January 31, 2007

January 2007 Digest

The Renewable Industrial Revolution

After more than 150 years, the Industrial Revolution is overdue for a major retooling. No longer can we heedlessly combust biomass and fossil resources without consideration for the carbon emissions and potential energy that "floats out the smokestack." But what can possibly replace the status quo paradigm that we have based so much of our energy, industry, transportation, and lifestyle liberties upon?

This BIO "BlogRing" - BIOstock Blog, BIOconversion Blog, BIOoutput Blog, and the new BIOwaste Blog - is intended to help identify the multi-faceted pieces of emerging biomass technologies. - is intended to help identify the multi-faceted pieces of emerging biomass technologies. Like a Rubik's cube, the parts are inextricably linked together, but currently in disarray. By addressing each facet independently, challenging issues will become clear. By shifting perspective, new collaborative solutions can be synthesized. Not just one solution but many, because the ultimate solution for any market will depend upon the resources, ecology, and stakeholders of that market.

Here are their most significant developments of January 2007, organized by blog...

BIOstock Blog--------------
Utilizing Pine Beetle Wood Waste as BIOstock
Japanese wood-to-ethanol facility uses Arkenol process
CHINA: Choosing wood over corn for biofuels production
Low heat gasification converts woody biostock to energy
25x'25 Vision of BIOstock Supply
Food vs. Fuel: Over-reliance on Corn Raises Ag Prices
Celunol produces Ethanol from Wood using Bacteria
BIOethanol converted from pulping liquor
Food vs. Fuel? U.S. Farmers Can Produce Both
Black Liquor Gasification Technology Attracts Volvo Investment

BIOconversion Blog--------------
Biomass: Year-in-Review
Biomass Power Generation using Gasification
ALT Energy Stocks: The Future of Ethanol
FLORIDA: Cultivating a Bioconversion Industry
Low heat gasification technique to convert biostock to energy
Europe's "New Industrial Revolution"
Celunol launches commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Japan
Cellulose Ethanol Market Potential Report
ACORE: President Bush on Renewable Energy in 2007
Apollo Alliance pursues 'green-collar' jobs
Ethanol and Net Energy - EROI
The Renewable Path to Energy Security

BIOoutput Blog-----------------
FAQ: BIOoutput Blog
"Living with Ed" Begley, Jr. in Studio City
CALIFORNIA: Governor Targets Fuel Emissions
Electric cars - a boost for biofuels?
CHINA: Pollution threatens 2008 Olympics
BioButanol from Cellulosic Bioconversion
From Food to Fuel to Fashion

NEW! BIOwaste Blog-----------------
FAQ: BIOwaste Blog
Spinning “Gold” Out of Trash
Southern California Emerging Waste Technologies Forum
The Benefits of Conversion Technologies
Recycling’s “China Syndrome”
Plasma Gasification and Incineration Compared
CANADA: Municipal Solid Waste Disposal Options
CHINA: Pollution threatens 2008 Olympics
Using Algae to Recycle Flue Gas into Biofuels
U.S. D.O.E.: Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gases
CALIFORNIA: Air Resources Board tackles Global Warming
Impact of Global Growth on Carbon Emissions
Enforcing California's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Limits
BIOwaste Energy as Explained on the Energy Kid's Page
Expanded Recycling - a Key to Cutting Fossil Fuels and Global Warming
Mayors seek $4B to fight Energy & Environmental Challenges
MIT/PNNL Plasma Arc Waste-to-ethanol Solution

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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January 29, 2007

From Food to Fuel to Fashion

Well, it's not exactly up to the level inspired by George Washington Carver yet, but take it as an indication that one of the benefits of a paradigm shift to renewable biofuels will be stimulation of new byproduct and side-stream chemical industries. Aside from further weaning us from petroleum waste conversion, bioproducts are good "carbon sinks" and, more often than not, biodegradable.

Here was a little fun at the BIO 2006 conference:

From Food to Fuel to Fashion
BIO 2006 Features Consumer Products Made With Industrial Biotechnology
by Paul Winters at BIO

On Monday, April 10, during the BIO 2006 International Conference, BIO hosted a media brunch, "From Food to Fuel to Fashion: Industrial Biotech Does It All." The brunch provided reporters an opportunity to taste, use, and see products produced through industrial and environmental biotechnology, as well as learn how these technologies can enable energy security.

The highlight of the brunch was a fashion show with models wearing everyday clothing and designer clothes made from polylactic acid (PLA), a compostable biopolymer made from dextrose corn sugar. There were also exhibits of products made from PLA and polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), including bedding products, packaging materials, and baby products.

The menu featured foods made with the help of enzymes or flavorings manufactured through industrial biotechnology, including yogurts, breads and rolls, meats, and juices. All foods and beverages were served on bioplastic plates, cups and utensils made from agricultural feedstocks, instead of oil.

(Sue Cischke, Vice President, Environment and Safety Engineering at Ford) outlined Ford's interest in biotechnology, reminding the audience, "Henry Ford maintained a keen interest in materials that could be grown on the farm and built into automobiles." Ford, she said, is looking to form a coalition of industries - including automobiles, fuel distributors, and innovators - to work toward the goal of replacing petroleum-based products in industry.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO's Industrial and Environmental Biotechnology Section, hosted the event.

Erickson predicted that 2006 would be the tipping point in the creation of a biobased economy in the United States, with renewable products replacing petroleum-based products in countless industries.

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January 21, 2007

BioButanol from Cellulosic Bioconversion

One product from bioconversion that is getting recent press is biobutanol - a non-corrosive biofuel similar to ethanol with energy content similar to gasoline that can be mixed with gasoline.

Here is story from Green Car Congress about Green Biologics, a company that is using hydrolysis with patented bacteria to convert biomass into biobutanol.

Green Biologics Awarded £560,000 for Cellulosic Biobutanol Development

Green Biologics (GBL), an Oxfordshire (UK) biotechnology company, has received £560,000 (US$1.1 million) in funding to support the development of its fuel biobutanol product—Butafuel—from cellulosic biomass. The Department of Trade and Industry-led Technology Program is providing £250,000 (US$494,000), and shareholder investors and business angels are providing the rest.

Using its library of thermophiles and thermostable enzymes, GBL has isolated a cocktail of thermophilic microorganisms for the rapid enzymatic hydrolysis and release of fermentable sugars from biomass. The company plans to integrate this patented hydrolysis technology with a proprietary butanol fermentation process.

The major barrier to butanol production has been the high cost of the conventional starch fermentation process. Our expertise in microbial strain development, together with EKB’s innovative process technology and the use of non-edible food stocks, should lead to a step change in the economic viability of the manufacturing process—we are aiming for a two- to three-fold reduction in cost. We are effectively using our knowledge of enzymology, microbial physiology and fermentation to optimize and ‘re-commercialize’ the butanol fermentation process.
—Dr Edward Green, Green Biologics Founder & CEO

Butanol (C4H10O) is a four-carbon alcohol in widespread use as an industrial solvent. Originally produced by fermentation starting nearly 90 years ago (using Clostridia acetobutylicum), butanol shifted to becoming a petrochemically-derived product in the 1950s as the price of petrochemicals dropped below that of starch and sugar substrates such as corn and molasses. Virtually all of the butanol is use today is produced petrochemically.

Butanol has a number of attractive properties as a fuel. Its energy content is closer to gasoline than ethanol’s. It is non-corrosive, can be distributed through existing pipelines, and can be—but does not have to be—blended with fossil fuels. Butanol itself could be reformed for hydrogen for use in fuel cells, and the production process itself produces hydrogen.

In June 2006, BP and DuPont recently announced a collaboration with British Sugar to produce biobutanol in the UK. BP provides a route for butanol into the transport fuel market and aims to blend butanol with gasoline at its 1,200 filling stations.

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January 20, 2007

FAQ: BIOoutput Blog

1. What is "BIOoutput"?

BIOoutput is our name for the broad spectrum of products and energy that result from the conversion of biomass feedstock. This includes ancillary products like the vehicles that operate on this output.

2. What is the focus of the BIOoutput Blog?

The third of four biomass conversion blogs, this one is intended to help identify the new products, energy supplies, and markets that will help to make biomass conversion more economically feasible. The other three related blogs are the BIOstock Blog, BIOconversion Blog, and the BIOwaste Blog.

As biomass conversion technologies are deployed, the need for a broader range of new processes to create by-product alternatives to fossil fuel refinery by-products will also become prominent.

3. What is the significance of the Rubik's cube imagery on the Blogs?

The Rubik's cube is emblematic of the multi-faceted energy puzzle that confronts civilization. This four blog series is my attempt to create some semblance of order out of the chaos of global interlinking challenges - geopolitics, employment, pollution, energy, waste, carbon emissions, etc. Each Blog is an attempt to work on a side of the puzzle - BIOstock, BIOconversion, BIOoutput, and BIOwaste. Solve these and I believe many international problems will be substantially mitigated.

January 12, 2007

CHINA: Pollution threatens 2008 Olympics

A chilling article posted by Knowledge@WhartonNetwork raises concern about pollution in China. It could have an unhealthful impact on the 2008 Summer Olympics. Consider this - at a recent marathon in Hong Kong:

Runners coughed and gagged as they limbered up. Thick smog shrouded the Tsing Ma Bridge. Pollution index readings on this morning in February 2006 were at 149, the highest in months. Any reading over 100 is considered unhealthy.

But the 40,000 runners who had signed up to participate in China's largest footrace, the Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon, were ready to go, unaware of the tragedy ahead. By the end of the day, Tsang Kam-yin, a 53-year-old three-time marathoner would collapse and die about a third of the way through the event. About 20 runners would be hospitalized, many for respiratory ailments. In Internet postings following the race, runners complained about asthma attacks and hacking fits after crossing the finish line.

"Everyone who took part in the marathon was at risk of harm to their health from pollution," Anthony J. Hedley, an official with the department of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong, wrote after the race, chiding the organizers for not taking more precautions.

Environmental experts suggest that a cleaner Chinese capital could be the legacy of the 2008 event. But they also note that China needs more than a quick-fix for its broader environmental crisis-in-the-making. They say China's problems stem from a weak legal system, corruption, poverty, two decades of double-digit industrial growth, government policies that put job growth ahead of the environment, and Communist propaganda that over-promoted man's ability to conquer nature.

The effects of pollution can be seen everywhere. Smokestack factories spew toxins and particulates into the air. Rivers teem with sewage. According to Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2006 report, acidification has spread to 30% of China's cropland. Another study, by the Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology, reports that the range of ozone exposure in agricultural regions in the Yangtze River Delta is enough to reduce yields by 10%.

According to a summarizing article on Energy.FinancialNirvana:
Pollution in China is a major issue with 2008 Beijing Olympics right around the corner

What's wrong?
  • According to the World Bank, 16 cities in the world with the worst air pollution are located in China.

  • The country’s Ministry of Science and Technology has estimated that 50,000 newborn babies a year die from the effects of air pollution.

  • China’s emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important global warming gas, are expected to surpass those of the United States in 2009, according to the International Energy Agency.

  • Eric W. Orts, professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton, says that pollution, if left unchecked, will drag down China’s economic growth and result in huge healthcare costs. In addition, China’s pollution will, over time, erode its competitive position in the global economy.

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    January 11, 2007

    Electric cars - a boost for biofuels?

    Wouldn't the introduction of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles mute the booming demand for biofuels over the long haul? Not according to the French automaker Renault in a recent article posted on the Biopact Blog.

    Biofuels contribute less than 3% of current fuel usage in the U.S. It could grow considerably before challenging fossil fuel dominance or the gradual introduction of electricity as an energy source. However, the increased reliance on electricity could actually insure that biomass and biofuels provide a longterm alternative. That is because so much electricity is generated using fossil fuels that even if biomass is not being converted into biofuels for the gas tank it is still likely to become the primary alternative fuel source for electricity generation.

    Reliance on electricity for vehicle power could also negatively impact the future use of hydrogen as vehicle fuel since the infrastructure for biofuels and electricity are essentially already in place.

    Below are excerpts from the article that should be read in its entirety from the original source...

    Why electric cars and plug-in hybrids mean a boost to bioenergy

    French automaker Renault announced yesterday that it will roll out an electric vehicle in 2010 aimed mainly at European fleet markets.

    Besides this project, Nissan has also launched a series of programs aimed at speeding up the introduction of 'plug-in hybrids'. GM and Mitsubishi are going electric too, as are a whole series of small manufacturers who are producing electric specialty vehicles, such as light-duty vans, urban mini-cars or heavy-duty trucks.

    Despite marketeers' insistence, none of these vehicles are "zero emissions" per se, for the obvious reason that electricity -- just like hydrogen -- is merely an energy carrier, not an energy source. You need a primary energy source to produce the electricity these vehicles' batteries will consume. At the 'tailpipe', electric cars are clean, but this doesn't hide the smokestacks that pump out CO2 at the point where the electricity they use is generated.

    The question then becomes: which of these clean primary energy sources is most viable over the long-term?

    Renault, for one, considers bioenergy to be the most versatile, most competitive and most universally applicable source for power generation. Biomass is solar energy converted into plant matter that can be transported, distributed and managed in a flexible manner.

    Unlike photovoltaic and wind power, biomass can be used everywhere and 24 hours a day. A staggering diversity of energy crops exists that can be used to grow biomass adapted to local agro-ecologic circumstances: from drought-tolerant perennial crops in semi-deserts and grass species in the subtropics, to trees in peri-arctic environments.

    The advantage of biomass as the primary energy source for electricity generation is the fact that it can be traded internationally, unlike photovoltaic and wind-power which are locally rooted and can be used economically only under optimal conditions (strong winds in specific locations or ample sunshine). If you want to transport solar energy over long distances, you can only do it by embedding it in biomass; that way, you can ship it over oceans to markets where it fetches the best price. This is impossible with electricity derived from wind or photovoltaics.

    The increased attention for electric cars may also signal the final blow to the much hyped 'hydrogen economy'. The main reason why hydrogen is such an unfeasible option for the future, is that it has the disadvantage that the gas is costly to produce, difficult to store and not easy to transport or distribute. The hydrogen economy requires the construction of an entirely new, trillion-dollar infrastructure consisting of pipelines, storage facilities and special hydrogen stations where end users can refill their gas-tanks. This may take ages to build. The electric infrastructure on the contrary already exists. To function as the power instructure for transport, all it needs is some grid-extension and the construction of public recharging outlets.

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    January 9, 2007

    CALIFORNIA: Governor Targets Fuel Emissions

    Governor Schwarzenegger has announced new targets for gasoline producers to hit in a continuing state campaign to lead the nation in innovative public policy regarding fuels and vehicle emissions.

    According to the L.A. Times -

    The order could also usher in a new generation of alternative fuels in California, experts say, as refiners consider adding ethanol or other biofuels into gasoline blends. It could also mean a shift of part of the state's auto fleet to hydrogen or electric power.

    According to the white paper, a drop of 10% in carbon released by vehicles in California would translate to a 20% drop in gasoline consumption and more than triple the size of the state's renewable-fuels market.

    Transportation accounts for more than 40% of California's annual greenhouse gas emissions, and the state relies on petroleum-based fuels for 96% of its transportation needs.

    The white paper suggests that a shift to lower-carbon fuels could be supplemented by creation of a market that would trade credits that could be used to satisfy state requirements to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

    For example, high-carbon-fuel makers could meet their mandate by purchasing credits from electric utilities that supply low-carbon electrons to electric passenger vehicles.

    The mandate also would provide a significant boost to the state's fledgling alternative-fuels industry, said Bill Jones, chairman of Pacific Ethanol of Fresno, the state's leading biofuel producer. Jones was a former California secretary of state and longtime state legislator.

    Here is an abridged version of today's announcement as presented on the Governor's website...

    Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Directive to Establish World's First Low Carbon Standard for Transportation Fuels

    Continuing his historic leadership to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and lower California's reliance on foreign oil, Governor Schwarzenegger today announced he will issue an Executive Order establishing a groundbreaking Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) for transportation fuels sold in California. By 2020 the standard will reduce the carbon intensity of California's passenger vehicle fuels by at least 10 percent. This first-of-its kind standard will support AB 32 emissions targets as part of California's overall strategy to fight global warming.

    The LCFS requires fuel providers to ensure that the mix of fuel they sell into the California market meets, on average, a declining standard for GHG emissions measured in CO2-equivalent gram per unit of fuel energy sold. By 2020, the LCFS will produce a 10 percent reduction in the carbon content of all passenger vehicle fuels sold in California. This is expected to replace 20 percent of our on-road gasoline consumption with lower-carbon fuels, more than triple the size of the state's renewable fuels market, and place more than 7 million alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles on California's roads (20 times more than on our roads today).

    The LCFS will use market-based mechanisms that allow providers to choose how they reduce emissions while responding to consumer demand. For example, providers may purchase and blend more low-carbon ethanol into gasoline products, purchase credits from electric utilities supplying low carbon electrons to electric passenger vehicles, diversify into low carbon hydrogen as a product and more, including new strategies yet to be developed.

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    January 2, 2007

    "Living with Ed" Begley, Jr. in Studio City

    Grist just ran a nice interview with everyman environmentalist, Ed Begley, Jr. His first of six episodes of his reality show Living with Ed premiered just after the Rose Parade on HGTV and will be running at its regular timeslot on Sundays (at 10pm ET/PT but check your local airtimes and channel). It's a tongue-in-cheek look at what is like for his celeb-wife Rachelle Carson to live with this committed environmentalist.

    He'll tell you that he is a staunch believer in nuclear power - so long as it remains 93 million miles away. More seriously, he'll tell you he is interested in solutions.

    Living about a mile away from my home, I have met and broken bread with Ed several times. He is true to his energy hierarchy (walk, bike, public transportation, electric car, hybrid car). He walks the talk with a long stride and a sense of purpose. His habits have affected life in our community in many ways. Priuses now dot the landscape. His daughter goes to the local public elementary and when I jog in the morning I see a stream of parents walking their kids to school - no doubt emulating Ed.

    You can catch him hawking his Begley's Best Cleaner at most weekly Sunday Farmer's Markets in Studio City, the funky entertainment "town" buried in the center of Los Angeles County that is residence to many real and aspiring celebrities. I've also seen him make speeches at local green events like the recent Alt Car Expo in Santa Monica and the "World Without Oil" rally at the local Unitarian Church.

    One of my earlier blogs (November, 2005) included a letter that Ed wrote advocating conversion technologies regulatory reform being supported by Los Angeles City and County utilities interested in diverting waste from landfills. Strangely enough, California's Against Waste and the California Assembly Natural Resources Committee ignored this stand and the legislation did not pass - delaying deployments of needed legislation in California.

    But knowing Ed backed it sure made me feel like I was on the side of the angels.

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