Wham-EBAMM, Thank You, M’am

Cindy Zimmerman

The model used in the ethanol study out this week from UC Berkeley has a nice catchy anacronym (of course) EBAMM – which stands for Energy and Resources Group Biofuels Meta Model which is available to the public on the UC Berkeley website, which is the same link provided in our previous post about the study. I like the Science Daily release on the study and some of the quotes from the researchers Dan Kammen and Alex Farrell of the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley. “It is better to use various inputs to grow corn and make ethanol and use that in your cars than it is to use the gasoline and fossil fuels directly,” Kamman said in the release. “The people who are saying ethanol is bad are just plain wrong,” he said. “But it isn’t a huge victory – you wouldn’t go out and rebuild our economy around corn-based ethanol.”
The transition would be worth it, the authors point out, if the ethanol is produced not from corn but from woody, fibrous plants: cellulose.
“Ethanol can be, if it’s made the right way with cellulosic technology, a really good fuel for the United States,” said Farrell, an assistant professor of energy and resources. “At the moment, cellulosic technology is just too expensive. If that changes – and the technology is developing rapidly – then we might see cellulosic technology enter the commercial market within five years.”

Yep – that’s what we’ve been saying here on this blog. Corn is just a start. God bless the farmers for getting this ball rolling, but in the future the fuel will more than likely come from other sources.
The picture, from the release, was taken at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which became the first ethanol dispensing station in Northern California in July 2004.

Ethanol, Research

Alternative Fuels Could Make Government Bigger

Cindy Zimmerman

The answer to everything in Washington DC is to create more government – so if we want to make ourselves less dependent on foreign oil, all we need is a new government agency. The Democratic leadership in the Senate – Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) and Harry Reid (NV) – is proposing a new agency within the Department of Energy to fund innovative energy research and development projects, according to a news release from Hillary’s office. The Clinton/Reid legislation is called the Advanced Research Projects Energy Act, which gives it the requisite catchy anacronym, ARPA-E. It would authorize a total of $9 billion of funding for fiscal years 2007-20011. Clinton held a press conference to talk about the legislation and the Democratic plan for energy independence Friday at Seattle Biodiesel during a fundraising trip through Washington state for herself and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

Biodiesel, Ethanol, Legislation

Escape to E85

Cindy Zimmerman

The world’s first flex-fuel hybrid vehicle was introduced this week by Ford Motor Company at the Washington Auto Show. The Ford Escape Hybrid E85 is a research vehicle combining two petroleum-saving technologies – hybrid electric power and flexible-fuel capability, according to the company’s news release. Ford officials boast that they have put more than 1.5 million flex-fuel vehicles on America’s roads in the last decade, and our experience with ethanol-fueled vehicles goes all the way back to the days of Henry Ford. The Ford Escape Hybrid E85 research project will aim for breakthroughs that could further expand the appeal of ethanol-capable vehicles.

Ethanol, Flex Fuel Vehicles

Are Oil Companies Discouraging E85 Sales?

Cindy Zimmerman

This just in …
The Associated Press just put a story on the wire that Illinois officials are asking for an investigation into whether oil companies are keeping gas stations from offering ethanol-based E-85 fuel. The push for the inquiry is coming from U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The Democratic governor is asking the Federal Trade Commission to look into why very few of the state’s 100 E85 fueling stations are located in the most populous county – that would be Cook, the home of Chicago. The AP story reports that his letter requests action on “potentially illegal policies by major petroleum companies that discourage the sale of biofuels.”
Meanwhile, Senator Obama is getting together with Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) to ask the GAO to look into the issue. Obama’s office has reportedly obtained “an internal memorandum from a major petroleum company” that says gas station franchise owners are prohibited from selling non brand name renewable fuels like E85 and B20 from fuel islands or underneath canopies bearing the oil company’s name or logo. The memo also said that any alternative location of fuel pumps dispensing alternative fuels must be approved. Read the press release from Obama’s office here.

Ethanol, Government

Wisconsin Ethanol On the Air

Cindy Zimmerman

Wisc The Wisconsin Ethanol Coalition is gaining support from such diverse groups as the United Auto Workers, the Sierra Club and Wisconsin Southern Railroad for the “ethanol bill” currently being considered by the Wisconsin general assembly that would require all gasoline sold in the state to contain 10 percent ethanol. Now the coalition has also launched a statewide radio campaign to encourage the public to write their lawmakers in support of the bill. I am not entirely clear about which spots they will be airing, since the press release says it’s a 60 second spot, but I could only find two :30 commercials posted on their website. They do promote the ethanol bill – and here is a link to one of them, called Backyard. I pulled this one off the site and converted it to an MP3 file, since the ones on the site are WAV files and they take awhile to download. There is also a TV spot on the website.

Ethanol, Legislation

Domestic Fuel Takes Off

Cindy Zimmerman

EPIC EPIC Up until today, we had done no promotion of this blog, despite the fact that one of the services offered by our parent company ZimmComm is news releases. We wanted to first create a quality product with good content to provide information for both domestic fuel industry members and consumers. Now that we have our first sponsor – the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council – it’s time to make us official, so the news release has been sent out. Our readership has already been growing by word of mouth and that will only continue as alternative fuels get more attention. We really appreciate our loyal readers and we welcome those of you who may be visiting for the first time. Our sincere thanks to EPIC for being the charter sponsor of this blog. EPIC Executive Director Tom Slunecka said, “We’re looking for creative new platforms to communicate our message directly to the public. ZimmComm’s pioneering efforts to use new media tools like blogging fits our strategy perfectly.” This is definitely a PRO-Alternative Fuels forum – but one in which we hope to answer questions and concerns as well as promote this exciting new industry. We believe the potential for ethanol and biodiesel to help reduce our country’s dependence on foreign sources of oil is huge.
ZimmComm is a new media communications company that specializes in agribusiness. Besides this blog, we also have three other company O&O blogs – AgWired, World Dairy Diary and Ag News Wire.

EPIC, Miscellaneous

We Will Sell No Fuel Until It’s Time

Cindy Zimmerman

Australia Wine Stories like this really make my day. According to an article in the Courier-Mail, a Queensland Australia newspaper, Australian wine makers are thinking about turning some of their wine into ethanol because a worldwide glut of wine is forcing prices down and Australian grape growers need alternative markets . Apparently, the French did this last year with about 100 million liters of wine for the same reason. The wine maker quoted in the article talks about putting in a distillery which he claims could be productive all year, processing wine into ethanol for use in brandy, muscat, ports and sherries as well as for production of ethanol for fuel.
The cute little image I found to go with this story is from Australian Wine Online. It’s the logo for the Vision 2025 initiative. The vision is that by the Year 2025 the Australian wine industry will achieve $4.5 billion in annual sales by being the world’s most influential and profitable supplier of branded wines, pioneering wine as a universal first choice lifestyle beverage. Maybe making it into ethanol will help achieve that goal.

Ethanol, Miscellaneous

New Study Supports Ethanol Claims

Cindy Zimmerman

Science A new study finds that producing ethanol is energy efficient after all. The study, by professors at University of California-Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group and the Goldman School of Public Policy, will be published in the January 27 edition of Science, according to a news release. This journal is a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, so one would hope it will help put some of the arguments about ethanol to rest. The study examined six previous studies and concluded that corn ethanol reduces petroleum use by about 95 percent per gallon of fuel, but only reduces greenhouse gases by about 13 percent. Improved agricultural practices and ethanol made from plants other than corn could boost ethanol’s environmental performance. Of course, that is exactly what the ethanol industry has been saying all along, so it is not real likely that it will appease the detractors. However, like it or not, all indications are that ethanol and other domestic, alternative, renewable, biofuels … whatever you want to call them … are definitely here to stay and are getting the recognition and support they need to grow and help make this country less and less dependent on foreign sources of energy. More information on the report is available here. The Renewable Fuels Association also sent out a press release about the report with comments from President Bob Dinneen who, needless to say, is absolutely thrilled with it.

Ethanol, Research

Fresh Fuel From Florida Farms

Cindy Zimmerman

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is really getting serious about making the Sunshine State a leader in domestic fuel production. Earlier this month, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson held a meeting in Tallahassee with more than 50 agricultural producers, researchers and those already in the business of producing commercial fuel-grade ethanol and bio-diesel crops. (see previous post) As a result, Charlie got pretty fired up and will be working with Governor Bush and the Florida Legislature, Florida’s Congressional Delegation, and colleagues from other states to develop and implement strategies to assist farmers and producers of bio-fuels in Florida, according to the FDACS website. Check out the Farm to Fuel page on the website – lots of pretty powerpoint presentations there.

Ethanol, Government

Ethanol Makes Fortune

Cindy Zimmerman

Fortune Mag How to Beat the High Cost of Gasoline. Forever! – from the current issue of Fortune magazine is the most comprehensive and well-written article about ethanol that I have ever read. My sincere thanks to Fortune reporter Adam Lashinsky for sending it to me. Great job, Adam! It is extremely well-researched and balanced, addressing many of the concerns and criticism about ethanol while at the same time conveying significant enthusiasm for the future of the industry.

Here are just a few choice excerpts:

Instead of coming exclusively from corn or sugar cane as it has up to now, thanks to biotech breakthroughs, the fuel can be made out of everything from prairie switchgrass and wood chips to corn husks and other agricultural waste. This biomass-derived fuel is known as cellulosic ethanol. Whatever the source, burning ethanol instead of gasoline reduces carbon emissions by more than 80% while eliminating entirely the release of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide. Even the cautious Department of Energy predicts that ethanol could put a 30% dent in America’s gasoline consumption by 2030.….

It takes about 30% more ethanol than gasoline to drive a mile, and the stuff is more corrosive, but building a car that’s E85-ready adds only about $200 to the cost. Ethanol has already transformed one major economy: In Brazil nearly three-quarters of new cars can burn either ethanol or gasoline, whichever happens to be cheaper at the pump, and the nation has weaned itself off imported oil.….

ADM aims to be a big player in what Andreas calls the shift “from hydrocarbons to carbohydrates.” But for now it’s ignoring E85 and cellulosic ethanol in favor of keeping pace with demand that is already booming. Corn ethanol’s main use is as an additive that helps gasoline burn more efficiently. ADM sells nearly its entire output to oil companies, which use ethanol as a substitute for MTBE, a petroleum-based additive that is toxic and is now banned in California and 24 other states. With two billion gallons of MTBE still in use annually and 25 states that have yet to ban it, the ethanol industry could grow 50% simply by replacing MTBE.….

With Brazilian ethanol selling for 45% less per liter than gasoline in 2003 and 2004, flex-fuel cars caught on like iPods. In 2003, flex-fuel had 6% of the market for Brazilian-made cars, and automakers were expecting the technology’s share to zoom to 30% in 2005. That proved wildly conservative: As of last December, 73% of cars sold in Brazil came with flex-fuel engines. There are now 1.3 million flex-fuel cars on the road.….

No one, not even a professionally optimistic VC, thinks we’re anywhere near getting rid of gasoline. The oil superstructure is simply too efficient and too entrenched to just go away. Nor could corn ethanol generate enough fuel to run America’s cars, pickups, and SUVs. Already ethanol gobbles up 14% of the country’s corn production. Converting a bigger share into fuel would pinch the world’s food supply–a favorite objection of skeptics. Critics also contend that producing fuel from crops consumes more energy than it yields. On this topic of endless Internet bickering, the Energy Department recently reported, “In terms of key energy and environmental benefits, cornstarch ethanol comes out clearly ahead of petroleum-based fuels, and tomorrow’s cellulosic-based ethanol would do even better.”….

Okay – that should be enough to get you hooked – now go read the whole article…. NOW!