December 31, 2006

December 2006 Digest

December 2006 saw major developments in the commitment of whole industries to a new paradigm shift to renewable energy.

On the heels of last month's release of the forest products industry report called the Forest Products Industry Technology Roadmap several wood chip refinery press releases and wood industry reference sites became articles in the blogosphere. There were also two auto shows in Los Angeles that touted a new commitment to renewable energy propulsion systems including hybrids, electric cars, solar-powered, fuel cells, PHEVs, and flex-fuel vehicles.

The big news here is that the BIOstock Blog has a sponsor - Price BIOstock Services of Monticello, Arkansas. Originators of the BIOstock Services concept, The Price Companies has joined other industry leaders in recognizing the value of informing the general public of breaking information concerning emerging technology trends.

Here are their most significant developments of December 2006, organized by Blog...

BIOstock Blog--------------
New Hampshire Renewable Power Plant Burns Wood Chips
U.S. D.O.E. Information on "BIOstock" & Legislation
HAWAII: Powering Paradise with biofuels
Global BIOstock/BIOfuels Database
Bioenergy Gateway: Energy from Wood
Woody Biomass-to-Ethanol Demonstration Plant Contracted
FLORIDA: Citrus Peels as BIOstock
CANADA: Wood chips biorefinery venture announced
Price BIOstock Services is a BIOstock Blog sponsor

BIOconversion Blog--------------
Sugar Fermentation's Achilles Heel - Water
James Woolsey on Biomass Conversion and PHEVs
Decentralizing the BioFuels Industry
NEW YORK: Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Demo Facility Contracted
Xethanol's Cellulosic Ethanol Business Approach
Bacteria - "Miniature Chemical Factories" Convert Waste to Ethanol
Future Production of Liquid Biofuels
Top Stories of 2006

BIOoutput Blog-----------------
Carbon credits traded online
"Mermaids' Tears" - Unrecycled plastic chokes the seas
Alt Car Expo: A Day at the Beach
A Tale of Two Auto Shows

New Feature
Each month we will provide a similar breakdown of December article titles from our favorite "companion" site - Biopact Blog. This list is kept current and is accessible in the right hand column of each of the three blogs.

Please forward a link to this digest to anyone you know who would be interested in keeping track of change that will affect us all. They can add their name to the mailing list on the BioConversion Blog.

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December 10, 2006

A Tale of Two Auto Shows

Friday's opening of the international Los Angeles Auto Show will feature the usual leggy models draped across carnauba-waxed chassis. It will showcase the usual engine housings, gleaming under spotlights, and futuristic dashboards twinkling like front-yard Christmas displays.

So begins veteran reporter Dan B. Wood of the Christian Science Monitor in his well-written review of Press Day at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Promoted as a tribute to the green turn the automobile industry is taking, the MPG ratings told the true story of this show - very few automobiles rated above 34 HWY. The buzzword was "power" not "efficiency" - style and glitz over substance. Hybrids were on display but pimped out rides like the Suzuki Xbox with its front and back game screens stole the imagination. Impractical concept sports cars abound at each manufacturer's booth at the expense of reminders about global warming and the oil crisis. In my opinion, GM did not focus adequate attention to their pricy Live Green/Go Yellow campaign publicized with great fanfare less than one year ago.

In striking contrast, fifteen miles away in green-and-proud-of-it Santa Monica a different tone was set. The first day of the Alt Car Expo brought car enthusiasts, environmental activists, politicians, celebrities, and families out to see a vision of the future test-driven on the tarmac, displayed in a hanger, and forecast in the seminar room. Many of the hybrids featured plug-ins and were rated at 100+ MPG. Several cars were all electric including one solar-powered Prius with solar cells embedded in its roof.

Star Sighting!
Emblematic of the difference of these two shows was one of the last EV-1 automobiles in public existence. In defiant red, this non-functioning but fully loaded martyr of auto history - the star of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" - had to be hauled to this site on a flatbed truck and manually pushed into position. Hopefully this is not the eventual fate of the American auto industry. The only GM presence at this show was a GM Avalanche flex-fuel pick-up truck - neither Ford nor Chrysler had any presence at all.

In addition to the wide variety of vehicles on display during Media Day, attendees were able to visit the exhibition booths of about sixty-five vendors and organizations. Spotted in the crowd were auto legend Lee Iacocca, environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr., former L.A. Councilmember and urban plannerMichael Woo, and CA Assemblymember Fran Pavley, author of numerous emissions capping bills in California.

It was in the seminar room that speakers provided the pulse of the show - defining current environmental and business conditions, advocating a broad range of solutions, and making predictions for the future. More than one "railed against machine" including former Cal/EPA director Terry Tamminen who blasted the oil and automobile industry for their feckless stewardship of our energy and transportation needs. But all spoke about the possibilities of the future given the ingenuity and coordination of effort between industrialists, consumers, environmentalists, and political leadership. The consequences of inertia couldn't be more clear - unstable geopolitics, global warming, cultural friction, decaying infrastructure, energy price gouging, commuter standstill. The status quo is not an option.

James Woolsey's Presentation
Former CIA Director James Woolsey is a staunch advocate for advancing national security and public health by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. He gave the most engaging and reasoned presentation of the expo. I recorded his address and have paraphrased those portions dealing directly with the issues of this blog.

"We have vulnerabilities in our electricity grid that we need to fix... fortunately it is here for us to fix." "Not so with oil. Because the infrastructure is outside of the United States, it is susceptible to forces we are unable to control." He said that if terrorists for whatever reason were successful at destroying sulfur clearing towers in Saudi Arabia, it would interrupt production for years that would likely raise oil prices to around $200 per barrel. "That's devastating..." Centralization of oil reserves in the Middle East also enables them to drive down the cost of oil to bankrupt competition if they so please. It is not a free enterprise system - it is under OPEC control.

"What can we do? I think there are a number of alternatives. One that should not be on the front burner is hydrogen." The expense of infrastructure alone could approach $1 Trillion and there are other hurdles. A second set of options includes increased drilling, oil extraction, or coal to liquid conversion. But you would have to capture the carbon. This does not solve the problem of dependency on hydrocarbons.

"Two things I think are the most interesting and promising in the short term." First is biomass and/or waste conversion to ethanol or other biofuels. Diesel fuels can also be made from agricultural waste. These are essentially carbon-neutral. "You are not digging up the carbon from beneath the ground." You are recycling carbon that is already a part of the above ground carbon cycle. We are not talking about a single process. We are talking about moving away from hydrocarbon and moving to carbohydrates. This would help national security in several ways including helping the rural areas of the country.

In addition, if we use cheap feedstock like municipal solid wastes for these biorefineries, we make it extremely hard for OPEC to undercut our cost of manufacturing fuels - which enhances national security.

Plug-in hybrids
"The final technology I think is promising is plug-in hybrids (PHEVs)" The American public will be attracted to having the option of running their vehicles on electricity at 1-2¢ per mile vs. 10-20¢ per mile for gasoline. If you drive less than 20 miles per day, you may not need to use the gasoline/ethanol/biodiesel stored in your gas tank for long periods of time. "If you use ethanol (E85) in place of gasoline on a car that gets 100+miles per gallon, you are effectively getting roughly 500+MPG of gasoline."

"For those who say that don't get excited by any of this in the short term - they need to look at the possible mutually reinforcing effect of using renewable fuels and plug-in hybrids... If instead of spending $1 Trillion on hydrogen infrastructure we spend $50 per new car to make it flexible-fuel compatible with ethanol we have, I think, we have some exciting possibilities before us and not too far in the future."

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December 8, 2006

Alt Car Expo: A Day at the Beach

The Media Event/Ride-n-Drive for the two-day Alt Car Expo was a fun day at the sunny, warm Santa Monica beach - half a city and a parallel universe away from the gargantuan Los Angeles Auto Show. Touted as the "most comprehensive presentation ever of alternative fuel vehicles" it was a day for the media to ask the organizers questions about trends in fuel, life style, social commitment, and mobility - all the things this quixotic town is known for.

On display was an incredible array of tinkerer answers to the central question - what fuels and vehicles will be the "killer apps" that will help wean America from its addiction to oil? More that just cars were on view - electric bikes and scooters, a two-wheeled Segway, 3-wheelers, wagons, golf carts, and a minibus were on hand. Converted Toyotas and Hondas sported an array of fuel alternatives - biodiesel, fuel cells, hydrogen, electric, natural gas, solar, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids. During the expo a standard Triumph sportscar will be converted to all-electric by Left Coast Conversions.

On hand to kick off the event was the legendary poster boy of "walking the walk", Ed Begley, Jr. Ed is so identified with environmental issues that he and his wife (Rachelle Carson) are about to hit HGTV cable television as a reality show Living with Ed on January 1, 2007. Activist/actress Alexandra Paul from the movie "Who Killed the Elecric Car" was also on the pier to support the cause and answer press questions.

Perhaps the most exciting component of the two-day expo will be the free topical seminars. The featured speakers and panelists include Schwarzenegger-Cal/EPA appointee and author Terry Tamminen, Assemblywoman Fran Pavley who authored California's Global Warming Solutions Act, and ex-CIA chief James Woolsey.

At the conclusion of the press event, the attendees were invited to test-drive the vehicles by participating in a caravan to deliver them to the Expo site at Barker Hanger of the Santa Monica Air Center. Those wishing to attend the free event Dec. 9-10 will find it at 3021 Airport Ave. from 9am-4pm.

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December 7, 2006

"Mermaids' Tears" - Unrecycled plastic chokes the seas

Last August I wrote an article about the China syndrome problem of non-biodegradeable plastic waste escaping our recycling programs and polluting the oceans. The Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF) of Long Beach, California has been covering this environmental catastrophe for years and has produced a series of videos called Our Synthetic Sea which can be previewed online.

Anyone who has ever ridden the bike path near Playa del Rey, California can attest to the pileup of plastic containers in Ballona Creek - which spills Los Angeles drainage water into the ocean daily. The Los Angeles Times ran a "page one series" on Plague of Plastic Chokes the Seas. It told the story of the continuing buildup of plastic in giant ocean "gyres" that perpetuate in our oceans.

Biopact has contributed a story about research being conducted at England's University of Plymouth. Titled Plastics are "poisoning the world's seas", the focus is on what happens when seawater breaks plastic down into tiny, seemingly indestructable fragments that can be carried by water and ingested by even the tiniest of sealife - impacting every level of the food chain.

Plastic rubbish, from drinks bottles and fishing nets to the ubiquitous carrier bag, ends up in the world's oceans. Sturdy and durable plastic does not bio-degrade, it only breaks down physically, and so persists in the environment for possibly hundreds of years.

By shipping these products to developing countries for disposal or combustion (because their regulations are more lax than ours) only exacerbates the air and water pollution problems. It is a flawed and ineffective way to gain credit for diversion from landfills without addressing the key issue - how do we recycle waste matter in a way that does not perpetuate pollution?

We cannot delay implementing technologies that will gasify waste plastic to its molecular components so that we can either convert the syngas into biofuels, use the heat of the process to generate electricity, or convert it to char or green chemicals. Only then can we separate out these elements and control their toxic impact on our environment.

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December 4, 2006

Carbon credits traded online

Welcome to the world's first online community for households and businesses to get paid for reducing the carbon emissions from their everyday energy usage.

With that lead-in we now have an online mechanism for buying and trading carbon credits. Or at least we will with the near future - you can register now but the full service will not be operational until v1.0 testing is complete and v1.5 is released some time in the Spring of 2007.

Below is a proposed (non-functioning) calculator interface for the new service.

This is a harbinger of things to come as the social costs of various industrial, residential, and infrastructural solutions start being valuated by a universal system of carbon credits.

Here is the company's press release from October 4, 2006:

Kiwis create world's first website that pays you to save energy.

A New Zealand company has applied to patent, the world's first online community that allows regions, businesses or community groups to be paid for reducing the carbon emissions from their everyday energy use. is based upon a fast growing global economy that recognises energy savings, or carbon credits, as a form of currency.

"With you can now track, create and trade this new currency on the internet," explains Celsias director, Nick Gerritsen, "it's the first system in the world that allows you to do this all in one place." is expected to go live in early 2007.

"We believe it very much has the potential to follow in the footsteps of eBay, Google and Skype," comments Gerritsen.

How does work? Businesses or communities can go online, enter their energy expenses each month, for example electricity, and the company they buy from, and the system will automatically calculate their total Ã…ecarbon footprintÃ…f, or how much carbon dioxide they are releasing into the atmosphere.

"You can create a carbon footprint for your home, your business, your community group or any other entity. You can then create carbon credits for yourself by learning how to reduce your energy use and by using our search service to find more energy-efficient products and services. You can then put your carbon credits on the trading system and when someone buys them, you get paid. It's that easy," explains Gerritsen.

Gerritsen adds that carbon credits can be traded internationally among registered members. Registration is free and traders only pay for success.

"Up till now no-one else has provided an end-to-end solution where you can get paid to play your part in solving the climate change crisis," he adds.

Currently, only large organisations have been able to enter the carbon emissions management market. Small to medium businesses and communities, which represent up to 40% of the global energy market, are excluded because they lack the tools and support to join in.

Gerritsen says is unique in many ways. It is the only service to plug into a range of existing accounting software packages to automate energy expenditure data collection for carbon footprint collection; it is the only peer-to-peer global carbon credit trading service that does not require intermediaries; it is the only carbon credit trading platform with no minimum trading volume and it has the only search engine to make it easy to trade in the world's most energy efficient products and services.

So will carbon credits be valuable? This year the carbon credit trading market is forecast to be twice as big as the Google advertising market and grow 10 times as fast. And once the Kyoto Protocol commitment period comes into force from 2008-2012, many governments and businesses worldwide will need to buy surplus carbon credits to meet their agreed emission targets.

The international free market sets the price for emission units or carbon credits. In a recent deal between Meridian Energy and the Netherlands Government, however, the price was set at NZ 10.50 a unit. But the price fluctuates and has been up at NZ 50.00 a unit earlier this year. also enables anyone (a business, a community group, a school) to set up their own carbon market to aggregate carbon credits for their members _ and derive revenues from this activity - much like eBay's "power sellers".

"Our core goal is to assist our members to create as many carbon credits as possible. will, in effect, pay them to save the world," comments Gerritsen.

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