Today is St. Patrick’s Day – tomorrow is St. Diesel’s Day. Well, he hasn’t actually been canonized yet – at least not by the Pope, but maybe by the Biodiesel industry. March 18 is the fifth annual National Biodiesel Day, celebrated on the birthday of Rudolf Diesel – inventor of the diesel engine. According to a press release from the National Biodiesel Board, they chose Diesel’s birthday to honor him for his foresight in recognizing the valuable role of vegetable-oil-based fuel. In the late 19th Century, Diesel ran early versions of his engine on peanut oil and paved the path for today’s biodiesel. Biodiesel is now made from soybean oil, as well as other vegetable oils and fats.
I have been meaning to put up a link to this AP story that came out a week or so ago about Brazil’s ethanol economy. It’s a good backgrounder on the history of the industry in Brazil and of particular interest to some critics of the government trying to help the industry grow here in the U.S. is this line – After decades of government intervention and subsidies, the industry here is a thriving free market business, complete with ethanol pumps at every filling station in Latin America’s largest country. Just thought that was interesting.
Add cheese to the list of commodities that could be used to make ethanol. This AP story is about research into “using a cheese-making byproduct to make ethanol.” That would be whey – as in what Little Miss Muffet ate on her tuffet with curds. According to the article, whey can be made into lactose sugar, which can then be made into ethanol. Whey recycling has been used as a protein supplement in low-carb foods for decades, said Mark Bade, operator of the whey recycling process and waste management facility at Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese in Rudolph. The state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is hawking the potential for whey sugar to be refined and used in ethanol. “Ethanol is hot,” the department’s Robin Engel said. Engel says they are thinking Wisconsin could have three refineries that would produce between 4 million and 7 million gallons of ethanol a year. The state is investing some $5 million in alternative energy research.
The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee had lots of good things to say about ethanol yesterday at the kickoff luncheon for National Ag Day in Washington D.C. Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, said that ethanol production holds promise even in areas outside the Corn Belt. “We may not be able to grow the corn in the abundance that folks do in the Midwest, but we’ve got other crops that we can grow,” Chambliss said. “Switchgrass is one that’s being talked about now that’s a real opportunity for us. Sugar cane in Louisiana, sugar cane in South Florida, can be grown in abundance.” Chambliss also promised that alternative energy will be a major focus in the upcoming 2007 Farm Bill. Listen to Chambliss’ remarks about alternative energy here.
Biodiesel and soybean grower interests were happy to see legislation introduced this week that would extend the biodiesel tax incentive. According to a release from the National Biodiesel Board and the American Soybean Association, the bill was introduced yesterday by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Max Baucus (D-MT). The Grassley/Baucus bill, S. 2401, extends popular alternative energy tax incentives, such as the biodiesel excise and income tax incentive for biodiesel and biodiesel blends. It also gives a one-year extension until 2010 to a tax credit for the cost of installing pumps that offer a 20 percent blend of biodiesel (B20). Darryl Brinkmann, chairman of NBB and a soybean producer from Carlyle, Ill., said that biodiesel and soybean leaders have already seen the results of the biodiesel tax incentive. Last year, U.S. biodiesel production tripled to 75 million gallons. “Passage of the tax incentive gave the biodiesel industry the confidence to grow as we work to keep up with the skyrocketing demand for biodiesel,” Brinkmann said. “Consumers across the nation have benefited because the biodiesel tax incentive has helped make biodiesel more cost competitive.”
Aventine Renewable Energy recently signed an agreement with its 14th ethanol production plant to market their product. According to a company release, Aventine will market all fuel grade ethanol produced by E3 BioFuels in Mead, Nebraska. Aventine also has agreements with plants in Wisconsin, Illinois, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Texas.
Hankinson, ND is the designated location for a 100 million gallon per year ethanol plant to be built by South Dakota-based US BioEnergy, in partnership with local Gold Energy, LLC. A company press release (soon to be posted on their website), quotes North Dakota Governor John Hoeven saying, “We have put good programs in place and worked diligently with the Gold Energy Board and US BioEnergy to develop this plant in North Dakota. It will have a big impact on Hankinson and southeastern part of our state, both in more revenues for our farmers and good jobs in rural North Dakota.” Here’s a link to a story in the Grand Forks Herald about the plant. Hankinson is in Richland County, in North Dakota’s southeastern corner, about 10 miles north of the South Dakota border. Richland County is North Dakota’s biggest corn producer, with its farmers harvesting 28.5 million bushels last year, or 18 percent of the state’s 2005 crop of 154.8 million bushels. The plant is expected to use 37 million bushels of corn each year.
Here is the final post from the I-CARE Cross Country E85 Trip last week. The students who took part in the last half of the journey were Brad Westrum, Pat Lennon, Nate Marean – the post is written by Brad.
The end of the road…. Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11. After uncovering our truck from the snow, we took off around 7:15 from Cedar City, Utah and continued to head south hoping for some warmer weather. The roads started to clear after about 45 miles, and we were on our way to Nevada and California. Leaving the great state of Utah, we passed through Arizona for about 15 miles, just snipping the North West corner of the state. Knowing that this was going to be a big day, we knew we had to break it up a little bit. So we stopped at Zion National Park, which is on the edge of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona and is really close to the Grand Canyon. We stopped to take pictures of the truly inspiring scenery and took deep breaths of the clean, crisp mountain air.
After making our way into Nevada, we stopped in Las Vegas to drive down the strip. After making a nice loop down and back we stopped to eat – where else but the Hooters Hotel and Casino! None of us are old enough to gamble so we had to be sure to stay off the carpet. When in Nevada, you also have to make a stop at the marvel called the Hoover Dam.
Now for the sad part. We had no trouble finding our refueling stop in Las Vegas. Huey’s Mart # 1 was right where our computer program said it would be. We were a little concerned that we didn’t see an E-85 sign promoting Ethanol and we soon found out why. THERE WAS NO E-85 AT Huey’s Mart! They had run out of E-85 about 10 days before we got there and they weren’t able to get a shipment until March 16. There are two other stations in the Vegas area that carry E-85 but they are all owned by Huey so they were ALL out. We handed them a pamphlet for Verasun, one of our major trip sponsors who could probably help them with their supply problems. Later after arriving home we would find out from Verasun that Huey’s had indeed already contacted them and inquired about supply. The owner of the Huey’s chain of stations (Huey?) said that as soon as they got some more E-85 in it would be gone as they have over 100,000 flex-fuel vehicles in their area. If we remember right there are only 93,000 in all of Iowa. Shall we stay another week until they get re-supplied, or utilize our flexibility and fuel up with the dreaded fossil fuel? Mr. Richardson’s credit card was almost maxed out so in went the non-renewable, air polluting, highly subsidized, highly addictive REGULAR GASOLINE! We consoled ourselves with the fact that our trip plans were viable (3 stations- all temporarily out of E-85 due to high demand and supply problems that were out of our control) and that on almost any other week we would have filled up as scheduled and been on our way. THIS IS WHY WE DRIVE FLEX-FUEL VEHICLES !
After seeing the sights we decided to go on to L.A. for the night so that we could have some time in the big city to see sights that most of us had only seen on TV. We got to Ontario, California which is a suburb of L.A. at about 9:00 pm and there we stayed the night.
Waking up around 7:00 am, we got ready, ate breakfast, and then loaded the truck. We drove around seeing all the sites like Hollywood Blvd., where we saw the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Kodak Theatre, and many stores that sold a lot of junk!!! We drove around attempting to see the big celebrities houses, which turned out to be almost a total waste of time. We drove down the beach and stopped on the beach to eat, where we also watched the Iowa Hawkeyes win. After the meal, we had to hurry to the airport to catch our flight. We dropped off the car, got through security and caught our flight. We got back to Fort Dodge around 3 in the morning. Let’s just say that as rewarding and great as this trip was, we were all ready for a good night’s rest!
Goodnight! Bradley Westrum
Here is a final footnote from trip organizer Jim Richardson, Ag Coordinator, Iowa Central Community College.
We definitely can say that we “Saw the USA in our Flex-fuel Chevrolet” Thanks to all our sponsors: Chevrolet & GM NCR, GM R*Works, Chicago Area Clean Cities Coalition, Iowa Farm Bureau, the American Lung Association, Iowa Renewable Fuels, Karl Chevrolet, Verasun Energy, FC Coop, Star Energy, Casady Bros. Implement, Wells Fargo of Ft. Dodge, and W&H Coop. Thanks to everyone who helped along the way from Senators Grassley and Burns, Bob Dineen, Gilbert at Joe’s Junction, Iowa Senator Beall, Jessica Zoph @ Iowa Lung, Laurie Groves @ Farm Bureau, Terry Seehuisen @ our Local FB’s, Kellie Walsh at Central Indiana Clean Cities, Erika Wiggins @ Ohio Clean Cities, Mark Picker @ GM, the Illinois Corn Growers, Jim Kersten @ Iowa Central, and especially Doug Dittrich and his staff at GM who really helped pull this all together. And thanks to everyone who I may have left out but please excuse me as I’m still experiencing jet lag.
Editor’s note: An explanation for some of our YOUNGER readers might be in order for the Dinah Shore star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Check out this website, to see and hear clips and pics from The Dinah Shore Chevy Show which ran on NBC from 1956 until 1963 – with the theme song “See the USA in Your Chevrolet.” I’m thinking it was Jim who came up with that connection, not the youngsters who are not old enough to gamble!!!
Apparently the ethanol industry is not doing as well in Australia as it is here in the U.S., according to this story from the ABC Rural Network. (That’s ABC as in AUSTRALIAN Broadcast Company) The reason is that major oil companies have yet to sign contracts to meet future target production goals and officials with the Australian Biofuels Association are concerned. That group is apparently having trouble with their website as well – at least at the time of this post – but I provided the link anyway assuming it will be corrected at some point.
Just a note about the ABC in Australia – I had the pleasure of meeting one of their reporters last year when I attended the International Federation of Ag Journalists (IFAJ) meeting in Switzerland. Her name is Alice Plate and it was very interesting hearing about the support that farm radio has in Australia – much more so than here in the US of A. In fact, the network’s flagship program, the Country Hour, is officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records, as being Australia’s longest running radio program, celebrating 60 years of Rural broadcasting in 2005. Read all about it’s history here.
Some folks building an ethanol plant in Ohio got a lesson in media relations this week in a big way. This is basic PR 101 – don’t invite the media to a meeting and then tell them they can’t record or take notes – and then tell them to leave if they don’t like it. That’s what Harrison Ethanol did last week – and then had to humbly offer an apology to the media this week, according to this article from the Times-Leader. The apology was appropriately contrite, “The support of the community and the media has been and continues to be critical to the success of the Harrison Ethanol project. We regret that several years of building relationships with the people of Harrison County and the media serving them may have been jeopardized. We sincerely apologize to the media representatives who attended the event.”
This company also has no website, even though they just broke ground on a plant that is expected to create 107 on-site jobs and 60 contract jobs will have a $7.2 million payroll and is expected to pump $85 million in annual cash flow to the region, according to this Renewable Energy Access story. According to another story I found from the Times Reporter, Harrison Ethanol LLC is an Ohio-based company composed of Ohio farmers and business owners… The proposed corn-based biorefinery facility is designed to produce 20 million gallons of fuel grade ethanol annually, human foods and animal feeds. Harrison Ethanol will consume nine million bushels of corn from area farmers and a significant portion through Coshocton Grain Co. by railroad transport. But, no website. And the domain name of harrisonethanol.com appears to be free.