Members of the Missouri Corn Growers Association were tickled pink on Valentine’s Day when the Missouri House Agriculture Policy Committee unanimously approved legislation to establish a statewide renewable fuel standard. The bill requires nearly all gasoline sold in the state contain 10 percent ethanol starting Jan. 1, 2008. The “nearly all” means that the legislation includes exemptions for motorboats, antique vehicles and aviation fuel have been included, as well as compromise language to address supply concerns of small and independent petroleum marketers. MCGA is pleased with the House Ag Committee action, but note this is just the very first step in passage of the bill. It will now be referred to the Rules Committee for review and placement on the House calendar.
Here’s a summary of three recent stories about domestic plants in the news.
Clymers, IN – The Andersons, Inc. has gotten its air permit approval for a 110-million gallon facility in north-central Indiana due to be completed in early 2007. The plant would be the largest east of the Mississippi. (full story)
Bismark, ND – According to an Associated Press article in the Grand Forks Herald, there is some question as to whether plans for an ethanol plant in northwestern North Dakota are still on or not. State and local officials say no, Vancouver, Wash.-based Makad Corp. says yes they are. (full story) By the way, I provided a link to Makad, but the website appears to not have been updated for a couple of years.
St. Joseph, MO – ICM and LifeLine Foods have announced plans to build a 40 million gallon ethanol plant with a research and development lab in northwest Missouri. (full story) The story link is to an article from the Wichita Eagle – neither of the company websites have information about this project on them.
The Renewable Fuels Association has launched its version of a blog to cover next week’s National Ethanol Conference in Las Vegas, according to a news release. With response to this year’s National Ethanol Conference so overwhelming, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) today launched the National Ethanol Conference blog to keep those unable to attend up-to-date with conference happenings. The blog, available at www.ethanolrfa.org/industry/conference/blog, will feature news updates from RFA staff, commentary from conference attendees, photos from the event, audio, and more.
Now, blog connoisseurs tend to be a bit snobbish when it comes to the medium they are essentially creating out of web air. I am neither a connoisseur, nor a blog snob, so I won’t be critical about RFA’s first forray into the blogosphere. Let’s just say it’s hard to know the rules when the book is still being written.
I will simply applaud this effort and you can be certain that since I am unable to attend the conference next week due to other commitments I will indeed be checking out the site and referring to it. I think RFA’s communications man Matt Hartwig has been doing a great job sending out regular news releases, as well as providing links to audio on the website. As a radio broadcaster, I think that’s great (although, as I have told Matt, he needs to work on getting Mr. Dineen to be a bit more conversational in his sound bites.)
The blog effort is very admirable and I look forward to keeping an eye on it next week.
Incidentally, if you are planning to attend this conference, you better be registered already because, according to the conference website – in bold, red letters – Due to the overwhelming response to this year’s conference, registration is now officially CLOSED. WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ACCOMMODATE ON-SITE REGISTRATION.
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.
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.
Any 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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.