Farmers Expect to Plant Most Corn and Soybeans Ever

Cindy Zimmerman

According to the USDA 2013 Prospective Plantings report, farmers intend to plant a little more corn and a little less soybeans this year, for a total of 174.4 million acres.

“This will be the highest total amount of acres for those two crops that we have on record,” said USDA chief economist Joe Glauber.

usda-logoCorn growers intend to plant 97.3 million acres of corn for all purposes in 2013, up slightly from last year and 6 percent higher than in 2011. If realized, this will represent the highest planted acreage in the United States since 1936 when an estimated 102 million acres were planted. “While farmers struggled with drought last year, they remain resilient and dedicated to producing an abundant corn crop in 2013,” National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Martin Barbre said. “This report shows that the innovative American farmer understands the increasing global demands of corn for food, feed, fuel and fiber and that they see the importance of meetings those needs.”

The majority of acres gained lie outside of the traditional Corn Belt, with only Minnesota, North Dakota and Ohio projecting increased acreage planted to corn within that area. Acres planted to corn outside of the Corn Belt made gains in Arkansas, Georgia, Texas and Mississippi. Final planting projections remained close to last year’s acreage as Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota all project planting at least 100,000 fewer acres than in 2012, with Illinois projecting acres planted to corn will drop by 600,000 acres from 2012. The actual number of planted acres will be released in USDA’s June 28 report.

Soybean acres are estimated at 77.1 million acres, down slightly from last year but the fourth highest on record.

corn, NCGA, USDA

Panasonic Eco Solutions Completes Solar Canopy

Joanna Schroeder

Hilton Foundation CarPortPanasonic Eco Solutions North America (Panasonic), has completed the installation of a solar photovoltaic (PV) parking lot canopy at the new Agoura Hills, California headquarters for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Panasonic served a supporting role in the project that was developed and financed by RSB Funds (RSBF). The 115 kilowatt PV project will generate enough energy to operate over 20 average California homes for an entire year.

“Panasonic is pleased to have partnered with RSBF to deliver a comprehensive solar solution, including development, construction and financing, that will generate tangible and intangible benefits for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for decades to come,” said Jamie Evans, Managing Director, Panasonic Eco Solutions North America.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation designed its new headquarters campus to address current and future professional and social responsibilities, including a focus on becoming increasingly energy efficient, environmentally responsible and aesthetically appealing. The solar PV carport system supports the organization’s goal to exceed Platinum LEED standards and further demonstrates the Foundation’s long-term commitment to sustainability.

“The use of solar power was an essential part of our plan to achieve LEED Platinum status and eliminate the use of fossil fuels. The project we completed with Panasonic helped us achieve this goal while enabling us to continue to maximize the allocation of our assets for charitable purposes,” added Patrick J. Modugno, Vice President, Administration and CFO for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

Alternative energy, Electricity, Energy, Solar

City of Temple Switches to Propane

Joanna Schroeder

The City of Temple, Texas has transitioned 11 fleet vehicles to run on propane autogas in partnership with CleanFuel USA. The City estimates that each propane autogas vehicle annually will emit 1,295 pounds less of carbon dioxide emissions and displace 1,600 gallons of conventional fuels while saving between $2,500 and $3,000 in fuel costs. Last year the City converted five fleet vehicles to run on propane and installed an onsite fueling station.

gI_81061_CityofTemplePhoto“Propane autogas fits our Sustainability Management Plan perfectly since the fuel offers substantial savings and allows us to operate a cleaner fleet with a domestically produced alternative,” said Ashley Williams, sustainability and grant manager for the City of Temple. “CleanFUEL USA has been an essential propane autogas partner—from implementing our station to converting our vehicles.”

The transition to propane autogas is part of the City’s Sustainability Management Plan, which details a process of converting the majority of its fleet to an appropriate alternative fuel. The plan commits the City to a clean, safe and healthy environment by exercising sustainable practices that focus on environmental and economical stewardship. The City’s fleet department is committed to this plan by working to achieve the following plan-related goals: reduce energy costs and consumption, prevent pollution, increase energy efficiency, and decrease reliance on non-renewable resources.

The project was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Energy Department’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Texas State Technical College serves as the lead grantee of the funds, which support the development of a national propane autogas refueling network, incentives to convert school buses and other fleet vehicles to alternative fuels, and training for green jobs. This initiative will help displace millions of gallons of petroleum annually.

“Our neighbors at the City of Temple are leaders in the movement toward reducing our nation’s foreign fuel consumption with the use of propane autogas,” said Curtis Donaldson, founder and CEO of CleanFUEL USA. “We are proud to provide them—and fleets of any size or specification—with the platforms to help achieve their economical and sustainable goals through our propane autogas offerings.”


Primus Green Supporting Gas-to-Liquid Research

Joanna Schroeder

Primus Green Energy is providing financial support to engineers at Princeton University to support research on synthetic fuels including assessments of various gas-to-liquids (GTL) technologies for sustainability and economic viability. Primus’ STG+ technology converts syngas derived from natural gas and/or biomass into drop-in Primus Green Pilot Plant Constructionhigh-octane gasoline and jet fuel with industry-leading process efficiencies. According to the company, the fuels produced from the Primus STG+ technology are very low in sulfur and benzene compared to fuels produced from petroleum, and they can be used directly in vehicle engines as a component of standard fuel formulas and transported via the existing fuel delivery infrastructure.

Primus is always looking for opportunities to support academic research on issues that impact our business and our commercialization efforts,” said George Boyajian, vice president of business development at Primus Green Energy. “Chris Floudas is one of the premier experts in the field of gas-to-liquids technologies, and we believe that his research will play a key role in identifying important developments and financial differentiators among GTL technologies, especially as they relate to our STG+ technology.”

The work at Princeton University will be conducted in the laboratories of Professor Christodoulos Floudas, Ph.D. Floudas is an expert in chemical process systems engineering, with a specific emphasis on process synthesis and design, interaction of process design and control and process operations.

“Primus’ STG+ platform is a next-generation gas-to-liquids technology that has the potential to have a significant impact on process efficiency standards and economic viability in the alternative fuels industry,” said Floudas, Princeton’s Stephen C. Macaleer ’63 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science. “As part of my research, I will be comparing STG+ to other leading GTL platforms against a variety of metrics, including financial, technical and sustainability.”

Primus Green Energy estimates that the cost of production for its fuels will be competitive with petroleum-based fuels when crude oil is trading at $65 per barrel (oil is currently trading at approximately $95 per barrel). The company is nearing completion of its demonstration plant, which is expected to reach mechanical completion in Q2 2013, and expects to break ground on its first commercial plant in the first half of 2014.

biomass, Natural Gas

European Commission Releases ‘Green Paper’

Joanna Schroeder

wind turbinesThe European Commission has opened the debate on EU energy and climate policy after 2020 – offering the energy industry the prospect of the long-term clarity and stability needed for large, long-term investments. The European Commission’s Green Paper on a “2030 framework for climate and energy policies,” presents 2030 targets as a key policy option.

“It is important to put long-term climate and renewable energy policies in place, and the European Commission and Council already agree that an increase in renewable energy is a ‘no-regrets’ option,” said Justin Wilkes, Director of Policy of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “Energy policy debate over the coming months will be crucial to Europe’s future.”

¨Member States must now join the European Parliament and the Energy and Climate Action Commissioners in support of a 2030 renewable energy target, together with a greenhouse gas target. This would allow Europe to replace fossil fuel imports with a thriving European wind energy industry generating large amounts of zero-emissions renewable power and technology exports,” continued Wilkes.

He concluded, “Setting a binding 2030 renewable energy target would help the achievement of the 2020 targets, by providing the wind sector with the clarity needed to make the necessary long-term investments, thereby driving down capital costs as well as the cost of capital.”

Renewable Energy, Wind

Bioenergy Bytes

Joanna Schroeder

  • BioEnergyBytesDFWorld Bio Markets Asia is hosting a FREE webinar, “The Role of Asia in the Commercialization of Bio-based Chemicals,” on April 3,2013. The webinar will offer expert views on what role Asia will play in the commercialization of bio-based chemicals on the larger global platform.
  • The second annual Oilseed & Grain Trade Summit is being held in Minneapolis, MN October 21-23, 2013. Sessions will include: Trends in the Global Oilseed and Grains Supply Chain; Trends in Vegetable Oil Usage for Food, Fuel and Industrial Applications; New Oil Traits: Addressing the Needs of the Supply Chain; New Sources of Vegetable Proteins Used for Feed and Their Competitiveness with Soybean Meal; and New Options For Managing Grain and Oilseed Price Risk.
  • Lee Enterprises has formed a strategic alliance with Murex LLC of Addison, Texas. Murex is a leading marketer and distributor of renewable fuels, methanol, Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) and crude oil, and has served major oil companies, regional refiners, and producers for more than 20 years.
  • The new market research report, “Middle East Renewable Energy Sector Analysis” published by Market Publishers Ltd. provides cutting-edge knowledge of the Middle East renewable energy market with a focus on such country markets as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon and Egypt. The research contains Middle East renewable energy resource mapping for such kinds of renewable energy as solar, wind, waste to energy and biogas.
  • Arnall Golden Gregory’s Renewable and Alternative Energy Practice recently assisted with two significant solar energy projects in Georgia: a 1.1 megawatt system for the Dublin City School District that will be the largest photovoltaic system in Middle Georgia, and the sale of a 7.7 megawatt solar energy development project in Washington County by client Jacoby Development.
Bioenergy Bytes

FREE EPA Rulemaking Seminar

Joanna Schroeder

EcoEngineers is offering a FREE webinar for renewable fuel producers to offer clear direction for successfully implementing policies currently in process by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The informational webinar on QAP A AND B and EPA’S Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is set for Wednesday, April 3, 2013 from 1-2 pm CST. During this session, EcoEngineers Partner and Chief Engineer Jim Ramm, PE, and Managing Partner Shashi Menon will discuss the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking as it currently stands, including updates from the recent public comments hearing in Washington.

EcoEngineers LogoIn the webinar, (register here) EcoEngineers will be outlining their QAP program, making policy recommendations, collecting feedback from the producer community and recommending steps for producers to take in order to have their voice heard at the EPA.

“There remain serious questions and concerns about the path ahead regarding the requirements of a QAP and related costs. It is important that producers understand the nature of the changes and have a voice in policy formation,” said Jim Ramm.

The USEPA, in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, has outlined two Quality Assurance Programs, QAP A and B. While both programs offer significant upsides, including preferred purchase of QAP A and B RINs by marketers and Obligated Parties, there are also challenges including the potential variations in scope and costs associated with the ongoing rulemaking process.

At EPA’s request, EcoEngineers has provided input into the quality assurance process, based on conversations with many producers, and testified at the public hearing in Washington.

“To our current customers, we will continue to offer the leadership you have come to expect in effecting a smooth, seamless transition to EPA’s comprehensive approach to RIN quality assurance,” added Ramm, “To those still weighing their options, we offer our support in helping you find the best solution for your unique situation.”

biofuels, Education

Renewable Energy Up, Enery Consumption, CO2 Down

Joanna Schroeder

According to the most recent issue of the “Monthly Energy Review” by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with data through December 31, 2012, renewable energy sources and natural gas expanded rapidly during the Obama Administration’s first term while coal, nuclear power, oil imports and use, energy consumption, and CO2 emissions all declined significantly.

Comparing data for 2008 (last year of the Bush Administration) to data for 2012 (last year of the Obama Administration’s first term), domestic energy production from renewable energy sources (i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind) grew by 23.48 percent with wind and solar more than doubling their output.

EIA Primary Energy OverviewBy comparison, total domestic energy production from all sources increased by just 8.15 percent with domestic natural gas and crude oil production growing by 18.71 percent and 29.47 percent respectively. Moreover, during the same period, nuclear power output declined by 4.47 percent and domestic coal production dropped by 13.28 percent. Total energy use declined by 4.16 percent, petroleum consumption decreased by 6.95 percent, CO2 emissions dropped by 9.38 percent, and imports of crude oil and petroleum products fell by 17.32 percent.

“The numbers speak for themselves – notwithstanding politically-inspired criticism, the energy policies pioneered by the Obama Administration have generated dramatic growth rates for renewable energy during the past four years, while significantly reducing oil imports and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The investments in sustainable energy made by the federal government as well as state officials and private funders have paid off handsomely underscoring the short-sightedness of seemingly endless proposals to slash or discontinue such support.”

Looking at all energy sectors (e.g., electricity, transportation, thermal), renewable energy sources accounted for 11.23 percent of domestic energy production in 2012 – compared to 9.84 percent in 2008. In fact, renewable energy sources provided 10.47 percent more energy in 2012 than did nuclear power, although nuclear still provides a larger share of the nation’s electricity (18.97% vs. 12.22%).

During the first four years of the Obama Administration, hydropower production grew by 7.01 percent, geothermal by 18.23 percent, biofuels by 40.66 percent, solar by 138.20 percent, and wind by 149.27 percent. Only biomass dipped – by 0.89 percent. Hydropower accounted for 30.21 percent of domestic energy production from renewable sources in 2012, followed by biomass (27.61%), biofuels (21.94%), wind (15.30%), geothermal (2.55%), and solar (2.39%). Note” These figures may not fully reflect the total contribution from renewable energy sources inasmuch as EIA data does not totally account for distributed, non-grid connected applications.

Geothermal, Hydro, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind

Genuine Bio-Fuel Intros ‘Second Chance Program’

Joanna Schroeder

Genuine Bio-Fuel has designed a new program, called the ‘Second Chance Program,’ for staffing its company with quality, dedicated employees as well as to assist former inmates and Veterans reestablish themselves within society. Executive Vice President of Genuine Bio-Fuel Inc. Jeff Longo believes, “companies in the alternative Genuine Bio-Fuel Employeeenergy industry have a responsibility to spur job creation. What better way to spark the economy, then to employ and equip people eager to learn with the tools to build a better future for them.”

GBF’s Second Chance Program provides equal wage jobs to former inmates and Veterans. The program was established to create an environment where former inmates and Veterans are able to start a new life. In addition to each employee receiving another chance to rebuild their lives, Genuine Bio-Fuel also offers them free training if they want to pursue careers in the green sector.

The program’s success is partially due to the “hire, not fire” approach to staffing the program taken by the GBF executive team. Its outreach efforts include hiring Veterans who have just returned from serving our country as well as former inmates in need of a fresh start and new lease on life. Employees in this program are empowered through comprehensive on-the-job training, and as a result GBF has built cohesive team driven environment and experiences low attrition rates.

Longo added, “We hope to serve as a positive example in the biodiesel industry of what happens when businesses begin investing in people again.”

advance biofuels, Alternative energy, Biodiesel

An American Success Story

Joanna Schroeder

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) has created an ‘infographic’ promoting the benefits of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Entitled “An American Success Story,” the new infographic pinpoints how the RFS is accomplishing the goals set by Congress.

snapshot of ACE RFS Infographic“ACE’s infographic is a vivid and effective ‘show and tell’ tool for ethanol advocates to use in proactively promoting the benefits of the RFS,” said Brian Jennings, ACE Executive Vice President. “The RFS costs taxpayers nothing and has spurred technology innovations, efficient feedstock and biofuel production, increased feed availability, and jobs that can’t be outsourced. I encourage all ethanol supporters to use this infographic, share it with their politicians and media members, and help us show how the RFS delivers benefits for everyone.”

The infographic cites data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and other reliable third parties and shows key ethanol accomplishments since the RFS was enacted, including consumer savings at the pump, helping to reduce oil imports and replacing the need for 462 million barrels of imported oil, how U.S. ethanol production compares to the amount of gasoline that could be produced from the Bakken Oil Shale development or from the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project, how much pollution is reduced by ethanol, and how E15 fuel is the most tested motor fuel on the market today.

The infographic was also part of the tools used during ACE’s Biofuels Beltway March, which received a good reception.

Learn more about why the RFs is so important and more about the Biofuels Beltway March in my interview with Brian Jennings: An American Success Story

View the ACE Biofuels Beltway March 2013 Photo Album.

ACE, Audio, Biofuels Beltway, Ethanol, RINS