Advanced Biofuels Deliver Substantially Greater Pollution Reductions Than Corn-Based Ethanol

Posted on February 4, 2010. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel, Hydrous Ethanol, Rural Development | Tags: , , , |

New Renewable Fuel Standard, Which Sets First Heat Trapping Emissions Requirements for Biofuels, Gets Favorable Review From UCS

EPA Analysis Demonstrated That Without Additional Support, Cleanest Biofuels Will Fail to Meet Targets
By Union of Concerned Scientists
February 3, 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new rules for the Renewable Fuel Standard, the nation’s primary biofuels program, got a favorable review from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The science group praised the agency for a transparent process that accurately accounted for biofuels’ lifecycle heat-trapping emissions by including so-called “indirect-land-use emissions.” The new rules reflect the fact that advanced and cellulosic biofuels deliver substantially greater pollution reductions than today’s biofuels, such as corn ethanol. 

“We now have a yardstick to measure the global warming pollution from different biofuels,” said Jeremy Martin, a senior scientist in UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program. “EPA should be congratulated for having an open process on this rule that involved scientists, farmers and the ethanol industry.”

Despite intense pressure from the corn ethanol industry to exclude emissions from indirect-land-use change, the EPA found that such emissions are a major source of heat-trapping pollution from corn ethanol and other food-based biofuels. This finding affirms the view of 200 scientists and economists with relevant expertise who sent a letter to the EPA in September 2009 arguing that “grappling with the technical uncertainty and developing a regulation based on the best available science is preferable to ignoring a major source of emissions.” The EPA also issued an analysis examining the scientific uncertainty involved in calculating emissions from indirect-land-use change and plans to ask the National Academy of Sciences to look at the issue.

Indirect-land-use-change emissions also have been the focus of recent analysis by the California Air Resources Board, as well as peer-review scientific articles, which concluded that using food crops to produce fuel increases worldwide demand for those crops, prompting farmers to clear previously untouched land to grow new crops. Clearing land, especially tropical forests, releases massive amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

The Renewable Fuel Standard, enacted in 2005, requires fuel suppliers to blend a higher percentage of renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, into motor vehicle fuels over time. In 2007, Congress passed the “Energy Independence and Security Act,” which expanded the standard’s overall volume requirement from 7.5 million gallons by 2012 to 36 billion gallons by 2022, and significantly increased the requirement for low-carbon cellulosic biofuels. It also required the EPA to establish independent volume mandates for different fuel categories. Each category was to be defined by its lifecycle heat-trapping emissions compared with conventional gasoline. The categories include: renewable fuel (20 percent less emissions than gasoline), biomass-based diesel (50 percent less), advanced biofuels (50 percent less), and cellulosic biofuels (60 percent less).

Corn ethanol facilities that were operating or under construction in 2007 are exempt from meeting the emissions-reduction requirements. The EPA projects that new corn ethanol facilities coming on line in 2022 could meet the 20 percent heat-trapping emissions reduction threshold for renewable fuels. However, this analysis is based on projected increases in crop yields and improvements in ethanol production technology and is not an analysis of the performance of today’s corn ethanol facilities.  

UCS experts say cellulosic ethanol, derived from grass, wood chips and other waste material, is a better option. According to EPA analysis, ethanol made from corn residue, or stalks and cobs, could reduce emissions by more than 90 percent compared with gasoline, in part because it would not necessarily displace land used to grow food crops and therefore would not trigger significant indirect land use emissions. 

Cellulosic fuel production, however, has fallen short of the EPA target. The 2007 energy law required suppliers to produce 100 million gallons of cellulosic fuel in 2010. But current cellulosic ethanol production stands at only 6.5 million gallons. Therefore, the EPA announced today that it is waiving 93.5 million gallons of the 100 million gallon requirement.

“Achieving energy security and tackling climate change will require a big contribution from cellulosic fuels,” said Martin. “Just setting a goal isn’t good enough in this economy. We need investment policies that help this industry get off the ground.”

According to UCS, the most important thing federal legislators could do to meet the Renewable Fuel Standard’s goals would be to support investment in building commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel facilities across the country. An investment in this essential clean energy technology would jumpstart rural economies and expand the economic benefits of biofuels production.

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EPA Concludes Corn-Based Ethanol Will Meet GHG Reduction Requirement

Posted on February 4, 2010. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel, Field-to-Pump | Tags: , , , |

EPA ruling boosts ethanol after fierce lobbying effort for corn-based fuels
By Ben Geman
February 3, 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) handed a victory to ethanol producers Wednesday by issuing final regulations that conclude corn-based fuels will meet greenhouse gas standards imposed under a 2007 energy law.

The release of the final regulations follows a fierce campaign by ethanol companies that alleged 2009 draft rules unfairly found that large volumes of ethanol production would not meet targets in the statute for reducing greenhouse gases.

The new rules state that corn-based ethanol will meet a requirement of the 2007 law that they must emit at least 20 percent less in “lifecycle” greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline.

The statute expanded the national biofuels use mandate to reach 36 billion gallons annually by 2022. If the EPA had ruled that corn-based fuels did not meet their emissions target, the fuels could have been frozen out of the market.

The issue has been vital to the ethanol lobby, which feared that an adverse finding could stymie investment and tarnish the fuel’s image.

However, the nation’s current ethanol production — about 12 billion gallons annually — was exempted from the law’s emissions mandate.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Monday denied the agency had bent to pressure, instead arguing that EPA employed better modeling when crafting the final regulations.

“We have followed the science,” she told reporters on a conference call. “Our models have become more sophisticated. We have accrued better data.”

The new rules, which implement the expanded fuels mandate, are not a complete victory for ethanol lobbyists, who along with several farm-state lawmakers object to the way EPA measures the carbon footprint of biofuels.

Specifically, they’re upset that EPA didn’t give up on weighing “international indirect land use changes” as part of emissions calculations. The phrase refers to emissions from clearing grasslands and forests in other countries for croplands, in order to compensate for increasing use of U.S. corn and soybeans for making fuels.

“We will always be concerned about indirect land use,” said Gen. Wesley Clark, a former presidential candidate who now leads the ethanol industry trade group Growth Energy.

“Why should American farmers be penalized for the problems in the Brazilian rainforest? That’s the Brazilian government’s issue and maybe the United Nations’,” he said in an interview before EPA’s rules were released. “It is so farfetched. I know it comes out of an academic model, but it is just an academic model, and the model is not even based on current facts.”

The industry alleges the science behind the land-use emissions measurements is immature and inaccurate, while environmentalists say such calculations are vital to ensuring federal support for ethanol doesn’t actually worsen climate change.

Nathanael Greene of the Natural Resources Defense Council also praised the measure because EPA did not back away from considering the land-use emissions, even though it came up with numbers friendlier to the industry with the final rule.

“We finally have a tool that we can use to hold the industry accountable, to reward the people that are doing a better job and keep the folks that are doing a really bad job out,” said Greene, the group’s director of renewable energy policy.

EPA said several factors went into the revised emissions calculations. For instance, the agency said that better satellite data allowed more precise assessments of the types of land converted internationally.

The battle over the land use emissions is hardly over. Two senior House Democrats — Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (Mo.) — introduced a bill this week that would block EPA from considering the land-use changes.

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Motion in Senate Seeks to Stop EPA from Regulating GHG Emissions

Posted on January 21, 2010. Filed under: cap-and-trade | Tags: , , |

Three Senate Democrats Join Effort to Block EPA Carbon Rules
By Simon Lomax
Bloomberg
January 21, 2010

Three Senate Democrats today joined a Republican effort to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under existing law.

Democrats Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska said they co-sponsored a motion that seeks to overturn the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases are a threat to public health and should be regulated. The agency has proposed regulations for new cars, power plants, oil refineries and factories that could begin in March.

“This command-and-control approach is our worst option for reducing the emissions blamed for climate change,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, who wrote the measure. “Congress must be given time to develop an appropriate and more responsible solution.”

Murkowski decided today to seek a disapproval motion of the EPA’s Dec. 7 finding instead of trying to block the agency’s regulations by amending legislation now before the Senate. To pass the Senate, the disapproval motion would require 51 votes, fewer than the 60 required to amend legislation being debated this week to raise the U.S. government’s debt ceiling.

Lincoln said she will support Murkowski’s disapproval motion to block “heavy-handed EPA regulation.”

“I am very concerned about the burden that EPA regulation of carbon emissions could put on our economy,” Lincoln said in an e-mail.

Murkowski didn’t say how soon she would bring the motion to the Senate floor. Her decision will delay a vote on whether the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide from cars, power plants, oil refineries and factories “possibly until March,” Whitney Stanco, an analyst in Washington for Concept Capital, said in a report today.

Murkowski could ask for a vote on the disapproval resolution “at any time,” Robert Dillon, a spokesman for the Alaska Republican, said in a telephone interview.

The EPA’s authority stems from a 2007 Supreme Court ruling on the scope of the Clean Air Act. Legislation to limit that authority and set up a cap-and-trade market for carbon dioxide permits is stalled in the Senate.

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Senate Climate Change Fight Looks as Tough as Healthcare Reform Bill

Posted on December 31, 2009. Filed under: cap-and-trade | Tags: , , |

Senate Climate Change Fight Looks as Tough as Healthcare Reform Bill
By Ben Geman
The Hill
December 29, 2009

Senate Democrats will face a problem when they return in January every bit as tough as crafting the healthcare bill: Assembling a climate and energy package that can be shoehorned into the election-year calendar.

Imposing limits on greenhouse gases is a White House and Democratic priority, but it’s stuck in line behind healthcare, Wall Street reform and jobs legislation.

It’s also become increasingly apparent since the Copenhagen climate summit that the Senate will go forward in a dramatically different direction than the House, which approved its own climate bill last summer.

Environmentalists familiar with Democratic plans say party leaders remain committed to bringing up a bill next year. They are looking to Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) effort to craft a compromise plan with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

But in a sign of how difficult it will be to cobble together 60 votes, Kerry and Graham have provided few details about what their plan will contain.

They hope to blend emissions limits with wider offshore oil-and-gas drilling, expanded federal financing for nuclear power and a lot of support for low-emissions coal projects, among other measures aimed a navigating a thicket of regional and partisan interests.

Graham noted that different senators are proposing a variety of plans for limiting carbon emissions, and he said he’s open-minded to what is included in a bill, as long as it is a “meaningful control” on pollution.

Some Democratic centrists including Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Byron Dorgan (N.D.), who are both up for reelection next year, want the Senate to take up a broad energy measure that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved in June as a standalone bill, rather than grafting it to a cap-and-trade plan.

That’s led to speculation that Democrats might seek to move an energy bill but put off the fight over climate change.

The problem with that logic is that dozens of Democrats want to move a climate change bill, including centrists such as Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who faces a tough primary fight and then a difficult general election battle.

“I think it [climate legislation] is important. I think we ought to take it up,” Specter said in a brief interview last week. He’s also said any final bill must protect manufacturers and provide a major boost for low-emissions coal.

White House officials also are calling for a combined energy and climate package, including an economy-wide cap-and-trade plan.

White House climate czar Carol Browner in November warned against “slicing and dicing,” and a White House aide said Monday that a combined energy policy and cap-and-trade package remains what the White House wants from Congress in 2010.

Linda Stuntz, an electricity industry lawyer who was an Energy Department official under President George H.W. Bush, believes the Senate will bring up a combined climate and energy bill, though she said it will face rough sledding.

“I am in the camp of those who think it is going to be very difficult after the really bruising fight over heathcare,” she said.

Stuntz does not see room in the Senate for a bill that mirrors the House plan. 

“I don’t see an economy-wide cap-and-trade bill happening in 2010,” she said, adding that a narrower emissions plan, perhaps covering only power plants, could be more viable.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said she has been discussing the shape of an energy and climate package with lawmakers including Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Graham.

“It is not off the radar screen,” Landrieu said Wednesday. “There have been quite a few informal meetings that have been going on through the fog of this healthcare bill.”

Reid hopes to bring legislation to the floor in the spring, but that will be difficult given the Senate’s schedule.

A former official in the Clinton White House familiar with the climate change efforts said key negotiations need to start next month on the difficult task of assembling a compromise bill.

“At some point before the end of January several new moderates from both parties have to be brought into the process if we are going to create a bill that can gain 60 votes in the Senate. What it will take to bring those votes into the process is unclear, but those conversations have got to start to happen in mid- to late January,” the former official said.

An aide to Kerry said he was not planning to conduct negotiations on the climate measure over the Senate’s holiday recess.

The sour economy could also complicate plans to impose mandatory emissions limits amid assertions by GOP leaders and many in the Republican caucus that such plans would stifle growth.

But Kevin Book, an analyst with the consulting firm ClearView Energy Partners, argues the reverse is true.

He said that with states hurting financially, the billions of dollars that House and Senate cap-and-trade plans would provide to states through emissions allowances will help boost the chances for legislation that greatly expands federal environmental regulation.

“A weak economy is the only time you can have this incursion into the state regulatory franchise,” he said.

And, he notes, supporters of climate legislation have another card to play: The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to move ahead with emissions regulations if Congress does not act.

“It is going to be very hard for Democrats to come up with nothing,” he said. “The only really politically viable option for them, thanks to the White House choice to move ahead [with EPA regulations], is to pass something.”

Nonetheless, energy lobbyists are hedging their bets, looking to the jobs bill as well as the hoped-for comprehensive energy-climate package for their preferred provisions. On Monday, the American Wind Energy Association released a list of 10 trends to watch, including the fate of the renewable electricity standard (RES) that requires utilities to supply more renewable power, which the group has been seeking for years.

“Whether it is in job legislation or in comprehensive energy and climate legislation … a strong RES is urgently needed to create hard targets that will fortify our manufacturing base and create tens of thousands of jobs,” the group said.

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Greenhouse Gases Threaten Public Health and the Environment

Posted on December 7, 2009. Filed under: Field-to-Pump, Hydrous Ethanol | Tags: , , , |

EPA: Science overwhelmingly shows greenhouse gas concentrations at unprecedented levels due to human activity

WASHINGTON – After a thorough examination of the scientific evidence and careful consideration of public comments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also finds that GHG emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat.

GHGs are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans.

These long-overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States Government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Business leaders, security experts, government officials, concerned citizens and the United States Supreme Court have called for enduring, pragmatic solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing climate change. This continues our work towards clean energy reform that will cut GHGs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy.”

EPA’s final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findingsdo not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation.

On-road vehicles contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. EPA’s proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles, a subset of on-road vehicles, would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012-2016 vehicles.

EPA’s endangerment finding covers emissions of six key greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of scrutiny and intense analysis for decades by scientists in the United States and around the world.

Scientific consensus shows that as a result of human activities, GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are at record high levels and data shows that the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years, with the steepest increase in warming in recent decades. The evidence of human-induced climate change goes beyond observed increases in average surface temperatures; it includes melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans due to excess carbon dioxide, changing precipitation patterns, and changing patterns of ecosystems and wildlife.

President Obama and Administrator Jackson have publicly stated that they support a legislative solution to the problem of climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. However, climate change is threatening public health and welfare, and it is critical that EPA fulfill its obligation to respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined that greenhouse gases fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants.

EPA issued the proposed findings in April 2009 and held a 60-day public comment period. The agency received more than 380,000 comments, which were carefully reviewed and considered during the development of the final findings.

Information on EPA’s findings: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html

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EPA is Expected to Announce Greenhouse Gases Endanger Public Health and Welfare

Posted on December 7, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel | Tags: , , |

Business Fumes Over Carbon Dioxide Rule

By Jeffrey Ball and Charles Forelle

The Wall Street Journal

December 7, 2009

Officials gather in Copenhagen this week for an international climate summit, but business leaders are focusing even more on Washington, where the Obama administration is expected as early as Monday to formally declare carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant.

An “endangerment” finding by the Environmental Protection Agency could pave the way for the government to require businesses that emit carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to make costly changes in machinery to reduce emissions — even if Congress doesn’t pass pending climate-change legislation. EPA action to regulate emissions could affect the U.S. economy more directly, and more quickly, than any global deal inked in the Danish capital, where no binding agreement is expected.

Many business groups are opposed to EPA efforts to curb a gas as ubiquitous as carbon dioxide.

An EPA endangerment finding “could result in a top-down command-and-control regime that will choke off growth by adding new mandates to virtually every major construction and renovation project,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said in a statement. “The devil will be in the details, and we look forward to working with the government to ensure we don’t stifle our economic recovery,” he said, noting that the group supports federal legislation.

Advancing Emissions

Track the rise of carbon dioxide emissions.

Countdown to Copenhagen

Take a look at events leading up to the climate conference.

EPA action won’t do much to combat climate change, and “is certain to come at a huge cost to the economy,” said the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that stands as a proxy for U.S. industry.

Dan Riedinger, spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, a power-industry trade group, said the EPA would be less likely than Congress to come up with an “economywide approach” to regulating emissions. The power industry prefers such an approach because it would spread the burden of emission cuts to other industries as well.

Electricity generation, transportation and industry represent the three largest sources of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.

An EPA spokeswoman declined to comment Sunday on when the agency might finalize its proposed endangerment finding. Congressional Republicans have called on the EPA to withdraw it, saying recently disclosed emails written by scientists at the Climatic Research Unit of the U.K.’s University of East Anglia and their peers call into question the scientific rationale for regulation.

The spokeswoman said that the EPA is confident the basis for its decision will be “very strong,” and that when it is published, “we invite the public to review the extensive scientific analysis informing” the decision.

EPA action would give President Barack Obama something to show leaders from other nations when he attends the Copenhagen conference on Dec. 18 and tries to persuade them that the U.S. is serious about cutting its contribution to global greenhouse-gas emissions.

[Climate]

The vast majority of increased greenhouse-gas emissions is expected to come from developing countries such as China and India, not from rich countries like the U.S. But developing countries have made it clear that their willingness to reduce growth in emissions will depend on what rich countries do first. That puts a geopolitical spotlight on the U.S.

At the heart of the fight over whether U.S. emission constraints should come from the EPA or Congress is a high-stakes issue: which industries will have to foot the bill for a climate cleanup. A similar theme will play out in Copenhagen as rich countries wrangle over how much they should have to pay to help the developing world shift to cleaner technologies.

“There is no agreement without money,” says Rosário Bento Pais, a top climate negotiator for the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm. “That is clear.”

An endangerment finding would allow the EPA to use the federal Clean Air Act to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, which are produced whenever fossil fuel is burned. Under that law, the EPA could require emitters of as little as 250 tons of carbon dioxide per year to install new technology to curb their emissions starting as soon as 2012.

Pawel Kopczynski/ReutersA man climbed on a globe that is part of an installation in downtown Copenhagen.

The EPA has said it will only require permits from big emitters — facilities that put out 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year. But that effort to tailor the regulations to avoid slamming small businesses with new costs is expected to be challenged in court.

Legislators are aware that polls show the public appetite for action that would raise energy prices to protect the environment has fallen precipitously amid the recession.

Congressional legislation also faces plenty of U.S. industry opposition. Under the legislation, which has been passed by the House but is now stuck in the Senate, the federal government would set a cap on the amount of greenhouse gas the economy could emit every year. The government would distribute a set number of emission permits to various industries. Companies that wanted to be able to emit more than their quota could buy extra permits from those that had figured out how to emit less.

Proponents of the cap-and-trade approach say emission-permit trading will encourage industries to find the least-expensive ways to curb greenhouse-gas output. But opponents say it will saddle key industries with high costs not borne by rivals in China or India, and potentially cost the U.S. jobs.

AFP/Getty ImagesAn official prepares the Danish flag in the large Copenhagen meeting hall that will host the United Nation’s summit on climate change beginning Monday. The conference ends Dec. 18.

Climate

Climate

The oil industry has warned that climate legislation could force some U.S. refineries to shut down, because importing gasoline from countries without emission caps could be cheaper than making the gasoline on domestic soil.

Legislators “have decided that coal and electric users don’t bear the burden” of emissions constraints for many years, said John Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group. “Early in the program, oil users are the ones who are hammered.”

The Iron and Steel Institute, which represents more than 75% of steel made in the U.S., said that successful climate policy — whether through the EPA or Congress — must “reduce emissions without altering the competitiveness of American steelmakers.”

The issue of how curbing emissions would affect jobs in developed countries is likely to erupt in Copenhagen in the battle over how much rich countries should pony up for cleaner technologies in developing nations.

Estimates of the cost for reducing emissions in developing countries vary widely, but the European Commission said in September that the bill could reach $150 billion annually by 2020. Leaders of the EU’s 27 nations have said only that the EU would pay its “fair share” of the total, without committing to an amount.

Yet EU industry lobbies are weighing in against that proposal. It is “not realistic,” said Axel Eggert, spokesman for Eurofer, the trade group for European steelmakers. Steelmakers want to “make sure that the financing is not a subsidy for our competitors,” he said.

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Biofuel Fraud Case Could Leave the EPA Running on Fumes

Posted on September 7, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel | Tags: , , , , , |

Cello Energy is unlikely to produce 70 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel next year, which means that the EPA will not meet its 2010 target of 100 million gallons
By Brendan Borrell
Scientific American

Grassoline it ain’t. After a jury ordered a leading cellulosic biofuel company to pony up millions for defrauding investors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will likely come in 60 million gallons shy of its 100 million gallon target next year.

Late last month, a federal court in Mobile ordered Cello Energy of Bay Minette, Ala., to pay $10.4 million in punitive damages for fraudulently claiming it could produce cheap diesellike fuel from hay, wood pulp and other waste.

Cello’s owner, Jack Boykin, allegedly built a sham facility and lured pulp producer Parsons & Whittemore Enterprises to invest $2.5 million in an ownership stake in 2007. In court, Parsons & Whitmore CEO George Landegger said he was unimpressed with the company’s facilities, and a string of expert witnesses testified that fuel samples were derived from petroleum sources.

Neither Boykin nor his attorney, Forrest Latta, returned calls for comment, but in statements to the press following the trial, Latta has indicated that Cello’s technology has “global potential.” Another defendant, Khosla Ventures, a California firm that invested $12.5 million in Cello in 2007, was unavailable to comment.

Although it’s no surprise that investors might be dazzled in the rush to hop on board the biofuels bandwagon, the EPA appears to have been duped as well.

Cellulosic biofuel technology is still in its infancy, and the agency and Congress required gasoline blenders to purchase and sell just 100 million gallons next year, less than 1 percent of the nation’s proposed renewable fuel mandates. To encourage biofuel producers to meet that demand, the government would establish a credit scheme to set a floor on the wholesale price of $3.00 per gallon—about twice that of corn-based ethanol—if production fails to reach the 100 million gallon mark.

But David Woodburn, an analyst at ThinkEquity Partners in Chicago says that the agency had pinned its hopes on Cello and has not put in place the cellulosic biofuel credit system required to maintain that price point. “EPA was supposed to have prepared it in late June,” he says, “In the EPA’s eyes, they only need to implement that system if they see a shortfall coming…. Up to now on paper they’ve totally ignored this credit system.”

As reported in earth2tech, Woodburn first realized the EPA would fall short of its target when it released its draft regulatory impact analysis in May. This document listed firms that were to make cellulosic biofuel, and most were on the hook to produce one million or two million gallons by the end of 2010. Cello Energy, however, claimed that its Bay Minette facility would pump out 20 million gallons. The agency also had Cello down for new plants that would produce another 50 million gallons. Woodburn says he grew skeptical of the company after calls and e-mails to the company for verification were never returned.

EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn says Cello estimates were “derived based on commercialization plans from the company. They never gave us volume—only size of the facilities and planned timeline.”

So, what’s the chance that Cello can still meet its target? “It seemed extremely unlikely three weeks ago before this jury verdict,” Woodburn says. “It seems extremely unlikely today. How can you create three additional plants and have them producing in 2010 when ground hasn’t been broken yet?”

Woodburn adds that Cello also faces another hurdle, which is that it has no distribution agreements: in other words, no one has promised to buy their biofuel. In the best-case scenario, he says, the nation will produce 39 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel next year and blenders will be on the hook to pay the government a $600 million or more for biofuel credits through a program that still does not exist.

Alternatively, the EPA could lower the cellulosic biofuel target when it finalizes the contentious renewable fuel standards in the fall, a decision that would defeat the whole idea of the goal in the first place.

Milbourn says the EPA is “continuing to assess the viability of not only Cello, but also the various other technologies and companies in supplying cellulosic biofuel.”

For George Huber, the University of Massachusetts Amherst chemical engineering professor who wrote Scientific American’s July cover story about cellulosic biofuels, Cello is a lesson to be learned. “There are no magic processes for conversion of biomass into liquid fuels,” he says, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true.”

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U.S. Biofuel Boom Running on Empty

Posted on September 6, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel, Blender's Tax Credit | Tags: , , , , , , |

U.S. Biofuel Boom Running on Empty

By ANN DAVIS and RUSSELL GOLD

The Wall Street Journal

August 27, 2009

The biofuels revolution that promised to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil is fizzling out.

Two-thirds of U.S. biodiesel production capacity now sits unused, reports the National Biodiesel Board. Biodiesel, a crucial part of government efforts to develop alternative fuels for trucks and factories, has been hit hard by the recession and falling oil prices.

The global credit crisis, a glut of capacity, lower oil prices and delayed government rules changes on fuel mixes are threatening the viability of two of the three main biofuel sectors — biodiesel and next-generation fuels derived from feedstocks other than food. Ethanol, the largest biofuel sector, is also in financial trouble, although longstanding government support will likely protect it.

[Turmoil in Biofuels Threatens Green Energy Revolution]

Earlier this year, GreenHunter Energy Inc., operator of the nation’s largest biodiesel refinery, stopped production and in June said it may have to sell its Houston plant, only a year after politicians presided over its opening. Dozens of other new biodiesel plants, which make a diesel substitute from vegetable oils and animal fats, have stopped operating because biodiesel production is no longer economical.

Producers of next-generation biofuels — those using nonfood renewable materials such as grasses, cornstalks and sugarcane stalks — are finding it tough to attract investment and ramp up production to an industrial scale. The sector suffered a major setback this summer after a federal jury ruled that Cello Energy of Alabama, a plant-fiber-based biofuel producer, had defrauded investors. Backed by venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, Cello was expected to supply 70% of the 100.7 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels that the Environmental Protection Agency planned to blend into the U.S. fuel supply next year. The alleged fraud will almost certainly prevent the EPA from meeting its targets next year, energy analysts say.

The wave of biodiesel failures and Cello’s inability to produce even a fraction of what it expected have spooked private investors, which could further delay technology breakthroughs and derail the government’s green energy objectives.

“If your investors are losing money in first-generation biofuels, I guarantee you they’ll be more reluctant to put money into more biofuels, including next-generation fuels,” says Tom Murray, global head of energy for German bank WestLB, one of the leading lenders to ethanol and biodiesel makers.

Domestically produced biofuels were supposed to be an answer to reducing America’s reliance on foreign oil. In 2007, Congress set targets for the U.S. to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels a year into the U.S. fuel supply in 2022, from 11.1 billion gallons in 2009. That would increase biofuels’ share of the liquid-fuel mix to roughly 16% from 5%, based on U.S. Energy Information Administration fuel-demand projections.

Corn ethanol, which has been supported by government blending mandates and other subsidies for years, has come under fire for driving up the price of corn and other basic foodstuffs. While it will continue to be produced, corn ethanol’s dominant role in filling the biofuels’ blending mandate was set to shrink through 2022. Cellulosic ethanol, derived from the inedible portions of plants, and other advanced fuels were expected to surpass corn ethanol to fill close to half of all biofuel mandates in that time.

But the industry is already falling behind the targets. The EPA, which implements the congressional blending mandates, still hasn’t issued any regulations to allow biodiesel blending, though they were supposed to start in January. The mandate to blend next-generation fuels, which kicks in next year, is unlikely to be met because of a lack of enough viable production.

“I don’t believe there’s a man, woman or child who believes the industry can hit” the EPA’s 2010 biofuel blending targets, says Bill Wicker, spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee.

The business models for most biofuel companies were predicated on a much higher price of crude oil, making biofuels more attractive. A government-guaranteed market was also central to business plans.

But once blending mandates were postponed, oil prices plunged and the recession crushed fuel demand, many biodiesel companies started operating in the red. Even ethanol producers, which have enjoyed government subsidies and growing federal requirements to blend it into gasoline, have been operating at a loss over the past year. Numerous established producers have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection.

Critics of the biofuels boom say government support helped create the mess in the first place. In 2007, biofuels including ethanol received $3.25 billion in subsidies and support — more than nuclear, solar or any other energy source, according to the Energy Information Administration. With new stimulus funding, this figure is expected to jump. New Energy Finance Ltd., an alternative-energy research firm, estimates that blending mandates alone would provide over $33 billion in tax credits to the biofuels industry from 2009 through 2013.

Not all biofuels may be worth the investment because they divert land from food crops, are expensive to produce and may be eclipsed by the electric car. One fact cited against biofuels: If the entire U.S. supply of vegetable oils and animal fats were diverted to make biodiesel, production still would amount to at most 7% of U.S. diesel demand.

Producers and investors now are pushing for swift and aggressive government help. Biodiesel makers are lobbying to kick-start the delayed blending mandates immediately and extend biodiesel tax credits, which expire in December.

On Aug. 7 more than two dozen U.S. senators wrote to President Barack Obama to warn that “numerous bankruptcies loom” in the biodiesel sector. “If this situation is not addressed immediately, the domestic biodiesel industry expects to lose 29,000 jobs in 2009 alone,” the senators wrote, using estimates by the National Biodiesel Board.

Mr. Obama, who supported biofuels throughout his campaign, is working to roll out grants and loan guarantees for bio-refineries and green fuel projects, said Heather Zichal, a White House energy adviser. The pace of the disbursements should speed up this fall, administration officials say.

Obama officials defended the delay in biodiesel mandates. The EPA in May proposed rules that penalize soy-based diesel under the blending mandates, because deforestation from soybean cultivation is thought to offset the fuel’s environmental benefits. Obama officials say the EPA must perform a thorough environmental review before it can issue rules. The amount of biodiesel that was to have been blended in 2009 will be added to the amount required for 2010, so that no volume is lost, they add.

Any state help might be too late for GreenHunter Energy. In 2007, the company, led by energy exploration executive Gary Evans, acquired a Houston refinery that processed used motor oil and chemicals and retrofit it to make 105 million gallons of biodiesel a year from all manner of feedstocks, from soybean oil and beef tallow to, potentially, inedible plant matter. GreenHunter’s business model hinged on selling to a government-guaranteed buyer: GreenHunter has the capacity to make 20% of the 500 million gallons of biodiesel that Congress wanted to be blended into the 2009 fuel supply.

Until the mandate kicked in, GreenHunter and other biodiesel makers counted on exporting their output to Europe, a much bigger user of diesel.

GreenHunter opened in June 2008 as oil prices skyrocketed. By then, soybean oil prices were soaring, too, pinching refiners that had banked on using soy. Mr. Evans switched to inedible animal fats.

For about a month, when oil hovered above $120 a barrel and traditional diesel ran over $4 a gallon, GreenHunter says profit margins on turning animal fat into diesel rose as high as $1.25 a gallon. It wasn’t sustainable. The price of animal fat soared too, cutting margins again.

As the EPA continued to delay the blending mandates, the global downturn obliterated demand for regular diesel. Prices cratered. GreenHunter’s plant took a direct hit from Hurricane Ike in September. By the time the plant reopened in late November, the price of diesel had dropped by more than half, and GreenHunter was losing money on every gallon of fuel.

The European Union dealt the final blow this spring when it slapped a tariff on U.S. biodiesel, killing what had been the industry’s main sales outlet.

GreenHunter has since stopped producing biodiesel. The American Stock Exchange informed GreenHunter in May that the company was out of compliance with some listing requirements; the firm has submitted a plan to remain listed. Its stock has sunk to about $2 a share from a high of $24.75 in May 2008.

Bio-refinery carcasses are everywhere. GreenHunter’s lender, West LB, arranged $2 billion in ethanol and biodiesel loans, selling them to various investors beginning around 2006. Today, half of the $2 billion in loans have defaulted or are being restructured, according to people familiar with the portfolio. Publicly traded Nova Biosource Fuels Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in March.

Imperium Renewables, a biodiesel maker in Washington, is trying to hang on as a storage depot, its founder says. Evolution Fuels, an outfit that used to sell a biodiesel brand licensed by country singer Willie Nelson, has stopped production and said in a securities filing it may not be able to continue as a going concern. The company didn’t return calls for comment.

[Turmoil in Biofuels Threatens Green Energy Revolution]

Some senators have introduced a bill to extend biodiesel tax credits. A provision passed in the House grandfathers soy-based biodiesel into the blending mandates for five years.

Second-generation biofuels have had their own setbacks.

When seeking investors for Cello Energy in 2007, Jack Boykin, an entrepreneur with a background in biochemistry, said Cello had made diesel economically in a four-million-gallon-a-year pilot plant from grass, hay and used tires. What’s more, he told investors he had successfully used the fuel in trucks, according to testimony in a federal court case in Mobile, Ala. He said he had invested $25 million of his own money. An Auburn University agronomy professor advising the Bush administration on green energy endorsed his technology.

Alabama paper-and-pulp executive George Landegger and Mr. Khosla, the venture capitalist, separately invested millions in seed money into Cello and had plans to invest or lend more.

A lawsuit disputing the ownership stakes of investors produced Mr. Boykin’s revelation, in a 2008 deposition, that he had never used inedible plant material such as wood chips or grass in his pilot plant, despite claims otherwise. Construction of his full-scale facility in rural Alabama moved forward anyway.

This year, Khosla representatives took samples of diesel produced at the new Cello plant and sent them off for testing. The results showed no evidence of plant-based fuel: Carbon in the diesel was at least 50,000 years old, marking it as traditional fossil fuel.

The EPA wasn’t told about the test, and continued to rely on Mr. Boykin’s original claims when it asserted in the Federal Register in May that Cello could produce 70% of the cellulosic fuel targets set by Congress that are due to take effect next year.

The jury returned a $10.4 million civil fraud and breach-of-contract verdict against the Alabama entrepreneur in favor of Mr. Landegger, one of the investors. Work on the plant has been suspended. Several weeks after the verdict was delivered, Mr. Boykin presented evidence that he had tested fuel from the plant and it did contain cellulosic material. He is seeking a new trial.

Mr. Boykin declined to comment, but his lawyer, Forest Latta, said his client denies committing fraud. The carbon testing, he said, reflected only an early stage quality-control test during startup trials. It would be premature to conclude, Mr. Latta said in an email, that Cello’s fuel-making process is a failure. “This is a first-of-its-kind plant in which there remain some mechanical issues still being ironed out,” he wrote.

Margo Oge, director of the EPA’s office on transportation and air quality, says the agency is “looking into the whole case of Cello.” Mr. Khosla declined to discuss Cello, but said he doubts the 2010 cellulosic fuel mandates can be met. “All projects, even traditional well-established technologies, are being delayed because of the financial crisis,” he said in an interview.

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The Cellulosic Ceiling

Posted on September 5, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Ethanol Producer Magazine
From the August 2009 Issue

The renewable fuel standard calls for 100 MMgy of cellulosic biofuel to be blended into the nation’s fuel in 2010, ramping up to 16 billion gallons per year in 2022. Will the U.S. produce enough to satisfy the mandate?

By 2022, the U.S. EPA expects the domestic biofuels industry to produce more than 32 billion gallons per year of renewable fuel. However, less than half of that fuel is expected to be corn-based ethanol. The majority, 16 billion gallons, will be cellulosic biofuel. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 defines cellulosic biofuel as renewable fuel produced from any cellulose, hemicelluloses, or lignin that is derived from renewable biomass and has life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are at least 60 percent less than the baseline life-cycle GHG emissions. The EPA predicts that, in the long run, those 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuel will be cellulosic ethanol. However, EISA’s definition for cellulosic biofuel leaves open the possibility that the mandate can be met by other fuels.

Federal Investments
The goal of ultimately producing billions of gallons of cellulosic biofuel has a hefty price tag. Between 2002 and 2008, the U.S. DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Biomass Program, established to develop and demonstrate biomass feedstock and conversion technologies for integrated biorefineries and to ensure cellulosic ethanol can be produced cost-effectively by 2012, was allocated more than $800 million in federal funding. Since 2007, the DOE has announced more than $1 billion in multi-year investments in cellulosic biorefineries and since 2006 the USDA has invested almost $600 million to develop biofuel technology.

The bulk of the DOE’s investments began in February 2007 when it announced plans to invest $385 million in six biorefinery projects over four years for a total cellulosic ethanol production capacity of 131 MMgy. Combined with the industry cost share, the projects equated to more than $1.2 billion in investments. Projects identified for funding included an 11 MMgy Abengoa Bioenergy SA plant in Kansas, a 14 MMgy Alico Inc. plant in Florida, a 19 MMgy BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc. facility in California, a 30 MMgy Poet LLC plant in Iowa, an 18 MMgy Iogen Corp. plant in Idaho, and a 40 MMgy Range Fuels Inc. plant in Georgia.

In May 2007, the DOE announced it would provide up to $200 million over five years to support the development of small-scale cellulosic biorefineries. The first $114 million was allotted in January 2008 for four projects. The companies identified for funding included ICM Inc., Lignol Energy Corp., Pacific Ethanol Inc., and Stora Enso Oyj. The remaining $86 million was allotted to RSE Pulp & Chemical LLC, Mascoma Corp. and Ecofin LLC in April 2008. In July 2008, the DOE announced an additional $40 million investment for two more companies – Flambeau River Biofuels LLC for its project in Wisconsin and Verenium Corp. for its demonstration-scale facility in Louisiana. Seven of the nine plants were funded for cellulosic ethanol and two for cellulosic diesel.

On the research side, both the DOE and the USDA also provided funding to companies and universities. In March 2007, the DOE invested $23 million in five projects to develop highly efficient fermentative organisms to convert biomass material to ethanol; the companies and organizations identified for funding included Cargill Inc., Verenium, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., Mascoma, and Purdue University. In June 2007, the DOE and USDA together awarded $8.3 million to 10 universities for biomass genomic research. During that month, the DOE also announced a $375 million investment in three new bioenergy research centers, including the DOE BioEnergy Science Center, the DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, and the DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute.

To close out the year, the DOE awarded $7.7 million in December 2007 to four projects to demonstrate the thermochemical conversion process of biomass-to-biofuels. Then, in February 2008, the DOE invested $33.8 million in four projects to develop improved enzyme systems to convert cellulosic material into sugars suitable for the production of biofuels. The companies identified for funding included DSM Innovation Center Inc. (a partner with Abengoa), Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, Novozymes A/S, and Verenium.

In March 2008, the DOE and USDA awarded $18 million to 18 universities and research institutes to develop biomass-based products, including biofuels.

To meet renewable fuel standard targets, the U.S. EPA says cellulosic ethanol plant startups must begin in earnest with a few small plants during 2010-’11 and must continue at an increasing pace thereafter with larger plants. The EPA says the rate of growth for the cellulosic ethanol industry should be similar to that of the corn starch-based ethanol industry in recent years.
SOURCE: U.S. EPA

Finally, in May 2009, the DOE announced that it would provide $786.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate advanced biofuels research and development and to provide additional funding for commercial-scale biorefinery demonstration projects. Of the total, $480 million will be distributed among 10 to 20 projects for pilot- or demonstration-scale integrated biorefineries that produce advanced biofuels, bioproducts, and heat and power in an integrated system, which must be operational within three years. In addition, $176.5 million will be used to increase the federal funding ceiling on two or more demonstration- or commercial-scale biorefinery projects that were selected and awarded funds within the past two years. Also, $110 million will be used to support new research. Finally, $20 million has been set aside for optimizing flexible fuel vehicle technology, evaluating the impact of higher ethanol blends on conventional vehicles, and upgrading refueling stations to be compatible with ethanol blends up to E85.

Scaling up
To meet renewable fuel standard targets, the EPA says cellulosic ethanol plant start-ups must begin in earnest with a few small plants during 2010-’11, increasing pace thereafter with larger plants. The EPA says the rate of growth for the cellulosic ethanol industry should be similar to that of the corn starch-based ethanol industry in recent years, beginning with 40 MMgy plants from 2010-’13, increasing to 80 MMgy during 2014-’17 and 100 MMgy and upwards during 2018 and beyond. The EPA projects that approximately two billion gallons per year of new plant construction will need to come online between 2018 and 2022. In total, approximately 180 plants will need to be completed by 2022.

However, with only a few months to go before petroleum blenders must begin to use cellulosic biofuels, there are no commercial-scale plants ready to deliver the fuel. Since the DOE’s initial February 2007 funding announcement, very little money has actually been distributed to selected projects. Two of the first six companies to be awarded DOE money – Alico and Iogen – have dropped their applications. Lignol announced in February that it was discontinuing its project as a result of instable energy prices, capital market uncertainty and general market malaise. Meanwhile, subsidiaries of Pacific Ethanol filed for bankruptcy in May.

Abengoa and Poet say they are on track to begin production, but not until 2011. Only Range Fuels, which received an additional $80 million loan guarantee from the USDA in January (the first-ever USDA loan guarantee for a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant), expects to begin producing at near-commercial scale during 2010, with plans to complete the first phase of its planned 40 MMgy facility in Soperton, Ga., early next year.

According to Range Fuels CEO David Aldous, the plant is expected to be mechanically complete during the first quarter of 2010 and commissioning will begin soon thereafter. The plant will produce ethanol from wood chips, he says, and will be scaled up gradually from an initial 20 MMgy capacity. The EPA is predicting that Range Fuels will supply 10 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol toward the cellulosic biofuels mandate in 2010.

Aldous says Range Fuels’ technology is unique. “It is proprietary technology,” he says. “There are a lot of companies that are doing thermal front-end processes, whether they are pyrolysis or gasification, and there are a lot of other companies using different kinds of back-ends, converting the syngas into ethanol, (but) we use a proprietary catalyst on the back end and we use a proprietary technology on the front end.” Prior to leading Range Fuels, Aldous was executive vice president for strategy and portfolio at Royal Dutch Shell plc and also served as president of Shell Canada Products. He is also the former CEO for the Shell Group’s catalyst company, CRI/Criterion Inc.

Meeting the Mandate
To help meet the 100 MMgy cellulosic biofuels target for 2010, the EPA says there will be 24 pilot- or demonstration- scale plants and seven commercial- scale plants producing cellulosic ethanol or cellulosic diesel in 2010. However, ethanol will satisfy only 28 percent of the total cellulosic biofuels mandate. The EPA says the only companies that will produce more than one million gallons of cellulosic ethanol during 2010 are Verenium, Western Biomass Energy LLC, Fulcrum Bioenergy Inc., RSE, Southeast Renewable Fuels LLC, and Range Fuels.

The majority of the cellulosic biofuels volume (72 percent), the EPA says, is projected to come from cellulosic diesel. A small portion (3 million gallons) will be produced by Flambeau River Biofuels at its 6 MMgy plant in Park Falls, Wis., while the majority of all cellulosic biofuels that will be produced, the EPA says, will be cellulosic diesel from Cello Energy (pronounced “sell-oh”), which has a 20 MMgy plant in Bay Minette, Ala. The EPA says to expect 20 million gallons from the Bay Minette plant, as well as 16.67 million gallons from each of three future 50 MMgy plants, which are expected to be swiftly built—two in Alabama and one in Georgia—at locations to be determined.

Feedstock for Cello Energy’s operation can include plant biomass, waste wood, and other organic materials, as well as plastics and used tires. The company uses a catalytic depolymerization technology, the EPA says, to convert the feedstock into short-chain hydrocarbons that are polymerized to produce diesel fuel that meets ASTM standards at a cost between 50 cents and $1 per gallon. The process is reported to be 82 percent efficient and the only energy input is electricity. Allen Boykin, president of Cello Energy, told EPM that the catalyst used by the company is a proprietary catalyst that takes approximately 22 to 25 minutes to convert garbage into fuel oil using a continuous process.

Boykin says Cello Energy’s technology has been in the making for 12 to 15 years. His father, Dr. Jack Boykin, a chemical engineer who served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1961 to 1965, is CEO of Cello Energy and has been conducting the research. Allen says he became involved in 2002 to help bring the system to commercial-scale. Allen says bench-and pilot-scale testing was previously conducted in Prichard, Ala.

Imports to Meet Targets
The EPA admits that because cellulosic ethanol production technology is still developing, production plants will be considerably more complex and expensive to build than corn starch-based ethanol plants, thus requiring much more capital funding as well as design and construction resources. “Although technologies needed to convert cellulosic feedstocks into ethanol (and diesel) are becoming more and more understood, there are still a number of efficiency improvements that need to occur before cellulosic biofuel production can compete in today’s marketplace,” the EPA renewable fuel standard report says. “Additionally, because cellulosic biofuel production has not yet been proven on a commercial level, financing of these projects has primarily been through venture capital and similar funding mechanisms, as opposed to conventional bank loans.”

Alternatively, the EPA suggests that usage targets might be met using cellulosic biofuel that is produced internationally, for example, from feedstocks such as bagasse or straw.

Indeed, as much as 21 billion gallons per year of cellulosic biofuel might be produced outside the U.S. by 2017, the EPA says, the majority from bagasse, but also from forest products, and mostly from Brazil.

A recent report from Novozymes describes how Brazil might produce more than two billion gallons of cellulosic biofuel from bagasse by 2020, which would represent an additional $4 billion in export revenue for that country. Like in the U.S., the development of cellulosic biofuels in Brazil will depend on the industry’s ability to attract the needed investments and political support, Novozymes says.

Despite a slow start for cellulosic biofuels in the U.S., some in the industry are bullish about the future. “Advanced biofuel companies are ready to deploy their technology and begin meeting the requirements of the [RFS],” says Brent Erickson, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s Industrial and Environmental Section. “Now that the rules of the program are finally moving forward and the Obama administration has demonstrated a firm commitment to the industry, companies are prepared to build the next generation of biorefineries.”

Ryan C. Christiansen is the assistant editor of Ethanol Producer Magazine. Reach him at rchristiansen@bbiinternational.com or (701) 373-8042.

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Grants First-of-its-Kind Testing Exemption to Renergie

Posted on June 9, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel, Blender's Tax Credit, Field-to-Pump | Tags: , , , , |

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Grants First-of-its-Kind Testing Exemption to Renergie

 

Renergie to Test Hydrous E10, E20, E30 & E85 Ethanol Blends in Non-Flex-Fuel Vehicles and Flex-Fuel Vehicles in Louisiana

 

Gainesville, FL (February 11, 2009) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has granted a testing exemption to Renergie, Inc. Under the test program, the first of its kind in the U.S., Renergie will use variable blending pumps, not splash blending, to precisely dispense hydrous ethanol blends of E10, E20, E30, and E85 to test vehicles for the purpose of testing for blend optimization with respect to fuel economy, engine emissions, and vehicle drivability. Sixty vehicles will be involved in the test program which will last for a period of 15 months.

Hydrous Ethanol

Preliminary tests conducted in Europe have proven that the use of hydrous ethanol, which eliminates the need for the hydrous-to-anhydrous dehydration processing step, results in an energy savings of between ten percent and forty-five percent during processing, a four percent product volume increase, higher mileage per gallon, a cleaner engine interior, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Variable Blending Pump

In the U.S., the primary method for blending ethanol into gasoline is splash blending. The ethanol is “splashed” into the gasoline either in a tanker truck or sometimes into a storage tank of a retail station. Renergie believes the inaccuracy and manipulation of splash blending may be eliminated by precisely blending the ethanol and unleaded gasoline at the point of consumption, i.e., the point where the consumer puts E10, E20, E30 or E85 into his or her vehicle. A variable blending pump would ensure the consumer that E10 means the fuel entering the fuel tank of the consumer’s vehicle is 10 percent ethanol (rather than the current arbitrary range of 4 percent ethanol to at least 24% ethanol that the splash blending method provides) and 90% gasoline.

Team Approach

“On June 21, 2008, Governor Bobby Jindal signed into law the Advanced Biofuel Industry Development Initiative (“Act 382”), the most comprehensive and far-reaching state legislation in the nation enacted to develop a statewide advanced biofuel industry. Act 382 is based upon the “Field-to-Pump” strategy developed by Renergie.  Louisiana is the first state to enact alternative transportation fuel legislation that includes a variable blending pump pilot program and a hydrous ethanol pilot program,” said Meaghan M. Donovan, founder of Renergie, Inc. “We are excited and proud that Renergie, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are acting as a unified team to develop a network of small advanced biofuel manufacturing facilities and the necessary fueling infrastructure throughout Louisiana. Representative Jonathan W. Perry (R – District 47), Senator Nick Gautreaux (D – District 26), and Dr. Mike Strain, Commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, should be praised for their leadership on this issue. Renergie’s decentralized network of small advanced biofuel manufacturing facilities reduces Renergie’s feedstock supply risk, maximizes rural economic development, maximizes job creation in the state and does not burden local water supplies.

The legislature and governor of the great State of Louisiana have chosen to lead the nation in moving ethanol beyond being just a blending component in gasoline. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline, via blending pumps at its gas stations, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, competitively-priced, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline in the form E10, E20, E30 and E85.”

About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.

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    Renergie created “field-to-pump," a unique strategy to locally produce and market advanced biofuel (“non-corn fuel ethanol”) via a network of small advanced biofuel manufacturing facilities. The purpose of “field-to-pump” is to maximize rural development and job creation while minimizing feedstock supply risk and the burden on local water supplies.

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