Friday, May 8th, 2009
There’s a kernel of good to this story, if you care about climate change and high food prices.
Sure, ethanol has been a great example of how America can begin to overcome its dependency on foreign fossil fuels. But using a staple like corn to make the biofuel has driven up food prices and displaced other food crops.
Now comes the Obama administration, which has proposed new rules for renewable fuels, aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, he’s vowed to help prop up the corn ethanol industry with stimulus dollars, and commit stimulus funds to biofuel research.
Friday, May 8th, 2009
This article is part of a series on the Stimulus Update. Previous posts:
– Smart Grid Funding Guidelines Released
- Inching Towards Smart Grid Funding Guidelines
- EE and Conservation Block Grant Funds Releases
- Next Generation Electric Vehicles Funds Released
- Energy Efficiency Funds Released
- Climate Change, the Stimulus Bill, and how CleanTech will benefit
As part of an ongoing effort to reduce US dependence on foreign oil and address the climate crisis by increasing the use of domestic renewable fuels, Secretary of Energy Chu announced Tuesday plans to provide $786.5 million in ARRA funding to accelerate advanced biofuels research and development, and to provide additional funding for commercial-scale biorefinery demonstration projects.
The funding is available through ARRA’s Research and Development program and will be awarded through competitive grants from the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
Last week I went to the World Bank’s Energy Week in DC. It was an exciting event in which the World Bank hosted “energy and finance industry executives, senior donor and developing country government officials, stakeholders and leading-edge thinkers of the energy sector”. Seminars discussed energy efficiency, rural electrification, alternative energy resources, and climate change. The Global Energy Assessment was an interesting topic discussed by US renewable energy trade organization and private sector. If you’ve been paying attention to renewable energy there was nothing new, except the passion to engage the emerging markets.
Thursday, April 2nd, 2009
Can you make lemonade from algae?
Figuratively, yes. A bunch of students from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University have a business plan to use algae to treat wastewater and make biofuels.
It’s a double play, like taking lemons and making a cool, refreshing drink. Or maybe even a three-pointer, since these are rival schools.
The students, calling themselves Team Algal Scientific, were recently awarded the first-ever Clean Energy Prize from U of M and DTE Energy.
Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
by agathabrown, turtleanddove
No, it’s not the latest CD from Verve, it’s the latest rumble from industry groups and states: Raise the percentage of ethanol blended into unleaded gasoline.
The current cap is 10 percent. An ethanol trade group called Growth Energy has formally requested an increase to 15 percent, saying it will create more than 100,000 jobs and pump more than $24 billion into the economy, Reuters reports. There’s also the added benefit of increasing the demand for ethanol by 6 billion gallons a year, MSNBC says.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying whether a higher blend would harm older cars. Some newer vehicles are designed to run on E-85 (an 85 percent blend).
Saturday, February 28th, 2009
Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
Fuel cells and hydrogen were the buzz for years in U.S. automotive industry, until foreign competitors began making waves with hybrids.
Problems with the H included the high cost of infrastructure and the fossil-fuel energy needed to make hydrogen stations work.
That could change if new research on enzymes is realized. A team of scientists from Virginia Tech, Oak Ridge National Lab and the University of Georgia has developed a way of producing hydrogen gas by combining enzymes and cellulosic materials from non-food sources with good old water, according to a news release.
Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
Came across a report from the Congressional Research Service (pdf) on biofuels. Dated Jan. 5, 2009, it’s a decent summary of federal incentives (pre-stimulus).
cursed thing, via flickr
Some numbers: There are 24 U.S. programs that support biofuels, mostly ethanol and biodiesel. They were established over the last 28 years and are administered by five government agencies: Environmental Protection, Agriculture, Energy, IRS, and Customs and Border Protection.
If policy drives business, it looks like there are 101 reasons to develop cellulosic biofuels (from plant waste rather than people food). There’s a $1.01 per gallon credit from the IRS for producers.
The appendix has a summary by agency. Something to chew on.
The Pew Center also has a guide to state incentives.
Check out our links page for these and other great CleanTech Links
Monday, February 23rd, 2009
Courtesy of BP
Exciting news on the cellulosic ethanol front. The promise of next-generation biofuels is moving from the lab to the factory.
BP has announced a joint venture with Verenium to make cellulosic ethanol from grass and other non-edible plants.
Tuesday, February 10th, 2009
Courtesy U. of Minnesota
Exit up ahead: A University of Minnesota study has concluded that corn-based ethanol is no better than gasoline.
The Star Tribune says ethanol may even be a bigger polluter, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and particulate matter. Cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass and other plant materials is far better for human health, the scientists say.
But the Renewable Fuels Association claims the study is flawed. Among other things, it assumes that grassland will be taken out of the federal Conservation Reserve Program to make more corn-based ethanol. The RFA says most of the increase in corn production in the U.S. has been through higher yields rather than conversion, and there’s no peer-reviewed evidence for the study’s methods. (see the pdf).
Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
Cellulosic ethanol has been hailed as the next frontier in renewable fuels. After all, most ethanol in the U.S. comes from corn, a staple product in the food chain. Use more corn for ethanol, and you’re bound to drive up food prices. If you’ve seen “King Corn,” you know the score. Corn ethanol also has its problems with energy inputs versus energy outputs. In other words, the benefits can be sketchy.