Energy Highlights of Obama Visit to Brazil

Energy was part of the agenda when President Obama visited Brazil over the weekend.

During his visit, Obama and Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff agreed to launch a Strategic Energy Dialogue, to focus on both oil and biofuels. “Now even as we focus on oil in the near term, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the only long-term solution to the world’s dependence on fossil fuels is clean energy technology,” Obama said in his address at the at CEO Business Summit in Brasilia, Brazil. “And that’s why the United States and Brazil are deepening our cooperation on biofuels and why we’re launching a U.S.-Brazil Green Economy Partnership, because we know that the development of clean energy is one of the best ways to create new jobs and industries in both our nations.”

The two presidents noted the progress achieved under the Memorandum of Understanding to Advance the Cooperation on Biofuels and stressed “the importance of mobilizing public and private research institutions in the two countries to intensify cooperation in developing innovative technologies to produce advanced biofuels, and committed to enhance the bilateral and multilateral dialogue on sustainable production and use of bioenergy.” They also expanded the existing MoU to include the Partnership for the Development of Biofuels for Aviation, with the goal of developing sustainable aviation biofuels.

President and CEO of the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), Marcos Jank, was able to witness some of the Obama visit to Brazil firsthand and noted that several companies are developing aviation fuels based on sugarcane, including a three-way partnership between Brazilian regional jet manufacturer Embraer, engine manufacturer General Electric and California biotech company Amyris. In 2012, the trio intends to stage the first-ever flight using jet fuel produced from sugarcane, using an Embraer aircraft equipped with GE engines and owned by Brazil’s Azul Airlines.

“These developments add to the signs of growing awareness we’ve been witnessing in the United States in recent months about the need to develop clean energy solutions cooperatively and reduce barriers to its trade and development. Even avid supporters of heavy subsidies and steep tariffs that prevent Brazilian ethanol from entering the U.S. market competitively are now openly discussing what happens next, both in terms of technologies and policy. Without admitting it, they’re in fact recognizing that the current situation can’t last much longer because it works against everyone’s best interests. U.S. consumers are being denied access to clean, renewable Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, which could be contributing to lower greenhouse gas emissions and save Americans money at the pump,” said Jank.

Suntech to Develop Solar on Roof of the World

Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. is going to develop a 10MW solar installation that when complete will be one of the highest on earth around 4,000 meters above sea level. Being dubbed the “roof of the world,” the solar system will be located in Chek Kang village in the Sangri County Shannan Prefecture, Tibet. The solar system should be completed by the middle of 2011 and when finished, will generate around 20,000 MWh of renewable electricity per year. The energy will be used to help facilitate economic development in Tibet.

According the Suntech, for the most part, the mountainous region has relied heavily on hydroelectric resources for much of its baseload power production. However, a shift in weather patterns has caused droughts to become more frequent and water volumes to drop in hydroelectric reservoirs leading to shortages of electricity. This has caused the region’s economic growth to be stunted. The hope is that the new solar power plant will alleviate peak power shortages and that a consistent and reliable energy load will bring growth.

“With intense sunlight and cool temperatures, Tibet is extremely well-suited for the utilization of advanced photovoltaic technology,” said Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech’s Founder, Chairman and CEO. “We’re proud to invest in preserving the region’s fragile ecosystem by providing an economically-viable and sustainable solution for electricity generation. From the desert sands of Arizona to the peaks of the Himalayas, anyone can look up and harness nature’s cleanest and most abundant energy resource.”

This is not the first solar project in Tibet for Suntech. During the past few years, Suntech has donated more than 50 independent solar systems for schools, community centers, and houses throughout the region. In 2008, Suntech installed a solar system at Mt. Everest base camp to provide trekkers with clean and reliable access to power. In gratitude, a team of mountaineers carried a Suntech flag to the very peak of the world.

Dr. Shi concluded, “As we approach grid parity, we’re seeing a groundswell of appetite for multi-megawatt projects in Asia and emerging markets around the world. I’m confident that China will really turn some heads this year and perhaps even become a gigawatt market. In this exciting transitional period, we will continue to diversify our global footprint to drive solar industry growth everywhere under the sun.”

400 Low-Income Families in Cali to Recieve Solar Systems

Here is a feel good story for a Monday. Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited’s U.S. subsidiary Yingli Green Energy Americas, Inc. has formed a partnership with GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit solar installer, to provide solar modules for 400 low-income families during 2011. Yingli Americas is a photovoltaic manufacturer (PV), and GRID Alternatives provides renewable energy and energy efficiency services, equipment and training.

“Social responsibility is a key pillar in our mission, and we’re very proud to announce this partnership with GRID Alternatives,” said Robert Petrina, Managing Director of Yingli Americas. “At Yingli, we believe in making solar power an affordable option for everyone, and addressing our local underserved communities is an important step in achieving this — we’re delivering clean energy and job training where it’s required most.”

The team will consist of a network of community volunteers and green job trainees who along with GRID Alternatives will install the 1 MW of solar energy systems in 400 low-income homes. The solar modules will be a combination of those donated and purchased from Yingli at fair market value. It is estimated that over their lifetime, the solar energy systems will generate $10 million worth of renewable energy. The systems will also provide solar PV installation training to thousands of people interested in entering the industry.

“GRID Alternatives is grateful to Yingli for helping us make solar power available to the working families that need the savings the most, while helping build the clean energy workforce of the future. We are also proving that if solar is a viable technology for low-income families, it can work for anyone anywhere,” said Erica Mackie, Executive Director and Co-Founder of GRID Alternatives. “We are thrilled to announce this partnership – which is the first of its kind in our organization’s history – and commend Yingli Americas for their vision and dedication to helping disadvantaged communities in the US.”

Mr. Liansheng Miao, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Yingli Green Energy, added, “We have a long-standing commitment to global social responsibility and to improving the lives of our future generations. That’s why we seek out collaborations such as this one with GRID Alternatives in order to make a tangible difference.”

Whole New World of Corn

Everything you ever wanted to know about corn is contained in the latest edition of the World of Corn from the National Corn Growers Association.

This year’s publication, available online now, highlights the wide variety of roles that farmers must play, from environmentalist to technology geek, in order to ensure that both their farm and their industry as a whole continue to meet growing demand in a sustainable manner. A special edition of the World of Corn featuring statistics in metric measurements will soon follow.

“Corn fuels nations around the world; as a food ingredient, a feedstock, a fuel, a fiber, an ingredient in building materials and pharmaceuticals, and beyond,” NCGA President Bart Schott and Chief Executive Officer Rick Tolman note in the introduction. “It is possibly the most versatile crop in the world, and demand is at an all-time high. Most importantly, we are fortunate to have enough corn for all needs and all customers around the globe.”

World of Corn Online

Speculation, Not Ethanol, Driving Corn Prices

Renewable Fuels AssociationErratic behavior on the futures market for corn over the past few weeks is evidence that paper bushels, not ethanol, are driving corn prices, according to Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen.

“Corn futures prices have tumbled by $1/bushel just since March 3, as huge index and hedge funds and other large speculators are pulling out of the market as fast as they jumped into it last fall,” wrote Dinneen in a post on the RFA E-xchange blog this week. “While biofuel opponents have garishly attempted to blame ethanol for the recent run-up in corn prices, the speculative gyrations in the marketplace over the past several months underscore once again that the market is being driven by the whims of non-commercial investors who will never see a kernel of the corn they bet on from their Wall Street offices – so-called paper bushels.”

Dinneen says the big drop in price has been attributed to Japan. “The theory is that Japan, the world’s largest importer of U.S. corn, will dramatically cut back its shipments because major ports were damaged and demand has essentially frozen amidst the turmoil resulting from the earthquake and tsunami. But is it logical that the situation in Japan would curtail corn demand enough to knock $1 off of corn prices (about 14%) in a week’s time, especially when other demand underpinnings haven’t changed?”

The point is this: the market is extremely (and unnecessarily) jittery and volatile because any event that has even the slightest potential implications for corn use often triggers massive over-reaction by speculators. And they move like a flock of sheep; if the bellwether finds a hole in the woven wire, the rest of the flock is sure to quickly follow for fear of getting left behind.

Read more here.

2 POET Plants Reach 1/2 Billion Gallon Milestone

Two POET ethanol plants have each produced 1/2 billion gallons of ethanol. POET Biorefining – Big Stone produced its 500 millionth gallon of ethanol since going online in 2002 and back in December, POET Biorefining – Chancellor reached the same milestone. These are the only two POET plants to achieve this feat to date.

“For years, POET Biorefining – Big Stone and Poet Biorefining – Chancellor, and the team members working there, have been models of efficiency and stability for the ethanol industry,” POET CEO Jeff Broin said. “I remember when these plants produced their first gallons of ethanol, and I am proud to see them now surpassing half a billion gallons.”

Blaine Gomer, the General Manager of POET Biorefining – Big Stone noted, “The entire team at POET Biorefining – Big Stone has worked hard to reach 500 million gallons of ethanol. We have 15 original startup team members still working at the plant. All can still remember the plant startup and first gallons produced in June of ‘02. There have been many challenges and achievements along the way. Today, we celebrate a half-a-billion gallons of clean, green, and renewable ethanol produced.”

According to researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory, one gallon of ethanol reduces CO2 emissions by 6.41 pounds. Therefore, the half a billion gallons of ethanol produced over the lifespan of POET Biorefining – Big Stone have reduced carbon emissions by 1.6 million tons and the same amount has been reduced by POET Biorefining- Chancellor.

“This was achieved by a great team effort of POET Chancellor staff, the POET organization and local producers supplying good quality corn. We are proud of the fact that we are stimulating the economy for agriculture and producing clean renewable fuel for the environment and America,” add Rick Serie, general manager of POET Biorefining – Chancellor.

EPA Names DC Leading Green Power City

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named Washington D.C. as the leading EPA Green Power Community. Combined, government, businesses, institutions, and residents in the nation’s capital are collectively purchasing nearly 756 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power each year. This is enough to meet 8 percent of the city’s total electricity use. All voluntary, this feat catapulted the city into the number one spot in the country on EPA’s rankings.

District leaders kicked off a District Green Power Challenge today during the District’s EPA Green Power Recognition Ceremony that was held at Phelps Career High School in northeast DC to encourage more residents and businesses to switch to green power. The first goal of the challenge is to increase citywide green power purchases by 33 percent by August 31 of this year in hopes of keeping their #1 ranking. This increase would also mean that the city’s electricity users are purchasing 10 percent from green power or 1 Billion kWh each year.

“This is a huge honor for Washington, D.C. and we are proud to be recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” said Mayor Vincent Gray. “The purchase of green power by our citizens and businesses is cleaning our air and supporting growth of the clean energy economy. When we clean the air, we improve the health of our residents, and particularly our children. We are sending a message to other communities across the country that supporting clean power is a sound business decision and the right thing to do. I’m proud that the District of Columbia government is leading the way, purchasing 50 percent of our electricity through the Washington Gas Energy Services, Inc. wind power program.”

There are currently 36 Green Power Communities across the country. To be given the designation, a city, town or village must have government, business and residents that commit to purchasing green power in amounts that meet or exceed EPA’s Green Power Community purchase requirements. Qualifying energy sources include wind, solar, geothermal, biogas, biomass, and low-impact hydro-electric power.

“The District of Columbia is setting an excellent example for the nation by harnessing clean energy,” said Elizabeth Craig, Acting Director of EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs. “We hope the city will continue to increase its use of green power and that other communities will follow suit.”

Energy Security Issue Brief Released

A new issue brief was released on Energy Security as part of a series from The Ethanol Across America education campaign. The focal point of the report is to illustrate the negative impacts of continued dependence on imported oil.

U.S. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) who recently released an amendment that would strip several anti-ethanol amendments out of the House approved Continuing Resolution, is co-chairman of the Ethanol Across America Campaign. He said of the Energy Security issue brief, “As a founding member of the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition in 1991 and a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have long recognized the role homegrown renewable fuels such as ethanol can play in reducing America’s dependence on imported oil. At a time of increasing unrest in the Middle East and rapidly increasing oil prices, it becomes ever more important to continue the development and technological advancement of renewable fuels. Nebraska’s fields and farms will continue to help meet demand for food, feed and fuel. This American productivity allows our farmers to be part of the solution in our nation’s energy needs while keeping our fuel dollars at home.”

Among the key points raised in the brief are the following:

  • 1. In 2010, the U.S. spent $28 billion per month on foreign oil—a massive transfer of wealth during a period of economic hardship.
  • 2. In January of 2011—traditionally one of the lowest demand months of the year, we spent more than $35 billion on imported oil.
  • 3. Reliance on foreign oil has cost us more than $7 trillion over the past 30 years.
  • 4. America spends $137 Billion annually defending Persian Gulf oil, adding more than $1 per gallon to gas prices.
  • 5. Oil imports undermine energy security by delaying investment in the development of alternatives.

“Recent events in North Africa have made clear that oil prices are extremely volatile,” said Todd Sneller, Administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) who is hosting an Emerging Issues Forum in Omaha Nebraska on April 7-8, 2011. “Oil topping $100 per barrel proves once again that we can’t afford an energy economy that is increasingly more dependent on imports.”

Sneller added that nationally, gasoline prices have climbed more than 29 cents per gallon since the uprising in Libya began in the middle of February, costing Americans an extra $108 million per day to buy the same amount of fuel. In Lincoln, Nebraska, gasoline prices spiked even more sharply, increasing 35 cents per gallon during the past two weeks, and in California and parts of the East Coast, per gallon prices have topped $4.


USDA to Measure Biodiesel, Ethanol Co-Product Usage

The USDA wants to know how livestock producers are using co-products from biodiesel and ethanol production.

This story from Ethanol Producer Magazine says the National Agriculture Statistics Service will be taking comments until March 28, 2011 with plans to release the results by next January:

NASS expects to contact 70,000 various livestock and poultry operations in early January to gain information related to their distillers co-products use during 2011. The survey will attempt to determine the rate of use of distillers co-products and various aspects contributing to their decision to use the feed, including nutrient values, product consistency, product form, product testing, inclusion rates, economics, shelf life, storage and transportation. The survey has been named the Distiller’s By-Products Survey in order to encompass all by-products, but Olbert said that focus could be narrowed to concentrate only on distillers grains. “That’s another reason why we need some input from the public and from stakeholders on what kinds of information they need from a survey,” he added.

You can submit comments to the USDA through email to Reference docket number 0535-0247 in the subject line of the email.

Happy National Biodiesel Day!

Since today is the anniversary of the the birth of the first proponent of biodiesel, it is also National Biodiesel Day.

It was on March 18, 1858 Rudolf Diesel was born. As a proponent of using peanut oil in his diesel engine invention, Herr Diesel also became the first backer of biodiesel, thus today being recognized as National Biodiesel Day. This from the National Biodiesel Board:

The first compression ignition engine that Rudolph Diesel displayed at the 1900 World’s Fair ran on peanut oil and he designed it with a variety of fuels in mind. In a 1912 speech Diesel said, “the use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today, but such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time.”

“The biodiesel industry has grown to be as diverse as the diesel engine itself,” said Don Scott, Director of Sustainability for the National Biodiesel Board. “From the raw materials used to make it, to the engines it is burned in, biodiesel is one of the most diverse alternative fuels on the planet.”

Biodiesel is a cleaner burning, advanced biofuel made from readily available renewable resources such as soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, animal fat and even used cooking oil. The engines biodiesel is used in include semi-trucks, tractors, heavy construction equipment, boats, school buses, city transit buses, military equipment, diesel pickup trucks, passenger vehicles, home heating burners, electrical generators and almost every other diesel engine in the marketplace.