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

Clarify Ethanol Terms

Cindy Zimmerman

ACE The American Coalition for Ethanol is trying to clear up some confusion in the minds of the public about the term “ethanol.” According to an organization release, ethanol means different things to different people. Because of the way the terminology is used, two misunderstandings frequently arise: people mistakenly believe it takes a special car to run on ethanol and that ethanol is only available at a few gas stations in the Midwest.
“Every single automobile on the road today is ethanol-capable,” said Brian Jennings, ACE Executive Vice President. “All vehicles can operate on a 10 percent blend of ethanol with gasoline, and Flexible Fuel Vehicles can use E85, an alternative fuel containing 85 percent ethanol.”
Ron Lamberty, ACE Vice President / Market Development, added that ethanol is much more widespread than many people realize: “Ethanol-blended fuel is available at thousands and thousands of America’s gas stations, literally from coast to coast. E85, the alternative fuel that is 85 percent ethanol, is available at a smaller number of stations and that figure is growing very quickly.”

ACE also has a page on it’s website providing information about cellulosic ethanol for the public.

Ethanol

Johanns Heading to Vegas

Cindy Zimmerman

Mike Johanns RFA Ag Secretary Mike Johanns has joined the roster of speakers at the National Ethanol Conference coming up February 20-22 in Las Vegas. The former governor of Nebraska and former chairman of the Governor’s Ethanol Coalition will speak on Wednesday morning, right after the current chairman of the Coalition Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and just before the current Governor of Nebraska (and soon to be chair of the GEC) Dave Heineman. That’s what I call symmetry.
Expect Johanns to talk about the administration’s commitment to putting more dollars into ethanol research.

Ethanol

It’s Easy to be Green (and Yellow)

Cindy Zimmerman

Ford Kermit Ford and GM both used Super Bowl XL to kick off new campaigns with domestic fuel themes.
Ford went with a big name star to promote its new Escape Hybrid. The ad, which premiered during the Super Bowl – held appropriately in Detroit’s Ford Field – featured a frog with a familiar face. More ads starring the famous Muppet are scheduled to run this year during popular network television shows such as American Idol, CSI: Miami, and the Barbara Walters Academy Awards Special. You can also expect to see Internet, print and billboard ads featuring Kermit. You can watch the Ford Kermit spot here. Hey – maybe they’ll name a car after him! The Ford Kermit kinda has a nice ring to it…
GM Yellow
While Ford was turning green during the Super Bowl, General Motors was a curious yellow in pre- and post-game commercials, touting its “Live Green, Go Yellow” theme. GM had planned to launch the campaign today as a tie-in to the opening of the Winter Olympics this week, but decided to ride on the momentum of the President’s State of the Union address last week and take off early. The yellow stands for corn and the campaign is promoting GM’s yellow fuel-filler caps on its E85-capable vehicles to raise consumer awareness, starting March 1.

Ethanol, Flex Fuel Vehicles, Promotion

Midwest Ethanol Corridor

Cindy Zimmerman

Verasun

Ford Motor Company and VeraSun Energy are working to create a “Midwest Ethanol Corridor” through Illinois and Missouri to increase the availability of E85 fuel. According to a Ford press releaseThe first phase in the creation of the Midwest ethanol corridor is to convert approximately 40 existing gasoline fuel pumps in Illinois and Missouri to E85. FordThe move will increase availability by approximately one-third this year. Ford estimates there are 50,000 owners of Ford flexible fuel vehicles (FFV) in Illinois and 28,000 in Missouri. Ford will work with fuel providers and officials in other states to further develop the Midwest ethanol corridor.

Ethanol, Flex Fuel Vehicles