Industry Engagement Critical for Biodiesel

Joanna Schroeder

This past year was a roller coaster but with some big achievements, said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board during her presentation at the 10th Annual Conference in Las Vegas. One big achievement: the nbb-13-steckelincrease of volume of biodiesel gallons as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This, noted Steckel, reflects the ongoing growth of the biodiesel industry.

One of the biggest ongoing challenges is the efforts of the petroleum industry to end the RFS. Steckel said NBB is spending a lot of resources fighting these court cases, but she was proud to say they have been successful in winning the last three court cases. But the fight is not over.

She also addressed how devastating the RIN crisis has been for the industry and said NBB is working hard with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and petroleum industry to find a constructive solution. The industry will be seeing new regulations on this soon and NBB will continue to work with its membership to make sure the industry gets the best regulation possible.

Steckle encouraged the attendees to continue to be engaged as 2013 will be another pivotal year for the industry.

Listen to Anne Steckel’s full remarks here: Industry Engagement Critical

2013 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

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Clemson’s Biodiesel Guru’s

Joanna Schroeder

a href=””>nbb-13-clemsonIf you have a passion for biosystems engineering and biodiesel then you should consider going to college at Clemson University (or transferring there for your advanced degree). Why? Because three of the coolest biodiesel researchers and innovators are currently working together to advance biodiesel. The biodiesel gurus are all members of Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel (Seriously students, why haven’t you joined already?): Karthik Gopalakrish, David Thorton and Charles Griffin. These are three smart cookies.

In a nutshell, the team is researching carbon substrates and algae production to be used for biodiesel or other co-products such as animal feed, biochemicals, bioplastics, etc. In other words, they are looking at increasing lipids (more lipids mean more oil) using waste products from different biofuels industries. This poster looked at using ethanol waste, called xylol and biodiesel waste called glycerol. They have discovered some results that no other researchers have found and boy are they promising.

I was quite impressed with their research and offered to give them a funding plug: to support their research, visit their blog.

You’ll be impressed to when you listen to my interview with Karthik, Charles and Charles about their biodiesel research: Clemson's Biodiesel Guru's

2013 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

advance biofuels, Audio, Biodiesel, biofuels, National Biodiesel Conference, Renewable Energy, Research

Industry Responds to Wicker-Vitter Anti-E15 Bill

Joanna Schroeder

The ethanol industry is responding to legislation proposed by U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss) and David Vitter (R-La) to block the continued roll-out of E15. The Senators claim the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted irresponsibly with its approval of the ethanol blend and claim that E15 will cause a negative impact on families and businesses should E15 be allowed in the marketplace.

E15The industry as a whole is saying that not allowing E15 in the marketplace would take choice out of consumer hands in order to protect the oil company interest over American pocketbooks. The Fuels America coalition says the bill ignores the millions of miles and years of testing the fuel and points to the fact that both Ford and GM have approved the use of E15 in their new vehicles.

“Instead of protecting oil companies, Congress should address what is actually hurting America families and businesses: high gas prices and dependence on oil. Using renewable fuel last year reduced the need for imported oil by more than 465 million barrels, and saving the U.S. $47.2 billion. Using E10 reduced the cost of gasoline by $1.09 per gallon in recent years, and opening up the market to more of this cleaner, low-cost fuel will only increase the potential for more savings,” according to a Fuels America statement.

Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), pointed out that now that ethanol represents 10 percent of the American fuel supply and growing, oil companies are panicking. “They are fighting to preserve their monopoly, their unfair and outrageously expensive tax credits, and most of all, their record breaking profits. Ethanol is no longer a gnat nipping at their precious ankles. It is a threat to the oil-centric status quo. The RFA and the ethanol producers we represent would welcome a chance to meet with Senators Wicker and Vitter to explain the benefits of E15 and dispel myths and any lingering doubts.”

Dinneen added that the facts are on “our side”.

“The Wicker-Vitter bill is a big, wet kiss for Big Oil on Valentine’s Day,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA). “Banning a legal product from competing with foreign oil is the ultimate in big government, nanny-state protectionism for the coddled petroleum industry. I guess we should no longer be surprised by the lengths Big Oil will go to protect its federal petroleum mandate. E15 is a legal fuel for American motorists to choose, but Big Oil doesn’t want consumers to have that choice.”

The industry also pointed out that Big Oil has enjoyed more than a century of subsidies at taxpayers’ expense and nearly 40 years of a “federal petroleum mandate”. “Why is Big Oil so afraid of a little competition from American farmers?,” added Shaw. “Is it because they know their foreign oil can’t compete with lower-cost, cleaner-burning, higher-performing ethanol?”

E15, Ethanol, Iowa RFA, RFA

Marjority of Americans Support Reduction of CO2

Joanna Schroeder

Obama on ClimateAccording to a new nationwide survey, 65 percent of American think that climate change is a serious problem and a substantial majority support President Obama using his authority to reduce its main cause, carbon dioxide.  The national poll, conducted on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), surveyed 1,218 registered voters and was conducted immediately following the president’s State of the Union speech – the first snapshot taken specifically on the climate agenda Obama outlines in his address.

The survey found:

  • 65 percent of Americans think that climate change is a serious or very serious problem, including 58 percent of independents.
  • 60 percent of Americans support the president using his authority to reduce dangerous carbon pollution, including 53 percent of independents.
  • 62 percent agree with the president’s statement that “for the sake of our children” and our future, we must do more to combat climate change, including 55 percent of independents.
  • A majority of Americans, 57 percent, agreed with Obama’s promise to make addressing climate change a priority in his second term.
  • 65 percent of Americans think that climate change is already a problem or will become a problem in the near future, including 58 percent of independents.

“The president made it absolutely clear that he will lead the fight against dangerous carbon pollution, and a compelling majority of Americans stand firmly behind that leadership,” said NRDC President Frances Beinecke. “The best way to strike back, as a nation, is to reduce the carbon pollution from our dirtiest power plants, the single greatest threat to our climate’s future. That will take presidential leadership. Americans are counting on bold action – for the sake of our children.”

During his address, Obama said the nation can choose to believe Superstorm Sandy and severe drought and raging wildfires were all just “a freak coincidence” or believe the overwhelming judgment of science that they were climate change related. A majority, 58 percent, said they were the effects of climate change, including 51 percent of independents. In addition, 58 percent said the country should do more to address climate change, including 51 percent of independents, while just 14 percent said we’re doing enough already.

The promise to address climate change struck a chord with Americans according to Margie Alt who is the executive director of Environment America. “Now we’re counting on President Obama to put words into action, by rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, limiting carbon emissions from power plants and advancing clean energy solutions — while protecting the air, water and special places Americans hold dear. By taking these actions the president will help fulfill our obligation to our families and to future generations, and we stand ready to support him at every turn along the way.”

Click here to read the full polling results.

Carbon Dioxide, Clean Energy, Climate Change, Environment

Next Gen Biodiesel Scientists From Lab To Dragster

Joanna Schroeder

nbb-13-mccurdyWhat do Alex McCurdy, Michael Morgan and Robert Willis have in common? They all work in the same lab at Utah State University (USU) and are working on three integrated pieces of biodiesel research. They are members of Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel, and work in Lance Seefeldt’s lab, a professor in USU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a principal faculty mentor on the interdisciplinary project. nbb-13-willis1

Here are some fun facts: McCurdy, Morgan and Willis were all on the team that set a land speed record with a race car design all their own and it ran on 100 percent biodiesel developed by the team. The team is also perfecting the production of fuel using yeast and bacterial platforms and also developing fuel from cheese
waste, carbon dioxide and the sun using microalgae platforms. nbb-13-morgan

Alex noted that the research team has recently succeeded in producing quantities of fuels from all of these sources that have superior properties in test engines, comparing favorably to biodiesel produced from soybeans. This research was featured by the three students during the poster session at the National Biodiesel Board Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.

Listen to an overview of Alex’s research: Biodiesel from Microalgae, Yeast & Bacteria

Listen to an overview of Robert’s research: Liquid, Liquid Lipid Extraction

Listen to an overview of Michael’s research (he is the dragster driver): Dragster Performs on Biodiesel

2013 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

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Conergy Adds More Solar Capacity in Greece

Joanna Schroeder

Conergy has added more solar capacity in Greece. The company has just completed a 500 kilowatt plant on 2.25 acres of roof space at the warehouses of Hellenic Energy S.A. in Agios Ioannis Rentis on the edge of Athens.

Conergy rooftop plant on warehouses in Athens, Greece_1Conergy acted as main contractor and was responsible for the overall planning, engineering and design of this turnkey rooftop installation, as well as for the supply of the components and the handling the construction where they cooperated with Hellenic Energy S.A. After connection of the power plant at the end of January, 58 inverters are feeding the clean electricity produced by more than 2,000 Conergy PowerPlus modules on Conergy SolarFamulus mounting systems into the grid. The company says the solar system has an annual production of over 700,000 kilowatt hours and the plant can supply around 200 households in Agios Ioannis Rentis.

“Thanks to the country’s excellent climate, solar installations in Greece provide the perfect combination of sound economic thinking and environmental protection,” said Dr. Stefanos Melissopoulos, Managing Director of Conergy Greece. “But the country’s high insolation levels are not the only advantage. Greece has a large amount of industrial roof space, providing the perfect conditions for making clean and safe investments. There is still great potential.”

Ioannis Kavalis, Managing Director of Hellenic Energy, added, “Conergy possesses a unique track record and many years of experience. This is absolutely vital when planning complex roof spaces. It means everything is supplied from a single source and we are assured of absolute top quality. This is very important when making an investment, particularly in today’s difficult times.”

Alternative energy, Electricity, Energy, International, Solar

Real Goods Solar Expands Residential Solar Offering

Joanna Schroeder

Real Goods Solar has been selected by a leading production homebuilder to deploy solar in certain of its new communities beginning in California and then expanding into other states. As part of the partnership, Real Goods Solar will design, engineer, service and manage the installation of residential solar systems. The systems will be designed to offset a RealGoodsSolarLOGO_cgood portion of the electrical needs of the home.

“We are excited about this important expansion of our homebuilder program that allows homeowners to benefit from the advantages of having solar electricity from day one when they move into their new homes,” said Kam Mofid, Real Goods Solar CEO. “With our management team’s deep experience in home building and solar we were able to offer an outstanding value and the best overall solution as part of the homebuilder’s efforts to broadly offer solar in new homes.”

Josh Price, vice president of residential operations for Real Goods Solar, added, “Home builders are seeing demand strengthen across the country but buyers are often concerned about the rising electricity costs. Including solar in new homes allows home buyers to see savings in their energy costs and therefore reduce the overall cost of owning their dream home.”

Alternative energy, Electricity, Energy, Solar

If You’re Not Extracting Corn Oil, Why Not?

John Davis

P1300044Ethanol producers need to squeeze every penny out of their operations. But one expert in the field of corn oil wonders why some refiners aren’t trying to capture the corn oil produced when they make ethanol.

“It seems to be a fundamental piece of ethanol plant profitability,” Joe Riley, General Manager with FEC Solutions told Joanna during the recent Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Renewable Fuels Summit. He should know. His family has been operating in the fats and oils business for 26 years and lives in the heart of farming and ethanol production, Iowa.

With a potential to extract between 1.5 and 1.7 million gallons of corn oil from a 50 million-gallon-per-year ethanol plant, Joe questions why only about half of the refiners aren’t trying to capture that corn oil. “If you’re not extracting corn oil, you have to be asking yourself, “Why?” He said that worries of losing value in dried distillers grains (DDGs) have pretty much been answered, and with biodiesel operations expected to be using even more available oils, including corn, Joe pointed out that some refiners might be losing out on potential profit.

He does understand that some operators find it tricky to get the right market for their corn oil. That’s where FEC Solutions comes in. “Usually ethanol plants are really good at making and selling ethanol. We’re really good at selling oil… whether that’s in the feed industry, biodiesel industry, export markets, or specialty or oleo chemical markets.”

Find out more at their website,

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Joe here: Joe Riley

View the IRFA Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album.

Audio, corn, Ethanol, Iowa RFA, News

Urban Air Initiative Worried About Stocks, Not Ethanol

John Davis

irfa-13-krissekEthanol is good for taking harmful particles out of automobile emissions, but a group committed to cleaner air is worried that gasoline makers might just end up putting more particulates in the blendstock.

“The [ultra-fine particulates] profile of the ethanol is very, very consistent,” but Greg Krissek, Director of Government Affairs for ICM, part of the Urban Air Initiative, told Joanna during the recent Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Renewable Fuels Summit that as ethanol blends get higher, gasoline makers are increasing the amount of particulate-forming ingredients on their end.

But Greg is still optimistic that higher ethanol blends will be used in the future. “I think there are very positive discussions with automakers about how to use mid-level blends. What we don’t want to happen is the unintended consequence down the road of what happens to that gasoline blendstock.”

You can find out more on the Urban Air Initiative’s website.

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Greg here: Greg Krissek

View the IRFA Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album.

Audio, blends, Ethanol, Iowa RFA, News

Meet Solben – Mexico’s Biodiesel Technology Leader

Joanna Schroeder

Here is a fun fact. Did you know that the average age of a person working in the Mexican biodiesel industry is 30 years old or younger? A bit different than in the U.S. where the average age is much older and the industry is recruiting students to join the biodiesel ranks with the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel. nbb-13-gomezHow did I come to know this interesting fact? By speaking with Daniel Gomez, with Solben during the 10th Annual National Biodiesel Board Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.

Solben, founded about six years ago, develops and commercializes multi-feedstock technology for biodiesel production. Today, nearly 70 percent of all the biodiesel producers in Mexico use Solben technology.

Gomez explained that biodiesel production in Mexico is like going back 10 years in the U.S. Last year the biodiesel industry produced was 2.5 million gallons and the year before that .5 million gallons and in 2013 the industry will double to 5 million gallons. He continued by saying that if you go back to the late 90s in the U.S., Mexico is now on that same trajectory and the government is looking at legislation that would support the increased growth and use of biodiesel. He hopes that by next year the country will see good things for biodiesel and from there the industry will grow exponentially.

Learn more about Solben and the potential for biodiesel in Mexico by listening to my interview with Daniel here: Meet Solben

2013 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

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