska to help power its corn milling and ethanol operations. According to the company release, the plant will be permitted to burn a blend of fuels, including high and low sulfur coals, tire derived fuel and biomass to produce process steam and electric energy. The addition of this Co-Gen plant will help lower ADM’s overall energy costs and lessen its vulnerability to energy market price fluctuations. Co-generation reduces the amount of fuel burned per unit of energy output, and reduces the corresponding emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases. ADM currently operates similar Co-Gen facilities in Decatur, Illinois and Cedar Rapids, Iowa and has another under construction in Clinton, Iowa.

Ethanol