August 28, 2007

"Energy Victory" - Book of the Sentry

In September of 1911, the fate of two world wars was pre-ordained by England's young First Lord of the Admiralty. He made a choice at considerable national economic and political risk that linked England's future to a dependence on its North Atlantic political, military, and trade relationship with America. Still, Winston Churchill decided the advantages far outweighed the liabilities. From that point on all ships in the Royal Navy would run on oil (which England imported) instead of coal (which the British isles could stockpile in rich abundance).

This counter-intuitive decision meant that England's battleships could be built lighter, refuel at sea, and stoke their fires without drawing precious manpower during combat. As he stated it - "If we overcame the difficulties and surmounted the risks, we should be able to raise the whole power and efficiency of the Navy to a higher level."

It was this advantage that eventually destroyed the coal-burning German navy of WWI. It was lack of access to oil supplies that defeated both Germany and Japan during WWII. The Axis powers had trained troops and effective weapons systems but they couldn't hold the front without fuel.

Robert Zubrin, author of the soon to be released Energy Victory: The War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil, cites this history and contrasts it to our harrowing predicament of today. Not only are we thoroughly dependent on an energy resource we no longer control, but those who do control it now have our treasure to fuel terrorism against us and create chaos around the world. With thirty years warning we have squandered ample opportunity to end our dependence on foreign oil supplies. There is no more time to waste.

It is our time to make a decision like Churchill's: define new alternative energy standards, develop a decentralized plan of production and infrastructure development, and stick with it through decades of administration changeover. The challenge is not to pick one alternative, but to increase the range of choices that enable consumers to make purchase decisions based on value (whatever that may be for each decade) instead of allowing ourselves to coerced into making bad decisions caused by limited access.

I highly recommend Robert Zubrin's book to readers of this blog. It is scheduled to be released October 31st by Prometheus Books. In this well-researched study he paints a picture of our current predicament in the Middle East including foreign intrusions into U.S. policymaking. He follows that with an evaluation of alternatives and a broadbrush plan for how we can substantially reduce our dependence within a decade. He excoriates policymakers who perpetrate what he calls the "hydrogen hoax." He draws lessons from the "Brazil experience" and shows how "The New Alcohol World Economy" can benefit developing and developed nations alike. He also addresses "global warming", explains his cynicism about hydrogen, and defends nuclear power as a clean source of electricity. But the bulk of the book is focused on the use of biofuels to break our dependence on oil.

Book orders can be reserved on Amazon right now. Look for book signings at future alternative energy conferences.

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August 20, 2007

High Performance E85 with Jay Leno

E85 detractors often cite the comparative high energy content of gasoline to ethanol. It is true that currently designed combustion engines and even current flex-fuel models get lower mileage on ethanol than they do on gasoline. However, that is far from the whole story.

On Jay Leno's Garage website he features a video titled "E85 Demystified" which contains an interview with noted engine designer Carl Banks who specializes in high performance engine design. Carl insists that the reason that automobiles don't run as well on ethanol as they do on gasoline is because they are not designed to. If they are designed to, the cars would operate with much higher performance because of the relatively high compression ratio of ethanol compared to gas.

"It’s the octane number,” he says. “Octane is a rating of knock-resistance. The higher the number the better. E-85 is 105 octane.”

Coupled with plug-in hybrid automobile technology, it is not likely that there will be an appreciable difference between buying gasoline or ethanol because the mileage will be dependent on electric storage efficiency and the secondary motor efficiency for whatever fuel it runs on. The decision to buy ethanol is likely to hinge on the comparative price of the fuel options and its availability at local pumps.

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July 29, 2007

A scientific assessment of plug-in hybrids

Clean Edge News published a story on a new report that analyzes the benefits of PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Energy Vehicles).

The EPRI-NRDC study represents the most comprehensive analysis of the potential reductions of global warming and other emissions from wide-scale introduction of PHEVs over time. The study addresses the impact that lower-emitting electricity generation can have for increasing these benefits.

How would air quality and greenhouse gas emissions be affected if significant numbers of Americans drove cars that were fueled by the power grid?

A recently completed assessment conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council made a detailed study of the question – looking at a variety of scenarios involving the U.S. fleet of power generation and its fleet of light-duty and medium-duty cars and trucks.

The objectives of this study are the following:
• Understand the impact of widespread PHEV adoption on full fuel-cycle greenhouse gas
emissions from the nationwide vehicle fleet.
• Model the impact of a high level of PHEV adoption on nationwide air quality.
• Develop a consistent analysis methodology for scientific determination of the
environmental impact of future vehicle technology and electric sector scenarios.

The study focused on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and projected changes in power generation technology from 2010 through 2050.

The EPRI Perspective
Policymakers, technology developers, and utility and environmental planners need objective and accurate information to make sound decisions about developing and deploying PHEVs in support of national energy and environmental policy. PHEVs offer the potential for reducing both emissions and fuel consumption, simultaneously addressing the issues of global warming and the nation’s dependence on imported oil. Quantifying these benefits has proved challenging, however, and misinformation has circulated about the environmental performance of PHEVs.

Summary of Results
Because of the significant reduction in emissions from gasoline and diesel fuel use and because caps are in place for some conventional pollutants for the electric power sector, the study finds that in many regions deployment of PHEVs would reduce exposures to ozone and particulate matter, and reduce deposition rates for acids, nutrients, and mercury.

On the other hand, because of assuming no further controls beyond existing regulations for the power sector, ozone levels would increase locally in some areas. Similarly, the direct emissions of particulate matter and mercury would increase somewhat and some regions and populations would experience marginal increases in exposures to those pollutants. However, as explained in the key findings, PHEVs do not increase the U.S. contribution to the global mercury budget over the long term.

Overall, the air quality benefits from PHEVs are due to a reduction of vehicle emissions below levels required by current regulation (due to their non-emitting operation in all-electric mode), and because most electricity generation emissions are constrained by existing regulatory caps. Any additional increase in the amount of all-electric vehicle miles traveled or further emissions constraints on the electric sector would tend to magnify these benefits.

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June 22, 2007

GM's "green image" challenge in L.A.

Los Angeles has become a tough car market for General Motors. Toyota sold 50% more Priuses in L.A. last year than all the cars GM sold here combined!
That frank admission was part of the message presented by "good cop" GM North America President Troy Clarke to a small, rapt audience of bloggers at the historic and very scenic HRL Laboratories in Malibu, CA.

GM's corresponding "bad cop" would be Chairman Rick Wagoner who on June 5th at the shareholders' meeting criticized the raising of CAFE standards and the U.S. government's mileage requirements - which, subsequently, were added to the Senate's version of the 2007 Energy Bill. The new legislation mandates increases to average fuel economy by 40 percent to 35 miles per gallon for cars, SUVs and pickup trucks by 2020.

Producing cars that will meet the standard aren't the big problem for GM. However, squeezing that kind of economy from SUVs and pick-up trucks will require risky and significant technological redesigns of the propulsion system (considering the weight of the vehicles and loads they are designed to handle) with no assurance that the standards set by implacable public and political expectations won't move again. Since California is GM's strongest market for trucks (with three times as many GM trucks sold in Southern California than cars), the stakes are very high.

Both Clarke and Wagoner insist that the future of the company is tied to a successful transition away from gasoline-powered technology. They contend that GM currently leads all U.S. manufacturers with over 30 vehicle models that are rated above 30mpg.

Their plans for the market is to continue to introduce a number of new hybrid and electric cars over the next decade. Some of these represent new technological approaches to the twin transportation challenges of increasing fuel efficiency while lowering emissions. Most are planned to be flex-fuel compatible, able to run on any blend of gasoline and ethanol.

Author's note - In my opinion all combustion engines produced by GM factories should be flex-fuel compatible because it doesn't cost much to do at the factory ($50-200/vehicle vs. thousands for hybrid technology) but allows the consumer the greatest number of fuel purchasing options (simultaneously depressing prices while reducing fossil fuel dependence). It will solve the chicken/egg dilemma faced by service stations of having enough compatible ethanol vehicles available to justify installing the pumps. And it starts the clock on when we cycle out all gasoline-only vehicles - which some estimate will take 15 years.

Still, L.A. is a market that relies more on image than on substance. Sometimes that image is the sleek styling and high performance characteristics of the vehicle. However, with the one-two punch of oil addiction and global warming fears, image and status now comes from driving "greener" vehicles - which is why the ho-hum Prius body shape is looking more stylish every day (while Hummer and Suburban owners are ducking accusatory glares from outraged fellow citizens).

So how can GM crack back into the global trendsetting L.A. market? Apparently Troy and GM's local public relations agency, Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L), believes that building non-traditional relationships with bloggers and their audiences is an effective p.r. strategy - á la The Tipping Point. Convince some passionate, funky bloggers of the company's sincerity and it just might infect their audiences - leading to a cascade of positive image-building and sales.

MS&L calls it One Across Marketing:
One Across Marketing is MS&L's signature approach that strives to build a relationship between a consumer and brand. It focuses entirely on the phenomenon of information "wildfires" or "viruses," which are transmitted by word-of-mouth, usually among individuals who "cluster" (often virtually) around issues, shared situations, lifestyle needs, entertainment pursuits, etc. Driven by one-to-one communications, One Across approaches include: epidemic campaigns, E-community mobilization, influencer seedings, vernacular PR, and grass-tops marketing.

I'm not sure what category I fell into but I'm glad it was good enough to get me invited.

During his speech Troy Clarke talked about effective marketing from his personal viewpoint:
We get the opportunity to talk publicly in the auto industry typically at Auto Shows where we have these wonderfully orchestrated backdrops of cars and models. It is a very tailored environment for us to be able to tell our story to alot of press over a short period of time.

I had the opportunity to do something a little different. In Chicago, interestingly, it was still an Auto Show venue but it was outside the Detroit area and I was asked if I would talk to four bloggers. (I did) and in ten to fifteen minutes this dialog broke out which was kind of a public relations first. I turned to my public relations people and said that this feels a lot better to me than the typical interaction. Part of the reason why is that I learned alot.

Some of this stuff was stuff I didn't want to learn. Some people were making comments to me that I hoped that they wouldn't make. But the fact that they made them accomplished more than I expected.

Well here is a piece of advice from this blogger that I would hope GM and MS&L would hear:
In October 19-20 Santa Monica will host its second Alt Car Expo. Last year's event was much more fun and informative about green transportation at a grass roots level than the glitzy L.A. Auto Show across town (see A Tale of Two Auto Shows). Toyota was a huge beneficiary because most of the alternative designs were converted Priuses. GM had a paltry presence at this event (one flex-fuel pickup and a salt-in-wound carcass EV1) and was not even listed as a sponsor. This year none of the Big Three is a listed sponsor - but Honda is. This show is a green opportunity for GM to build bridges with the Southern California market.

One interesting new propulsion approach that Troy focused attention on is being demonstrated by the new Chevy Volt, a 5-seater concept car. Its "E-Flex Drive" always delivers power to the wheels through its battery charged electric engine. However, after the initial plug-in charge is depleted (at about 40 miles) an onboard flex-fuel combustion motor can generate a surplus charge giving the vehicle a potential range of 650 miles between charge and refill. GM is logging votes from consumers who would like to see the vehicle produced and on the showroom floor. The current tally of nearly half a million votes is about 99.5% in favor. I would gladly sign up to be a test driver.

I came away very impressed by the sincerity of the presentation and the approachability of its speaker. Just walking around on a tour, I was able to steal 5 minutes of uninterrupted time with Troy to talk about my pet projects - promoting the 25x'25 Alliance (I gave him a lapel pin), expanded recycling of waste-to-energy, the energy renaissance potential of a depressed paper and pulp industry, and the need to support local regulatory reform efforts in California.

No, we didn't talk about cars, but the kicker is that he echoed my sentiment that all of these facets are necessary parts of the new continuum that will affect the sale of cars in the coming decades. To make green profits on its green product offerings, GM will not only have to develop and deploy new technologies, but will also have to weather the challenges of fickle public opinion, shortages in raw materials and energy supply, strained labor relations, unpredictable world events, and environmentally sensitive regulatory reform.

It's a daunting task for any multi-national corporation. Of the Big Three in America, I'd put my money on GM.

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June 12, 2007

Ethanol Boosting Systems for Automobiles

Biofuel naysayers have a wealth of criticisms to use if they really want to derail the renewable energy juggernaut. "The EROIE is not as good as petroleum" "The feedstock is better used as food" "The emissions from ethanol is more toxic than gasoline" "Subsidies are the only reason that ethanol producers make any profits", etc.

Well the oil industry "wasn't built in a day" either (and the resemblance to Rome is pretty apt). The reality is that if Henry Ford had succeeded in encouraging the use of ethanol when he produced the first Model T, engines would have developed much differently than they did and the EROIE, toxicity, feedstock diversity, and subsidy issues would have been solved a long time ago. Give ethanol a hundred years and lets see how efficient and clean it and other biofuels can be.

Here are excerpts from an October 2006 article in Green Car Congress that demonstrates the potential for redesigned combustion engines that exploit the high octane of ethanol.

Startup Working to Commercialize Direct Injection Ethanol Boosting + Turbocharging
Ethanol boost with turbocharging promises a cost-effective means to obtain high fuel efficiency in gasoline and flex ethanol/gasoline powered engines.

MIT scientists and engineers earlier this year founded a company—Ethanol Boosting Systems, LLC (EBS)—to commercialize their work on direct-injection ethanol boosting combined with aggressive turbocharging in a gasoline engine. (Earlier post.) The result is a gasoline engine with the fuel efficiency of current hybrids or turbodiesels—up to 30% better than a conventional gasoline engine—but at lower cost.

EBS has a collaborative R&D agreement with Ford, and anticipates engine tests in 2007 with subsequent licensing to Ford and other automakers. If all goes as expected, vehicles with the new engine could be on the road by 2011.

The foundation of the approach is the enhanced knock suppression resulting from the separate, direct injection of small amounts of ethanol into the cylinder in addition to the main gasoline fuel charge.

The injection of a small amount of ethanol into the hot combustion chamber cools the fuel charge and makes spontaneous combustion much less likely. According to a simulation developed by the MIT group, with ethanol injection the engine won’t knock even when the pressure inside the cylinder is three times higher than that in a conventional SI engine. Engine tests by collaborators at Ford Motor Company produced results consistent with the model’s predictions.

With knock essentially eliminated, the researchers could incorporate into their engine two operating techniques that help make today’s diesel engines so efficient: a high degree of turbocharging and the use of a higher compression ratio.

The combined changes could increase the power of a given-sized engine by more than a factor of two. But rather than seeking higher vehicle performance, the MIT researchers cut their engine size in half. Using well-established computer models, they determined that their small, turbocharged, high-compression-ratio engine will provide the same peak power as the full-scale SI version but will be 20 to 30% more fuel efficient.

The ethanol-boosted engine could provide efficiency gains comparable to those of today’s hybrid engine systems for less extra investment: about $1,000 as opposed to $3,000 to $5,000. The engine should use less than five gallons of ethanol for every 100 gallons of gasoline, so drivers would need to fill their ethanol tank only every one to three months. The ethanol used could be E85.

Given the short fuel-savings payback time—three to four years at present US gasoline prices—the MIT researchers believe that their ethanol-boosted turbo engine has real potential for widespread adoption.

To actually affect oil consumption, we need to have people want to buy our engine, so our work also emphasizes keeping down the added cost and minimizing any inconvenience to the driver.
—Daniel Cohn, MIT senior research scientist and CEO of EBS

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June 7, 2007

Pipeline research for ethanol transport

New bipartisan legislation is being introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that propose funding research to investigate transport of ethanol by pipeline.

I think the proposal is an excellent idea and a quite relevant area of research for site developers with whom I work.

I would like to know the results of the kind of pipe research that is being proposed. Not being able to pipe ethanol is a drawback in comparison to fossil fuels because of the relative trouble and expense (not to mention emissions) of hauling it any other way.

Conventional understanding of the problem of piping ethanol is that 1) it is susceptible to water contamination from pipe leaks and 2) it is best not to alternate between other fuels and ethanol using the same pipes.

Once an industrial site is built, it frequently converts to similar industrial usage because of the raw material, zoning, and transportation corridor development that went into it. There are existing pipes that connect prospective biorefinery sites with existing transportation hubs that could be upgraded at relatively low expense compared to these hauling costs - saving time and money.

Could pipes that carted chemicals and fuels yesterday be upgraded to service ethanol today and maybe other fuels like biobutanol tomorrow? Maybe the research could give us the answers.

Here are excerpts from a recent article on the announcement...

Study sought on ethanol pipelines
Supplement to rail transport appears vital as industry expands, Boswell says
By William Ryberg
DesMoines Register Business Writer
May 30, 2007

Two members of Iowa's congressional delegation want to know whether pipelines would be a good way to get ethanol transported across the country in the future.

Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia., held a news conference Tuesday to announce that he'd introduced a bill in the U.S. House asking for a $2 million study of the feasibility of transporting ethanol by new or existing pipeline. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

Boswell, in a statement, said practical and economical ways to transport ethanol across the country need to be found because the industry continues to expand.

Pipelines are a major mover of gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel in the United States, but ethanol is moved primarily by rail car.

The bill would direct the U.S. secretary of energy to award money for a study of the feasibility and value of using pipelines to transport ethanol from the Midwest, where it's generally produced, to the eastern and western United States.

Currently, movement of ethanol through pipelines leads to "stress corrosion cracking" in the pipe and welds, Bruce Heine, director of government and media affairs for Magellan Midstream Partners of Tulsa, Okla., said after the news conference. Magellan is a pipeline company with a major terminal near Des Moines.

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June 3, 2007

Bioethanol or Biodiesel - Which is better?

As a recent article on The Motley Fool (Fueling the Debate: Ethanol vs. Biodiesel) points out, comparing bioethanol and biodiesel is like comparing running or swimming - both are healthy exercises. But it is a good idea to know what the comparable benefits are because there are new technologies being developed all the time and the impact on biofuel infrastructure development is the key to implementation.

For example, as reported by Green Options recent algae farming research at Utah State University predicts that "oil yields of 10,000 gallons per acre could become an economically feasible biodiesel feedstock by the end or the decade. Our most productive feedstock today, the oil palm, doesn't even come close with yields of 635 gallons/acre, and is followed distantly by the U.S. standard, soy, at 48 gallons of oil/acre."

Given the other benefits of biodiesel, such an innovation could mean that more infrastructure and vehicle development should be directed toward exploiting the use biodiesel. Then again, research into cellulosic feedstock bioconversion tends to support the notion that bioethanol and biobutanol will be the superior solution.

Since the infrastructure and market for biodiesel are much better in Europe, it is likely that implementation for biodiesel would take place there. Conversely, ethanol would make more sense in North America.

Regardless, we should be putting renewable energy "trains" on a wheelhouse full of tracks because the ultimate solution will be to develop many sources of feedstock and renewable energy solutions destined for implementation throughout the world.

Fueling the Debate: Ethanol vs. Biodiesel
Which alternative fuel should investors tie their horses to?
By Jack Uldrich

According to a study published last summer in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the environmental benefits of biodiesel are substantially greater than those of ethanol. According to the report, biodiesel provides 93% more net energy per gallon than is required for its production, while ethanol generates only 25% more net energy. The study further suggested that biodiesel, when compared with gasoline, reduced greenhouse emissions by 41%, while ethanol yielded only a 12% reduction. From these viewpoints, it would appear that biodiesel is the clear winner.

If only it were that easy. From a land-use and agricultural-efficiency perspective, ethanol appears to be the better choice. That's because an estimated 420 gallons of ethanol can be produced per acre of corn versus only 60 gallons of biodiesel per acre of soybeans. In more practical terms, this means that if the production of biodiesel were ever to increase greatly, the cost of soybean oil would rise significantly.

What's so exciting about cellulosic ethanol is that it has the potential to offer a very high net-energy impact. It can also be produced from feedstocks that use little to no fertilizer. These sources are abundant and aren't major sources of food -- and thus won't drive up food prices as we've seen as of late with corn prices. As an added benefit, it's believed that as the technology improves, the amount of ethanol produced per acre can increase significantly. Some experts have estimated that the figure could reach as high as 2,700 gallons per acre by 2030.

In short, cellulosic ethanol may very well have the environmental benefits of biodiesel and the agricultural efficiency of corn ethanol, but it can also potentially bring additional benefits to the table.

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May 31, 2007

U.S. Congress introduces Federal RPS legislation

Up to now, much of the responsibility for buying renewable energy to replace existing sources is being placed by state legislatures squarely on the back of their electric utilities. Progressive states have been enacting renewable portfolio standards (RPS) which place a set MW quantity or percentage number to be achieved by a specific date (click on chart below to enlarge). According to a recent issue in The Wall Street Journal the utilities used to be highly resistant but some are now realizing that the standards are not as difficult to comply with as they feared.

After several false starts, the federal government is considering similar legislation:

A bill about to be introduced in the Senate would push utilities to generate drastically more of their power -- 15%, compared with the current 2% -- from sources such as wind or the sun by 2020.

The good news is that entrepreneurs and developers who have long held out for capitalization of their innovative technologies, are suddenly finding a ready market to sell to, at a reasonable price.

Obviously, such requirements would have to be filled with different forms of renewable energy depending on which part of the country is involved. Some, like Rick Boucher of Virginia (Democratic chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee) would like coal to be included as long as the carbon emissions are successfully sequestered. Expect this largely unproven technology to receive priority treatment as the voting nears.

Those states that have fewer renewable resources could purchase green tags, aka "Renewable Energy Credits" (RECs), from those states that produce surpluses.

Here are some excerpts from the article published May 25th...

Senate Pushes Utilities on 'Green' Sources
Proposal to Require Significant Increase Has Broad Support
by John J. Fialka

The Senate proposal, authored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrat who is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, defines renewable energy sources as wind, solar, geothermal, wood chips and other biofuels, as well as various ways to make energy from tides and ocean waves.

So far, state laws, which cover 40% of the U.S. population, haven't made a big difference. The percentage of renewable fuels used in the U.S. has hovered from 2% to 2.5% in recent years and will reach only 5.5% by 2020, when most of the state standards are fully phased in. Dr. Wiser estimates state laws have raised the average consumer's utility bill by 38 cents a month. "Clearly, if you want to expand renewable fuels, something has to be done beyond this," he says.

Backers of the Bingaman legislation think the bill could do the trick.

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May 2007 Digest

Tying Energy Efficiency to Renewable Energy

Lost in the rush to develop alternative energy technologies is the obvious value of making energy usage more efficient. As Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute would say, "a watt saved is a watt earned." This can be applied to biofuel usage as well. It is far cheaper to save energy than it is to produce more of it, particularly when existing technologies are so wasteful.

In marked contrast to the oil crisis of the 70's when cars lined up on even or odd license number days to tank up on gasoline and speed limits were held to 55 MPH to conserve energy, there has been little preaching by this administration - or the states for that matter - to slow down and use less. Memorial Day weekend driving plans were little impacted by recent gas price spikes. Auto shows still promote performance over gas use efficiency.

It is highly unlikely that the laudable goals of the 25x'25 Initiative for reducing fossil fuel dependence will be reached if we persist in inefficient usage of our energy resources or, in fact, grow our demand beyond current expectations. Similarly, while developing renewable energy (RE) technologies, energy efficiency (EE) needs to be built into the systems.

In a joint report presented by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficency Economy (ACEEE) case studies are showcased that demonstrate the synergies available when RE and EE are developed together. For installations that have such long lifespans and high capital costs, it is important to address efficiency challenges during early planning.

Here are links to stories that were posted in the BioEnergy BlogRing during May, 2007:

BIOstock Blog--------------
Clean Wood replaces Coal Power Plant in N.H.
U.S. paper & pulp industry assesses its bioenergy future

BIOconversion Blog--------------
Molecular visualization of the bioconversion process
U.S. State Dept. to host 2008 Int'l Renewable Energy Conference
IPCC 4th Assessment: Steps to mitigate climate change
U.S. D.O.E./E.I.A. International Energy Outlook 2007

BIOoutput Blog--------------
Tying Energy Efficiency to Renewable Energy
California's electricity - Phasing out coal
Amory Lovins - RMI and the Hypercar

Each month we provide a similar breakdown of 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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May 30, 2007

Amory Lovins - RMI and the Hypercar

The Rocky Mountain Institute is a bastion of knowledge concerning energy efficiency and renewable energy. Much of its expertise focuses on the concept that "a watt saved is a watt earned" demand management can reduce energy expense more dramatically than adding new alternative supply production.

Started in 1982 by Hunter and Amory Lovins, the organization now has 55 employees offering energy, engineering, and efficiency design consultation services. Their website has a special page devoted to explaining RMI's Approach to Energy. But they are not satisfied with merely making recommendations - they are committed to implementing their concepts in significant ways. They work with corporations, municipalities, and energy companies to deploy energy saving technologies for architecture, transit, and utility systems.

One example is their production of the Hypercar® - a fullsize demonstration model that incorporates the use of carbon composites instead of much heavier steel of current manufacture. Their online slide show points out that while 6% of the energy in a car's fuel goes to accelerating the car, less than 1% actually is expended to move the driver. Most goes to moving the car, so that reducing the weight of the car will impact the 2/3 to 3/4 of the fuel use that is weight-related.

The recently redesigned website also features a number of audio and video clips including an appearance by Amory Lovins on The Charlie Rose Show on November 28, 2006. The interchange focused on how the U.S. can eliminate its dependence on oil through market-driven approaches. He talks about RMI's progress in several sectors — including heavy trucks, the military, light vehicles, biofuels, airplanes, and financial — in implementing recommendations made in RMI's book, Winning the Oil Endgame - which has been made available for online download or purchase.

It may have taken 25 years to begin to receive the recognition that the enterprise deserves, but it certainly is well-positioned now to help civilization adjust to a more efficiency-conscious view of energy.

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May 29, 2007

California's electricity - Phasing out coal

In its headlong rush to take the front line in the fight against Global Warming (California's AB32) the California Energy Commission has approved regulations that limit the purchase of electricity from power plants that fail to meet strict greenhouse gas emissions standards. That has to be considered bad news for neighboring states which have built coal plant facilities specifically to service the insatiable electricity demands of Californians. According to the Los Angeles Times, 47% of the electricity purchased by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power comes from giant coal-fired plants in Arizona and Utah.

The benchmark number that new contracts must meet is 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt hour. A 2000 study by the U.S. Department of Energy, Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Generation of Electric Power in the United States, shows that the standard means electricity coming from plants that are cleaner than the average natural gas plants of 1999 (1,321 versus coal's whopping average of 2,095 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour).

There is no discrimination between carbon positive (fossil fuels) vs. carbon neutral sources of energy. There should be because co-firing carbon neutral biostock could ease the blow to existing coal plant operations.

It is important to note that California periodically suffers brown-outs during the summer months and was the victim of the deregulation electricity nightmare of 2000 and 2001. As Wikipedia recounts the tail:

The California electricity crisis (also known as the Western Energy Crisis) of 2000 and 2001 resulted from the gaming of a partially deregulated California energy system by energy companies such as Enron and Reliant Energy. The energy crisis was characterized by a combination of extremely high prices and rolling blackouts. Price instability and spikes lasted from May 2000 to September 2001. Rolling blackouts began in June 2000 and recurred several times in the following 12 months.

That is not to suggest that current legislation is a "result of gaming". However, it is important that compensating power generators be contracted relatively quickly with a clearcut guarantees that the current benchmark does not suffer downward creep that would raise the risks for investors. As we learned in 2001, it is the public that will suffer the possible consequences and pay the ultimate tab of mis-steps of our energy decisionmakers.

Here is a reprint of the press release made May 23, 2007 by the California Energy Commission...

New Regulations Restrict Purchase of Electricity From Power Plants That Exceed Greenhouse Gas Emission Limits
New Performance Standard to Regulate Power Plants

The California Energy Commission today approved regulations that limit the purchase of electricity from power plants that fail to meet strict greenhouse gas emissions standards. New regulations, as part of SB 1368 (Perata), prohibit the state's publicly owned utilities from entering into long-term financial commitments with plants that exceed 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt hour.

"Working with the Legislature, the Governor has demonstrated a clear vision with this first-in-the-nation legislation to reduce emissions," said Energy Commission Chairman Jackalyne Pfannenstiel. "His bold leadership is helping to reduce California's carbon footprint by ensuring a clean supply of electricity," continued Pfannenstiel.

The implementation of SB 1368 is part of the Energy Commission's further implementation of AB 32 (Nunez), a landmark bill signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that calls for California to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases by 25 percent by 2020.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, SB 1368 directed the Energy Commission, in collaboration with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Air Resources Board, to establish a greenhouse gas emission performance standard for power plants.

This standard was reached by evaluating existing combined-cycle natural gas baseload power plants across the west and is the same CO2 measurement approved by the CPUC.

Created by the Legislature in 1974, the California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. The Energy Commission has five major responsibilities: forecasting future energy needs and keeping historical energy data; licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger; promoting energy efficiency through appliance and building standards; developing energy technologies and supporting renewable energy; and planning for and directing state response to energy emergency.

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May 24, 2007

Tying Energy Efficiency to Renewable Energy

The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) has teamed up with the American Council for an Energy-Efficency Economy (ACE3) to make a statement that creating new renewable energy technologies (RE) will not be enough to achieve national and international goals to meet energy demands while reducing our dependence on carbon positive fossil fuel systems. We also have a responsibility to develop energy efficiency (EE) standards and advanced technologies to mitigate the demand for energy and reduce carbon emissions.

This report, while limiting its scope to renewable electricity, does a good job of not only describing the synergies possible between RE and EE, but also provides numerous case studies of progressive state policies, public benefit funding, and corporations who have demonstrated how these synergies can be implemented.

Below are the conclusions of the report. The full report is available for download from the ACEEE website.

Bill Prindle and Maggie Eldridge,
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
Mike Eckhardt and Alyssa Frederick,
American Council on Renewable Energy

Energy efficiency and renewable energy are the cornerstones of sustainable energy policy. Demand growth for energy must be brought into a sustainable range, so that clean renewable energy technologies can begin to “catch up” with energy demand. If energy demand grows too fast, no supply technology, no matter how clean, will be able to substantially reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Energy efficiency and renewables thus must go hand in hand in any clean energy future. Fortunately, pursuing them jointly offers several important synergies over pursuing one to the exclusion of the other, such as:

• Lower total energy cost—A combined efficiency/renewables resource portfolio is typically less expensive than a renewables-only portfolio, and also generates greater total resource impacts;

• Better timing—Efficiency can typically be deployed quickly, achieving important impacts in the near and mid terms; renewables can take longer to deploy, but may ultimately deliver larger resource impacts;

• Electricity price stability—Efficiency and renewables provide complementary price hedges in power markets, by both moderating demand and diversifying fuel sources;

• Electric system reliability—Energy efficiency can reduce peak demand, reducing the risk of blackouts, while renewables diversify generation sources, and both efficiency and renewables can provide locational benefits in the form of distributed generation; and

• Regional resource balance—While renewables’ availability varies from region to region, energy efficiency is consistently available in end-use sectors across the country. Pursuing both efficiency and renewable resources in tandem thus makes it easier to attain national energy resource targets in any given state.

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April 30, 2007

April 2007 Digest

Woody Biomass - Energizing a new generation

America is witnessing the balkanization of its renewable energy portfolio. The sun belt is home to solar energy. The corn belt is home to ethanol. Landfill bioenergy is focused in urban areas. The nation's woodpiles are in the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast. Each region will have to come to grips with the economic, technical, environmental, and cultural changes that will be necessary build, market, and sustain development in their communities. NIMBY-ism will be a constant, frustrating impediment to many grand schemes.

We have seen the impact that ethanol has played in the cornbelt. Its communities have embraced the technologies - not without some consternation from its livestock industry. Individual farmers have banded together to form cooperatives to build ethanol plants. Agricultural giants like ADM and Cargill are re-evaluating how they can realign their business units to capitalize on their waste and biomass assets. Politicians are displaying uncharacteristic bipartisanship on ag/energy issues.

Following this model, we are now witnessing an emerging focus in the southeastern U.S. - home to communities that are committed now and in future generations to forestry and wood-related companies. 44% of the existing renewable energy generated in the U.S. comes from and is used by this industry - mostly generated from woody waste accumulating at paper and pulp mills. Landowners are eying biorefinery plans for the region to see if it makes sense to form cooperatives. Moribund mills and chemical factories that have lost business to foreign competition are now viewed as possible sites for new bioenergy ventures since they already have supply and distribution infrastructure in place.

The best resource of the region is the character of the indigenous citizens. Unfailingly patriotic but often regarded as the underappreciated step-children of America, many communities of the Southeast are eager to finally have an opportunity to contribute their regional ingenuity, brawn, and industrial capacity to the national effort to end American addiction to foreign oil. It is, after all, the young, proud southern recruit that continues to carry the bulk of the national security burden caused by this addiction.

As a political footnote, presidential aspirants interested in a Southern strategy should remember that in 2000 Gore lost ALL the states in the region - including his home state of Tennessee which would have put him in the White House. A commitment to woody bioenergy development of the region would be well received. It is not clear that the same can be said of the Pacific Northwest.

Here are links to stories that were posted in the BioEnergy BlogRing during April, 2007:

BIOstock Blog--------------
E3 Biofuels and Closed Loop Ethanol Plants
The need for Public Outreach: a case study in China
BIOstock 101: The BioTown Sourcebook
Woody Biomass Utilization and the USDA Forest Service
Development alliance builds between forest and energy giants
Hybrid poplars reduce carbon emissions best
Thinning trees to save ecology
In-Woods Expo 2007 Harvests Energy

BIOconversion Blog--------------
Industrial Symbiosis: Creating eco-industrial parks
Latin America's Blueprint for Green Energy
BIOconversion 101: The BioTown Sourcebook
EPA releases comprehensive Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program
Converting Biomass to Hydrogen
D.O.E. to fund ADM/Purdue cellulosic ethanol project
Friedman Multi-media on "The Power of Green"
Biomass Gasification at the "Chin-dia" price

BIOoutput Blog--------------
Good News from the DOE about Carbon Sequestration
BIOoutput 101: The BioTown Sourcebook

BIOwaste Blog--------------
BIOwaste 101: The BioTown Sourcebook
Hurdles to Waste Conversion Technologies
Smokestack emissions as feedstock for ethanol

Each month we provide a similar breakdown of 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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April 7, 2007

BIOoutput 101: The BioTown Sourcebook

For anyone who desires a simple introduction to the current range of potential BIOoutput products, I suggest a careful reading of a brief technical overview document called The BioTown, USA Sourcebook of Biomass Energy (released in April, 2006). It was written for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture by scientist and fellow blogger, Mark Jenner, PhD. who has his own website called Biomass Rules.

Below you can see an overview graphic that charts where bioconversion products (highlighted in blue) fall in proper context for addressing BIOstock, BIOconversion, and BIOwaste issues. For this reason, I offer a similar 101 abstract treatment in each of my BlogRing blogs.

This BioTown sourcebook is the official inventory on local energy use, available biomass fuels and emerging technologies for Reynolds, Indiana. As such, it can serve as an inventory template for any similarly focused study of a medium-sized rural community. It greater importance is its microcosmic view of rural communities as decentralized, sustainable entities that possess more than enough biomass to service their own energy needs.

Part of the report is devoted to an accounting of the existing energy demand in BioTown: transportation fuels, electricity, and natural gas. As the author states:

The bottom line is that as the cost of fossil fuel-derived energy continues to roughly double every five years, the value of biomass energy makes excellent economic sense. Agricultural commodity prices have remained competitively low for decades. Historically, if the supply of corn, beans, or even hogs is below demand, more are grown the next year – keeping commodity prices low.

At right is a broad "list of product categories from the Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement" drafted in 2003 (click to enlarge). "This federal rule-making process was part of a federal policy to procure supplies that made from bio-based material and meet specific criteria." Those criteria are spelled out as percentages of minimum biobased content necessary to qualify. It demonstrates the incredibly broad range of applications the output of bioconversion processes can be applied to.

This report is not a utopian call to return to rural, communal living. It is, instead, an affirmation that there are many biomass resources available and technologies in development to provide environmentally clean bioenergy alternatives to the existing fossil fuel energy paradigm. Rural communities can develop expertise and marketable output best suited to their own resources and industries. Urban communities can develop some technologies that are relevant to the diversion of trash from landfills.

The BioTown, USA Sourcebook of Biomass Energy

BioTown, USA is Indiana Governor, Mitch Daniel’s, bold approach to develop local renewable energy production, create a cleaner environment, find new solutions to municipal/animal waste issues, and develop new markets for Indiana products – all at the same time. BioTown, USA is quite simply the conversion of Reynolds, Indiana from a reliance on fossil fuels to biomass-based fuels. With the implementation of BioTown, USA, a template will be set that simultaneously promotes Indiana energy security, rural development, profitable agriculture and a green, thriving natural resource environment.

The only conclusion that can be made is that BioTown, USA is profoundly thermodynamically and technologically viable. Reynolds, Indiana used 227,710 million BTUs (MMBTU) in 2005. White County annually produces over 16,881,613 MMBTU in undeveloped biomass energy resources. That is 74 times more energy than Reynolds consumed in 2005.

BioTown, USA is a concept whose time has come. This Sourcebook and subsequent BioTown reports will serve as vital stepping stones to the implementation of BioTown, USA and subsequent bioeconomic rural development opportunities across Indiana and the nation.

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April 5, 2007

Good News from the DOE about Carbon Sequestration

According to a new Department of Energy study U.S. and Canadian power plants are sitting on a 900 year storage capacity for their carbon sequestration. Getting the CO2 underground into the subterranean storage formations is not a process currently practiced in the United States (as it is in Europe) but it is good to know that we have the capacity to use as part of an overall carbon mitigation program.

DOE’s Carbon Sequestration Program involves two key elements for technology development: (1) Core R&D and (2) Demonstration and Deployment. The Core R&D element contains five focal areas for carbon sequestration technology development: (1) CO2 Capture, (2) Carbon Storage, (3) Monitoring, Mitigation, and Verification, (4) Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gas Control, and (5) Breakthrough Concepts. Core R&D is driven by industry’s technology needs and is accomplished through laboratory and pilot-scale research aimed at developing new technologies and new systems for GHG mitigation.

As shown in this Atlas, CCS holds great promise as part of a portfolio of technologies that enables the U.S. and the rest of the world to address climate change while meeting the energy demands of an ever increasing global population. The Atlas includes the most current and best available estimates of potential carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration capacities determined by a methodology applied consistently across all of the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSP). All data were collected before December 2006. In the course of developing these CO2 sequestration capacity estimates, it became clear that some areas had yielded more and better quality data than others. Therefore, it is acknowledged that these data sets are not comprehensive; it is, however, anticipated that CO2 sequestration capacity estimates as well as geologic formation maps will be updated annually as new data are acquired and methodologies for CO2 sequestration capacity estimates improve.

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March 31, 2007

March 2007 Digest

Bridging the Gap to Biofuels

When it comes to energy, we are all stakeholders – whether we are producers, refiners, developers, educators, policymakers, marketers, regulators, environmentalists, distributors, farmers, foresters, or simply commuters... we are all consumers with a vested interest in future development of renewable energy in concert with environmental sustainability.

Even though there is a growing global recognition that something must be done to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate carbon emissions, the potential for endless debate over the means to these ends is threatened by delays. We need to act now.

The success of any mission to achieve 25x’25 or Twenty in Ten is more dependent on our willingness to communicate and work together than it is on our technical achievements. Why? I am convinced it will take collaboration between all stakeholders to develop and deploy these emerging technologies.

Having attended three important conferences this month, perhaps the most important lesson I can share is one for “bridging the gap” that I learned at 25x’25. When negotiating all parties must take an attitude of “Yes, if...” rather than “No, because...”

For example, “Will you agree...?”:
• “Yes, if you will guarantee...
• “Yes, if you can convince...
• “Yes, if you can match...
• “Yes, if you will commit...

Without the proper spirit of collaboration no compact between stakeholders will be sustainable – even if the technology is.

BIOstock Blog--------------
Will dead trees revive forest industries?
Why ethanol from wood makes sense
The Canadian action plan against the Mountain Pine Beetle
25x'25 Summit pressures U.S. Congress to act
Environmentalists and industrialists meet at the BioEnergy Wiki

BIOconversion Blog--------------
Multi-prong approach enhances energy security
ACORE wins BIG in Vegas
So. California Air Quality (AQMD) looks at Cellulosic Ethanol
BIO World Congress is bio-energized by cellulosic ethanol

BIOoutput Blog--------------
Using fungi to produce ethanol & biodegradeable material

BIOwaste Blog--------------
Producing hydrogen from wastewater and MSW
Fortune looks at waste source reduction

Each month we provide a similar breakdown of 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.

Using fungi to produce ethanol & biodegradeable material

Biopact has run a story about a Swedish science team whose research into Zygomycetes (an order of more than 100 different fungi) has discovered a saprophyte that grows easily in waste and drainage that converts it into ethanol and can be used to extract an unbelieveably useful super-absorbent and antibacterial cell-wall material that is biodegradeable!

Is it April 1st yet? You might want to look at the source article that appeared in the European Research website. As they report "The bottom line is that this discovery will benefit not only nature, but the paper industry and manufacturers of diapers and feminine hygiene products as well."

Scientists discover fungus to convert biomass into ethanol, and into biodegradable antibacterial and super-absorbent material

A research team at University College of Borås in Sweden, headed by Professor Mohammad Taherzadeh, in collaboration with scientists from Göteborg University has made a unique discovery. It consists of a fungus that converts biomass waste into ethanol in a highly efficient manner. Moreover, from the residual biomass resulting from the ethanol production the researchers were able to extract a powerful antibacterial and super-absorbent material that can be used in the hygiene industry (medical and sanitary napkins, etc...). The material is biodegradable, and promises to solve a significant waste problem.

Being able to convert sulfite lye for the production of ethanol is good news, in both economic and environmental terms. Sulfite lye, which is a byproduct of the production of paper and viscose pulp, is difficult for factories to dispose of since it contains chemicals that must not be casually released in nature. From being a highly undesirable byproduct for the paper industry, sulfite lye will now be an attractive raw material for the extraction of ethanol:

"Today baker's yeast is used for the production of ethanol, but we have found a fungus that is more effective than baker's yeast," says Mohammad Taherzadeh, professor of biotechnology at the School of Engineering, University College of Borås, and one of the world's leading ethanol researchers.

Zygomycetes are not only highly effective in producing ethanol; the research team also found that the biomass that is left over in the production of ethanol can be used to extract a cell-wall material that is super-absorbent and antibacterial. What's more, it's a biological material that can be composted and recycled:

This discovery opens an entirely new dimension for research on the fungi, according to Mohammad Taherzadeh, whose project "Production of antimicrobial super-absorbent from sulfite lye using zygomycetes" was recently awarded more than 800,000 Swedish Crowns (€85,000/US$ 114,000) from the Knowledge Foundation to continue its research into this cell-wall material.

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February 28, 2007

February 2007 Digest

The IPCC finally released their long-awaited summary of findings on global warming. Al Gore's movie won the Oscar for Best Documentary. Does that mean that people are finally convinced of the truth about global warming? Does it matter?

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the state of the atmosphere without having to declare one way or the other on the issue of global warming. Living in Los Angeles, raising a daughter with lifelong battles with allergies, bronchial congestion, and asthmatic inhalers, I am more concerned with particulate matter and reactive organic gases than I am about gradual global temperature increases due to greenhouse gas. No one has to convince me that we need to act now to clean up the air we breathe.

As ACORE attests, a welcome consequence of a switch to renewable fuels is that we will move closer to a carbon-neutral balance for our atmosphere. If we can simultaneously reduce our mountains of decaying trash and fire-prone wood waste to produce biofuels through bioconversion, so much the better for our environment.

BIOstock Blog--------------
SunOpta goes global with steam explosion biomass pre-treatment
Wood beats corn stover in U.S. cellulosic ethanol race
"Green Tags" reward Renewable Energy development
Trees-for-Fuel Biomass Plants Mitigate Fires

BIOconversion Blog--------------
BP invests in UC Berkeley/UIUC Biosciences Institute
Banking big on Renewable Energy
Corn Sugar Fermentation - Educational Videos
Wood beats corn stover in U.S. cellulosic ethanol race
Online game is a Climate Challenge
U.S. DOE backs funding of six cellulosic ethanol biorefinery projects

BIOoutput Blog--------------
The IPCC Report solution? Renewable Energy.
Green Options is the place to be
California's Transportation Action Plan targets 2020
INDY 500: Drivers, start your ethanol-fueled engine
Clean and Efficient Biogas Fuel Cells

BIOwaste Blog--------------
PyroGenesis' BIOwaste Conversion Systems
Small Town with a BIG green vision
Green Options for Recycled Paper

Each month we provide a similar breakdown of 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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February 21, 2007

Clean and Efficient Biogas Fuel Cells

What will be the next technological breakthrough in clean electricity generation? Some say "biogas fuel cells." Here are parts of an article from the Biopact Blog about biogas fuel cells that explains what makes them so revolutionary.

Biogas fuel cell delivers heat and power: the world's cleanest and most efficient energy system?

A milestone development in Germany is taking us towards what is probably the most efficient and cleanest energy system imaginable: biogas powered fuel cells.

In Europe, biogas is being developed on a large scale for the production of fuels for stationary power generation (to be used in natural gas plants), as well as for the transport sector (earlier post). It is being fed into the natural gas grid on a large scale (earlier post) or in dedicated pipelines supplying cities (earlier post), while some are creating real biorefineries around it that deliver green specialty chemicals, fuels and power (earlier post). The green gas can be made by the anaerobic fermentation of biomass, either obtained from dedicated energy crops (such as specially bred grass species or biogas maize), or from industrial, municipal or agricultural waste-streams. Of all biofuels, biogas delivers most energy per hectare of crops. It is also the least carbon intensive production path, with some biogas pathways actually delivering carbon negative bioenergy (earlier post). In Germany, some project the potential for biogas to be so high that it might replace all natural gas imports from Russia (earlier post).

Meanwhile, new fuel cells are being developed that do not require hydrogen to function, but that work on all common types of biofuels, from biomass-based syngas to ethanol and biogas. The latter fuel path is far more feasible for large-scale power generation than hydrogen, the production of which is inefficient, very costly and not very clean (if derived from fossil fuels; in case the hydrogen is made from biogenic processes and biomass, it is renewable and carbon-neutral, but currently, biohydrogen production is not very efficient). Now combine the efficiency of these fuel cells - which is far higher than power plants using combustion engines - and the low carbon footprint and efficiency of biogas production based on organic waste, and we have what is probably the cleanest and most efficient large-scale energy system currently in operation on earth.

"Utilising biomass to produce energy by digestion and a fuel cell not only improves energy efficiency, but also protects the climate and points the way to the future", as district administrator Maier said in praise of this intelligent and exemplary approach to municipal energy projects. The overall efficiency of the fuel cell for generating electricity and heat is 70%, which is accompanied by a dramatic reduction in emissions of harmful substances. These values cannot yet be achieved using other approaches.

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INDY 500: Drivers, start your ethanol-fueled engines

This may not be what CalSTEP has in mind as a replacement standard to gas guzzlers on California freeways, but it sure turns heads.

Actually, if you are trying to change perceptions about something as basic as vehicle fuel, showcasing its performance and safety benefits in America's premier racecar event is a no-brainer. Henry Ford, an enthusiastic early promoter of ethanol (a friend of the farmer), would probably say "What took you so long?"

Here is part of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council recent press release about this year's official IndyCar® Series changeover to 100% ethanol.

IndyCar Series Sets the Pace in Renewable Fuels
The first and only motorsports series to run ethanol, the IndyCar® Series is at the forefront of this push for renewable energy with its switch to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol for the 2007 season. This decision makes the IndyCar Series, the cutting-edge leader in motorsports safety and technology, a leader in renewable and environmentally responsible fuel produced in the U.S.

“The IndyCar Series shares the President’s commitment to energy security,” said Brian Barnhart, president and chief operating officer of the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series. “We accept the challenge of making these goals a reality.”

Indy-style racing has used methanol with impressive results since the late 1960’s. Ethanol shares methanol’s performance benefits, but has clear environmental and safety advantages.

Fuel enriched with a 10 percent ethanol blend used in passenger vehicles reduces harmful tailpipe emissions by as much as 30 percent and the emission reductions are even greater with E85. In 2005, ethanol use in the U.S. reduced carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 8 million tons. These gases contribute to global climate change.

“The partnership between the IndyCar Series and the ethanol industry exemplifies the spirit of energy independence, American ingenuity and innovation,” said Tom Slunecka, executive director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC).

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