With the new year, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has taken over the leadership of the Governor’s Ethanol Coalition. Sebelius, who is a Democrat, succeeds Republican Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota as chairman of the bipartisan coalition of 32 state governors working to promote and expand ethanol production. Vice chairman of the coalition for 2006 is Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican. Sebelius and Heineman this week wrote letters to the U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy asking them to participate in a study on how best to expand the nation’s biofuels industry. According to a press release from Sebelius’ office, the Kansas governor said “the coalition will continue to promote expanding ethanol production from a wider range of feedstocks, including cellulose sources, and that they will work with Congress to provide adequate funding for the federal government’s biofuels research, which was included in last year’s energy bill.”
Fresno, California-based Pacific Ethanol is reporting “significant progress” in 2005, according to a press release on its annual stockholders meeting held the last business day of the year. The company, which was established in 2003, has the goal of becoming “the leader in the development, production and marketing of renewable fuels in the Western United States.” Pacific Ethanol currently has plans for five ethanol plants on the west coast and is also working “to identify and develop other renewable fuel technologies such as cellulose-based ethanol production and bio-diesel.” The company is publicly traded on NASDAQ, trading at around 11.00 per share when I checked it. Click on the NASDAQ link for the current company snapshot.
East is meeting midwest when it comes to domestic fuels. First it was North Carolina getting into the ethanol business, now it’s Maryland going biodiesel. Actually, there are already biodiesel refineries operating in Virginia and New York, but it’s safe to say that biofuels production has largely been a midwest phenomenon, since that’s where most of the corn and soybeans are grown. But, as the demand for alternative fuels grows, we are going to see more plants popping up in more populated areas. And those nice incentives for production included in the energy bill don’t hurt either.
There are actually two companies looking into building biodiesel plants in Maryland, which ranks about 18th nationwide in soybean production. One is a corporation called OffWorldWealth. This very diversified company is located in Columbia, MD – which is not known for much except being about halfway between Baltimore and DC – and being the birthplace of our oldest daughter! OWW started in 2001 as a research group exploring possible business opportunities in space. Now OWW is into all kinds of things, including biofuels. Interesting.
Here are links to a couple of good ethanol stories I found today during my usual Google news search.
First, here’s a Ganntt News Service story on how Brazil is far ahead of the United States when it comes to ethanol. Thought it was interesting that both Brazil and the US produce the same amount of ethanol – four billion gallons – but Brazil uses ethanol for 40 percent of its driving fuel, compared to only five percent in the US. Most of Brazil’s ethanol is made from sugarcane.
Closely related to that story is a Reuters News Service report that low ethanol fuel prices in Brazil are driving sales of flex-fuel vehicles. According to the report, The cost of ethanol fuel, which is distilled from sugar cane, is about 60 percent the cost of gasoline at the pump in Brazil. Although the flex-fuel motors can run on any combination of the two fuels, cost-conscious Brazilian motorists tend to fill their tanks with 100 percent ethanol.
And back here at home an Associated Press story out of Wisconsin reports that the rapid increase in ethanol plants being built in this country is creating a boom for companies that manufacture the equipment needed for refineries. With more than 30 plants under construction and at least ten more being expanded, the ethanol plant building business is at an all-time high, which is good news for the companies that make ethanol tanks and such.
It’s the end of the year and although I don’t have a “year in review” to offer I do have some statistics, reflections and ideas to share. Statistics as in traffic to the ZimmComm blogs. I’ll update this post if there’s a big change in the numbers by midnight (that is if I remember). ZimmComm is the publisher of DomesticFuel and also publishes other blog sites.
AgWired got it’s “official” start on March 15. In 9 1/2 months we’ve had 16,000 unique visitors who have visited a total of 51,000 times. I like the fact that we’ve had 1,000,000 hits. That’s a million folks! Page views is right at 750,000. I’m happy with this. Talk about WOMA. We’ve only promoted this site to about 1,300 people. Somebody is telling somebody else about it. A very tiny percentage of our visitors come from a search engine. Most type it directly into their browser or are using a bookmark.
This fall we started 2 more farm news blogs. World Dairy Diary was kicked off in August in advance of World Diary Expo. To date it’s had 7,000 unique visitors that have visited a total of 15,000 times. Our latest blog is DomesticFuel. We haven’t really promoted it yet but it’s already had 1,500 unique visitors who have visited 7,000 times. We’ll see a lot of growth in 2006 on these sites as we begin to develop and promote them more with the addition of new sponsors!
ZimmComm was started with the idea that it would be a “traditional” advertising agency. That was in March of 2004. Very quickly it was obvious that our talents could be put to use by our prospective clients in some non-traditional ways. For example, as former farm broadcasters, Cindy and I created Talking News Releases, a service that targets broadcast reporters and includes pre-recorded audio. We developed a list of farm and non-farm reporters to push these releases out to. This led to conducting audio production work for clients which is used on-air and online. The evolution of this service is now AgNewsWire. Besides distributing news releases to reporters we’re now posting them directly in front of farmers via website content managed by Quickfarm. This is “unfiltered” content that the farmer gets to read, interpret or just ignore. His/her choice.
I quickly realized that I don’t speak html and do not like designing and managing traditional web pages. At Steve’s suggestion I started a blog site. Once I realized what you can do with a blog I started preaching the power of the blogosphere and we now create blogs for clients and manage several of our own. I look at these blogs as online publications that contain media rich content (audio, video, pictures and perspective). This led to podcasting and the ZimmCast was born. We now produce client podcasts and expect to see this portion of our business explode in 2006. As I like to say, “create your own media.” Let your customers and members get what they want when they want it and wherever they want.
So I guess you have to say that we’re a “new media” company. We want to help our clients deliver their message directly to the people they want to reach in as efficient and cost-effective a way as possible. As my friends at Learfield are realizing, it’s time to get on the Long Tail.
Blogging: Think about it. How are you personally communicating with your members or customers now? Are you? Do you email some and snail mail others? Why not let them see inside your company or organization? Maybe it’s your CEO or maybe its a technician. Somebody on the staff probably has a blogger inside. Just don’t think that you can have the PR department ghost write for someone else. It will probably backfire. People want honesty and transparency. That’s what makes you credible. This new look inside will really set you apart from your competition. If you’re not sure who on staff can do this you might want to find out who already has a personal blog. You might be surprised.
Podcasting: The video iPod is here and the walls of traditional media are tumbling down. Even if you don’t think you’re a broadcaster you can hire a company like ZimmComm to create your own radio or tv show. You control the content. Your customers can subscribe to it (opt-in) and watch or listen to it whenever and wherever they want. That can be on their computer or on their portable digital media player. I can even do it on my mobile phone!
RSS: I’m not going to try to explain this. For a reasonable fee though . . . Actually I just want you to think of “feeds.” It’s the future, my friends. New browser software will have this built in. You can create custom search engine pages now that handle this for you. By this, I mean subscribing to feeds of information. This can be information that you produce like a newsletter. It can be audio or video which makes it podcasting. It can be any kind of content that you want to syndicate to your customers. They’re looking for it. Why not make it easy for them to get it. The best part is that it’s not email. You’ll probably see it showing up on websites using this icon:
That’s it. I’m done for 2005. I hope ZimmComm has helped you in your business in one way or another. We’re very excited about 2006. The new media business is just starting to heat up in agriculture. We’re proud to be a part of it and will see you onsite or online in the new year.
Two of the top ten news stories of 2005, according to the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), were related to energy and domestic fuel. Farm broadcasters voted high energy costs as the top news story of the year, and passage of the Energy Bill number four.
4. Congress passes comprehensive energy bill with Renewable Fuels Standard . After years of unsuccessful efforts, Congress finally passed an energy bill in July that included a 7.5-billion gallon Renewable Fuels Standard, or RFS, to be implemented in stages between 2006 and 2012. The inclusion of the RFS was a major victory for the U.S. ethanol industry. But, ironically, high energy costs have driven ethanol demand more than prospects of a government mandate.
Here’s the full list:
NAFB’s Top-10 Stories of the Year for 2005:
1. Energy costs spike and squeeze producer profitability.
2. Hurricane Katrina devastates Southern agriculture and snarls the U.S grain transportation system.
3. U.S. Supreme Court finds checkoffs constitutional.
4. Congress passes comprehensive energy bill with Renewable Fuels Standard.
5. Japan re-opens market to U.S beef.
6. Asian Soybean Rust has no impact on U.S. soybean production in 2005.
7. U.S. Senate Confirms Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
8. U.S. re-opens border to Canadian live cattle.
9. U.S Ag Secretary Mike Johanns holds dozens of farm bill listening sessions in partnership with NAFB.
10. U.S. corn crop is second largest ever as Midwest drought is less severe than thought.
A Florida-based domestic fuel company is causing some citrus producers to consider switching to corn. US EnviroFuels of Tampa recently announced plans to build Florida’s very first ethanol plants, one at Port Manatee and a second at the Port of Tampa. Both plants are projected to be 40 million gallon per year facilities. According to the company website, they want to “help Florida reduce its heavy dependence on imported gasoline by building a Florida-based renewable fuel industry,” and to “enhance the Florida economy through utilization of a variety of local, Florida feedstocks, including sugar-based streams, citrus pulp waste, green tomato discards, beverage waste, and urban yard waste, thereby minimizing commodity risk exposure.” While corn production in that part of the country is virtually non-existent, except for sweet corn, it is a major citrus producing area. However, the Florida citrus industry is facing some potentially devestating problems right now with fears that citrus canker may be out of control in the state. Another disease, citrus greening, is also putting pressure on growers. Combine that with recent hurricanes and some growers are thinking about growing corn instead , according to an article today in the Bradenton Herald. That would be interesting. Florida is certainly capable of growing corn for ethanol, but things like citrus and vegetables are higher value crops.
Just a note about the company – I had to do some pretty serious searching to find the website, not sure why. Maybe they just don’t have it registered with the search engines yet. I also think the logo is kind of ….well, crude-looking I guess. Seems like they have not put much into that aspect of their business yet.
The Mean Green Biofuels team is growing bigger. Parent corporation GreenShift has unveiled plans to build a 30-million-gallon-per-year biodiesel production facility in northeastern Indiana. We just reported earlier this month (Green News) on plans for a facility in Tennessee. The company plans to build, own and operate five such plants, between 20 and 60 million gallons per year each, by the end of ’06. Mean Green BioFuels produces biodiesel fuel from soybean oil, animal fats from rendering operations and wastewater sludge and corn oil extracted from ethanol facilities. Arlington, N.J.-based GreenShift is a publicly traded natural resources and environmental business development company.
The Environmental Protection Agency is all hyped-up about implementing the Energy Policy Act’s new Renewable Fuels Standard. According to a press release issued by the agency today, the first step of the program is an almost three-percent standard for 2006.
“Under President Bush’s leadership, we are addressing our nation’s growing energy demand in a way that supports our goals for a clean environment and healthy economy,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “This investment in renewable fuels made from domestic crops will support American agriculture and replace fossil fuels with an increasing amount of cleaner-burning alternatives such as ethanol or biodiesel illustrating that environmental progress and economic development can, in fact, go hand-in-hand.”
The regulation announced today explains how industry will comply with the Energy Policy Act’s default provision requiring that 2.78 percent of the gasoline sold or dispensed to U.S. motorists in 2006 be renewable fuel. The regulation is intended to provide market certainty for smooth implementation of the program in 2006 as EPA expands the program. Many of the act’s other provisions regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard Program for 2007 and beyond will be implemented in subsequent regulations.
The program will significantly increase the volume of renewable fuels blended into motor vehicle fuels. Various renewable fuels can be used to meet the requirements of the program, including ethanol and biodiesel. Under this standard, refineries, blenders, and importers would collectively be responsible for meeting program requirements for 2006, where compliance would be calculated over the entire pool of gasoline sold to consumers.
For more information on the Renewable Fuel Standard Program, the EPA suggests you visit http://www.epa.gov/otaq/renewablefuels/
I am not making this headline up. It is straight out of today’s “Thai Day.” Basically, the short version is that the king of Thailand is promoting the use of biodiesel made from palm oil, but I just love the way the story is written for the Thai audience. It reads like a fairy tale …
Sometime in the early 1980s, as Sumet Tantivejkul remembers it, His Majesty the King took his trusted aide aside and said that he wanted him to look into the feasibility of using palm oil as an alternative to diesel as an energy source.
According to Sumet, His Majesty wished to keep his request quiet at the time and asked that the research be conducted discreetly, noting that the need for an alternative fuel would be realized in the decades to come.
Today, more than 20 years later, the need for an alternative to petroleum-based energy is all too apparent and HM the King’s idea of using palm oil as an alternative substitute for diesel is now a reality. As His Majesty declared in his birthday address to the nation, “palm oil seems to be a viable substitute.” He later went on to say that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra “may have seen a royal car that runs on biodiesel, 100 percent of which is produced from palm oil. The exhaust smells good and doesn’t cause cancer.”
In response to His Majesty’s address, the Energy Ministry announced that it would promote biodiesel through tax incentives. HM the King’s interest in biodisesel became more pronounced in 2000, when petroleum prices started to soar. The Thai government responded by launching the country’s first “car-free” day to conserve oil reserves in an effort to raise public awareness of air pollution and energy conservation. But a symbolic day was hardly going to make a difference: what the country needed was a long-term solution to the problem of the earth’s rapidly diminishing oil reserves. As His Majesty realized, one solution lies in biodiesel, a substitute made from organic matter – in Thailand’s case, palm oil.
And they all lived happily ever after….
The picture is of the biodiesel reactor at the Pikul Thong Royal Development Study Center in Narathiwat.