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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February 20, 2007

California's Transportation Action Plan targets 2020

In California, it's all about the cars. Government leaders and consumers alike are questioning what steps they can take and what can they buy that will help ease oil dependence and toxic emissions that come from their vehicles.

It is also a state of "killer apps" - on the hunt for that rare but exhilarating solution that addresses old problems with revolutionary new solutions. The Toyota Prius has become the freshest breath of air within the past three years but it is only a way shower, not a solution.

What is needed is coordination toward a gradual replacement technology paradigm - not only new cars, but new fuels and fuel infrastructures.

Here is a press release from CalSTEP about their recently published plan for addressing these multi-faceted and interlinked issues.

CalSTEP Unveils Action Plan to Boost California’s Energy Security, Leadership in New Transportation Fuels and Technology
Assembly Speaker Targets Key Recommendations for Action

Sacramento, Calif. – Against a backdrop of advanced vehicles and lower-polluting fuels, the California Secure Transportation Energy Partnership (CalSTEP) today unveiled a comprehensive set of actions geared toward increasing California’s transportation energy efficiency and alternative fuel use by 2020. The CalSTEP Action Plan, developed through research, analysis and consensus-building over the past eighteen months, aims to grow the economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

CalSTEP is a diverse partnership of industry, government, academic and non-profit leaders from automakers to conservation groups. The multi-year Action Plan targets three key areas where the state can take action to secure its energy future: increasing vehicular efficiency; diversifying the state’s fuel supply; and reducing the overall need to drive. The CalSTEP plan makes ten key action recommendations to achieve the overall goals of reducing petroleum use by 15 percent, and increasing alternative fuel use to 20 percent.

With the release of its ten-point Action Plan, CalSTEP also launched the plan’s implementation, welcoming the immediate support of California Speaker of the Assembly Fabian Núñez and other legislative proponents for specific recommendations in the plan.

“I applaud the serious efforts of this diverse group to craft these recommendations for California’s energy future,” said Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-46th District). “California must be the leadership state in developing new transportation technologies and cleaner fuels. I will introduce legislation this Spring to specifically launch one of its recommendations – to create a California program to support alternative fuels and efficient vehicle development and use.”

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February 6, 2007

Green Options is the place to be

Sorry for the Green Acres reference but there is a new, full-featured site that has been added to the blogosphere. It features good writers, good discussions, and information about what's going on and how to greenify your lifestyle. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg, the editor of stalwart Sustainablog has been hired as Senior Editor of this site.

As they say...

Greening the Good Life

Welcome to Green Options, your online hub for all things Green. We try to focus on giving you the knowledge and resources you'll need in greening up your life. Our Blog features some of the best writers on the 'net covering the whole spectrum of green news, the Discussion Forums are a lively exchange of ideas and community, our Green Life Guide is your encyclopedia of everything eco, and the Green Report will keep you up to date on the day's news.

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February 3, 2007

The IPCC Report solution? Renewable Energy.

As they say, timing is everything. Right before holding their annual Power-Gen Renewable Energy & Fuels conference March 5-8 in Las Vegas the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) is served up an alarming report furthering speculation about the effects of global warming on climate change. The report is the work of an intergovernmental body called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Bureau. Who is the IPCC Bureau?

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the IPCC in 1988. It is open to all members of the United Nations and WMO. The Panel’s role is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the best available scientific, technical and socio-economic information on climate change from around the world. The assessments are based on information contained in peer-reviewed literature and, where appropriately documented, in industry literature and traditional practices. They draw on the work of hundreds of experts from all regions of the world. IPCC reports seek to ensure a balanced reporting of existing viewpoints and to be policy-relevant but not policy-prescriptive. Since its establishment the IPCC has produced a series of publications.

ACORE is "focused on accelerating the adoption of renewable energy technologies into the mainstream of American society through work in convening, information publishing and communications." At their meeting in Las Vegas next month renewable energy solutions (including wind, solar, biomass and fuels, hydro and geothermal) will be presented and technical, strategic, regulatory, structural and economic issues discussed.

Last year's conference was scholarly and instructive with the focus on who is doing what and what needs to be done. I highly recommend attendence to anyone involved in engineering design, systems, and management. I also recommend it to policy makers and their staffs in government and utilities. For more information on the event, visit the ACORE POWER-GEN Renewable Energy & Fuels (PGRE&F) webpage where there is a broader description of the event, a list of exhibitors and speakers, and archive of past events.

ACORE Answers IPCC Report - Renewable Energy is "the Major Solution" in Mitigating Climate Change

Responding to the alarming conclusions released today in the new assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) several leaders from ACORE, the American Council On Renewable Energy point out the role of wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewables in reversing the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The report determined with near certainty that these heat-trapping gasses are the main contributors to global warming. To quote from the document, “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (human caused) greenhouse gas concentrations.”

“The IPCC has again underscored the seriousness of the climate challenge and the likely consequences of failing to address this global threat,” says Roger Ballentine ACORE board member. “Fortunately, we have the tools we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize our climate – if we have the will to use them….there is no bigger and better tool in our toolbox than renewable energy.”

“When the world agrees that climate change is real, as we are doing here today, and we turn to the search for solutions, renewable energy will be seen as the major solution to climate change along with far greater levels of energy efficiency,” says Mike Eckhart, President of ACORE, speaking from Paris.

The IPCC report is the broadest and most respected scientific assessment of the impact of human activity on the world’s climate. It reflects a growing consensus among the more than 2000 scientists who wrote and reviewed each of the 4 reports issued by the IPCC since 1990 that we are set on a trajectory of accelerated climate warming, changing weather patterns and rising sea levels unless the world dramatically reduces the burning of fossil fuels and greatly expands the use of renewable energy.

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