Approps Bill Shortchanges Rural America

According to the Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC), the current version of the House Appropriations Committee’s Fiscal Year 2016 Agriculture Appropriations Bill would shortchange rural America. As it currently stands, the bill would reduce mandatory spending levels for Energy Title programs including the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program and the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program. In light of this, AgEC has vowed to fight the changes in mandatory spending.

Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the AgEC, said, “The renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the Farm Bill help rural America create new manufacturing opportunities and AgEC logostable, well-paying jobs. A new report to Congress, released just yesterday, demonstrates the broad economic impact of innovative biobased technology. The biobased products industry contributes $369 billion annually to the U.S. economy and employs more than four million Americans. The more than 40,000 biobased products already on the market displace about 300 million gallons of petroleum per year, which is equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road. Countless wind, solar, biomass and other projects are making a major impact as well.”

Ritter continued, “Nevertheless, the House Appropriations Committee is seeking to roll back the mandatory funding levels Congress agreed to last year when passing the bi-partisan Farm Bill. For Fiscal Year 2016, the House bill proposes cutting millions from the Section 9003 program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, and the Renewable Energy for America Program.”

“Such reductions in the mandatory funding levels that Congress previously set will undermine the ongoing effectiveness of these programs. The Agriculture Energy Coalition, comprising renewable energy, energy efficiency and agricultural groups, will continue to fight to ensure that these programs are implemented successfully,” concluded Ritter.

New CESA Clean Energy Report Available

The Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) has released a new report, “Clean Energy Champions: The Importance of State Programs and Policies“. The report provides a comprehensive look at the ways in which states are supporting clean energy as well as offers suggestions on how to further encourage growth.

The report includes 31 case studies form 22 states covering various clean energy programs including Renewable Portfolio Standards, renewable energy tax credits, rebates and other less known programs used to develop the clean energy industry.

CESA Clean Energy Champions Report“Over the past decade and a half, states across the country have implemented innovative policies that have achieved significant, measurable results,” said Warren Leon, executive director of CESA. “This report clearly outlines how renewable energy production has far surpassed expectations and created a thriving clean energy sector. We must sustain this momentum by supporting various initiatives at the state level, working in tandem with federal agencies, and advancing clean energy with continued bipartisan support.”

In examining the state’s role in clean energy development over the past 15 years, the report identifies seven lessons to consider for the continued growth of clean energy into the future. Those lessons cover the following:

  • The significance of state experimentation and the ways states can continue to innovate to move the clean energy sector forward;
  • The need for the states to strengthen their existing consumer protection role regarding clean energy technologies;
  • The approach states should take when modifying distributed generation policies;
  • The value of continuing to address clean energy policy in a non-partisan manner;
  • The specific research analysis the federal government should undertake to assist the states;
  • The role of federal tax incentives in leveraging state initiatives for clean energy market growth; and
  • The importance of structuring EPA’s Clean Power Plan in ways that support existing state clean energy initiatives.

In addition, the report found four key areas where state activity has made significant progress to overcome market barriers: developing the clean energy supply;
overcoming barriers by building the infrastructure for clean energy growth; building a vibrant clean energy industry; and protecting and including consumers.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF18point3 Energy Partners LP, a limited partnership formed by First Solar and SunPower Corporation to own and operate a portfolio of selected solar energy generation assets, announced that it has priced an initial public offering of 20,000,000 Class A shares, representing limited partner interests in 8point3 Energy Partners, at a price of $21.00 per share. In addition, the underwriters have a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 3,000,000 shares from 8point3 Energy Partners at the IPO price, less the underwriting discount. The shares of 8point3 Energy Partners will be listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “CAFD” and begin trading on June 19, 2015.
  • Boeing has announced the next phase in ecoDemonstrator 757 testing today, including the first flight with U.S.-made “green diesel” and two new environment-related technologies. These developments advance the ecoDemonstrator program’s mission to accelerate the testing and use of technologies to improve aviation’s environmental performance. Among more than 15 technologies on the 757, Boeing has begun testing solar and thermal “energy harvesting” to power electronic windows, as a way to reduce wiring, weight, fuel use and carbon emissions.
  • B-Scada, Inc. has announced a new deployment of their VoT (Virtualization of Things) Solution in Africa. B-Scada’s wireless sensors will be used to remotely monitor and control the generation and distribution of solar energy used by four health clinics in Rwanda. B-Scada is providing the full array of sensors, relays, and cellular gateways required to collect and communicate the photovoltaic system data.
  • Pattern Energy Group has announced it has closed the previously announced acquisition of a one-third interest in the 270 MW K2 Wind Power Facility in Ontario. Pattern Energy will hold a 33% equity interest in the facility, which is equally co-owned by Samsung Renewable Energy, Inc. and Capital Power LP.

NMMA Endorses Gevo’s Isobutanol for Boats

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has endorsed Gevo, Inc. for the use of isobutanol by the marine industry. They say the renewable fuel is an effective, less damaging, more suitable biofuel than ethanol for powering various types of marine and recreational boat engines.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 11.34.09 AMNMMA has worked with Gevo for five years, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Argonne National Laboratory, the U.S. Coast Guard and others on testing of various renewable fuels. During this testing, NMMA said the data supported isobutanol as the preferred renewable fuel for marine engines.

“Based on years of collaborative testing across the industry, biobutanol fuel blends, such as the ones provided by Gevo during our test program, are a safe and viable alternative to ethanol for use in recreational marine engines and boats up to 16.1 percent by volume,”said Jeff Wasil, engineering manager, Emissions Testing, Certification and Regulatory Development at Bombardier Recreational Products, an NMMA member.

According to NMMA, isobutanol fuel blends solve the concerns of boaters such as damaging engine parts. The studies found isobutanol provided a higher energy content, prevented moisture absorption and phase separation and reduced engine corrosion.

“We believe that the marine industry will be an important market for Gevo’s isobutanol. The technical properties of isobutanol shine in this application. We appreciate the efforts and the collaboration between Gevo and the NMMA throughout the testing program. We are pleased to have provided, from our plant in Luverne, the isobutanol needed to make the 16% isobutanol blended fuels that the studies required, for both on-water tests and in the laboratory,” added Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s CEO. “We are delighted with the results of the testing and to have the endorsement of the NMMA. Isobutanol has proven to be an effective, highly compatible biofuel for the recreational boating industry.”

RFA Supports American Agri-Women

AAW Drive TruckThe ethanol industry is supporting women in agriculture. The Renewable Fuels Association and Syngenta, maker of ethanol friendly Enogen corn, join a growing group of sponsors of the American Agri-Women Drive Across America. The nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agri-business women, is celebrating 40 years of advocating for agriculture with its “Drive Across America.”

AAW President Sue McCrum and other leaders will drive in a specially wrapped pick-up truck, participating in educational, network and advocacy events hosted by AAW’s more than 50 affiliates. The Drive will finish at the 2015 annual convention in Portland, Maine.

Better Switchgrass Makes for Better Biofuel

switchgrassWhile switchgrass is seen as a good candidate for biofuels, the challenge has been producing it in the quantities of biomass yield to make it worth the effort. But this story from the American Society of Agronomy says researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are looking at ways to make the plant more biofuel friendly.

[Michael Casler, a research geneticist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service,] and others are trying to [make a better switchgrass for biofuels] by using alternative breeding methods. Zulfi Jahufer is a senior research scientist in genetics and plant breeding at the AgResearch Grasslands Research Centre in Palmerston North in New Zealand, and was a co-researcher with Casler.

But achieving their goals isn’t easy. The ideal switchgrass wouldn’t possess one trait, but many. It would have a high amount of biomass per acre and be able to produce a lot of ethanol. It would also have low levels of lignin, a material found inside plants that prevents maximum ethanol production…

When the ideal plant would contain more than one important trait, it’s inefficient to select for them one at a time. To combat this issue, and breed switchgrass that has the optimal combination of these traits, the researchers tried evaluating plants using the Smith-Hazel Selection Index.

This index allowed the researchers to estimate and combine information on multiple traits. It also looked at the economic value of each trait, which further maximizes the rating.

The researchers say the next step needed to meet their goals is to use the protocols in an actual breeding program. They will begin to employ the best selection indices over the next few generations to obtain a more ideal switchgrass.

This research was recently published in the journal Crop Science.

ACE Opens August Conference Registration

ACElogoRegistration for the American Coalition’s for Ethanol’s (ACE) conference has opened, with “Quiet Ingenuity, Bold Advance” the theme for the Aug. 19-21 event. This news release from the group says it’s the 28th annual gathering for ACE and will be held in Omaha, Nebraska.

“One of the best kept secrets of the ethanol industry is how producers are boldly innovating, developing new co-products, and finding ways to improve their bottom line without fanfare. This is an important time for the industry and pivotal topics will take center stage at our upcoming conference,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings.

One panel discussion which will reinforce the “Quiet Ingenuity, Bold Advance” theme features Ray Defenbaugh, President, CEO & Chairman of Big River Resources LLC, Delayne Johnson, CEO of Quad County Corn Processors, and Jeff Oestmann, President & CEO of East Kansas Agri-Energy, LLC who will discuss the technology and advanced biofuel innovations their respective companies are pursuing.

Quad County Corn Processors is the first ethanol plant in the nation to produce both conventional and cellulosic biofuel, East Kansas Agri-Energy is constructing a renewable diesel facility adjacent to its existing corn ethanol plant, and Big River Resources will be producing a zein protein alongside its ethanol plant in Galva, IL.

There will also be a retailer panel on E15 and flex fuel sales, a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on fueling infrastructure, exports of ethanol and DDGs, plant board member training, and much more at this year’s conference. Registration information is here.

Winner of American Ethanol 200 Presented by Enogen

Winner American Ethanol 200The winner of the 2015 American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen is Erik Jones. This is his fifth victory in 26 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races and first in 2015.

The photo is Erik’s team along with the folks from Syngenta/Enogen. The winner’s circle is THE place to be! In my photo album I’ve got over 300 photos from today’s activities that I hope you will enjoy and share.

It has been a long day so I’m calling it quits now. However, expect to see and hear more from Iowa Speedway this coming week. I have a number of interviews to share that I think you will enjoy.

2015 American Ethanol 200 Presented by Enogen Photo Album

Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 sponsored by Enogen
Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 is sponsored by Enogen

Enogen Press Conference at Iowa Speedway

Engine Press ConferenceToday Syngenta announced a major donation to the Prime the Pump fund, an industry initiative to help early retail adopters of high-level ethanol blends through grants to reduce their initial investment in infrastructure. On the pane (l-r) are Chris Tingle, Syngenta; Ray Defenbaugh, Prime the Pump; Kelly Manning, Growth Energy; Delayne Johnson, Quad County Corn Processors and Chris Soule, Iowa farmer and star of ABC’s The Bachelor and Dancing With the Stars.

Syngenta says it will donate approximately $600,000 to the initiative by contributing $1 for every acre planted with Enogen corn enzyme technology. This effort stated in 2013 and is being extended to 2016. Besides the money being raised for the Prime the Pump initiative, the FFA students here today helping collect money for the fund will be receiving matching dollars for the money they raise. So, when you look at the value to the ethanol plants of Enogen corn which already has a vital enzyme for processing which saves the plant money; the fact that farmers growing Enogen corn are receiving a significant bonus incentive on the price of their corn; the fact that this initiative is helping expand the market and use of ethanol and local FFA chapters are benefitting, it seems like a win-win for everyone.

I have recorded the full press conference for you to listen to here: Syngenta Enogen Press Conference

2015 American Ethanol 200 Presented by Enogen Photo Album

Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 sponsored by Enogen
Coverage of the American Ethanol 200 is sponsored by Enogen

Pope Francis Advocates for Renewable Energy

Addressing all persons living on the plant, Pope Francis’ LAUDATO SI’, Encyclical Letter calls on mankind to address climate change and heal earth. He writes, “Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in “lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies”. He stresses throughout the Encyclical, “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change“.

do908_laudato_si-255x363“I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet,” writes Pope Francis and notes that while efforts have been undertaken, they are not enough. “Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest.”

Pope Francis’ Encyclical spans six chapters with each section focused on a particular area of importance to climate change discussions and action steps to be undertaken. In chapter 5 he focuses on approach and action as it relates to energy and calls for the end of fossil fuel use.

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions,” continues Pope Francis. 

He calls for a worldwide consensus – all countries – to come together to develop “renewable and less polluting forms of energy”. While he acknowledges the work already being done to develop more sustainable, alternative forms of energy, he stresses that countries must come together and take responsibility for paying for the costs of energy transition and that politics and businesses must speed up their pace of acknowledgement and action to curtail climate change.

If only one message were received by those reading LAUDATO SI, it is that humans are at the center of climate change, that none of us is without fault, and it will take all of us to restore earth to a state of health and beauty.