Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
Stanford University scientists have created a tiny electrode that can harness an electric current from a single algae cell, a breakthrough they hope will one day lead to the creation of an inexpensive source of renewable energy.
The nanoelectrode, made of gold and specifically designed to probe inside cells, is so sharp that it is able to penetrate the algae cell membrane without killing the cell.
And once inside the cell, it can intercept electrons just after they are energized by sunlight by the photosynthesis process.
Researchers hope it is the first step toward developing a “high efficiency” form of bioelectricity. (more…)
Monday, April 12th, 2010
With subsidy support for corn ethanol under attack, algae and cellulosic look to secure federal support. The result: a subsidy battle in the Capital that could dictate the direction of the U.S. biofuel industry over the next decade.
Has the transition to advanced biofuels turned the corner?
Probably not yet, but sustainable alternatives are beginning to get their day in the sun in Washington D.C. The result: a subsidy brawl is taking shape that will likely dictate the direction of U.S. biofuels development over the next 5-10 years.
There are a few moving elements, but here are the recent highlights: (more…)
Thursday, April 8th, 2010
On Tuesday, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment Jackalyne Pfannenstiel kicked off the first of several energy forums in front of a packed room to look at ways to increase biofuels production and meet the Navy’s renewable energy needs. The forum comes as a result of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recently signed by the USDA and the Navy to encourage the development of advanced biofuels and other renewable energy systems.
As the President pointed out in his energy security remarks last week, “…the Pentagon isn’t seeking these alternative fuels just to protect our environment; they’re pursuing these homegrown energy sources to protect our national security. Our military leaders recognize the security imperative of increasing the use of alternative fuels, decreasing energy use, reducing our reliance on imported oil, making ourselves more energy-efficient.”
Friday, March 26th, 2010
As I wrote last week, aviation demand for biofuels is bursting at the seams. The trouble is, there are no easy alternatives. Sustainable, non-food feedstocks like camelina and jatropha are just getting traction and the process of turning algae into fuel is still under development, which leaves few alternatives for the petroleum-dependent aviation industry.
Unlike ground transportation, the key issue for airlines is that they are entirely dependent on liquid fuel, and this — right now — is hurting their bottom line. According to the Air Transport Association (ATA), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, fuel expenses have historically ranged from 10 to 15 percent of U.S. passenger airline operating costs, but averaged more than 35 percent in the third quarter of 2008.
Monday, March 22nd, 2010
Aviation demand for biofuels is bursting at the seams. Hemmed in by emerging certifications, a petroleum-based distribution network, and lack of supply, the industry is stuck on petroleum fuels for now, but not by choice.
Pressure to integrate more biofuels into the supply chain is palpable: oil price increases, oil price volatility, oil scarcity, greenhouse gas emission regulation, and increasingly, corporate social responsibility commitments. The future of the aviation sector is dependent on its ability to pivot away from petroleum-based fuels to alternative sources of energy, and they must do it quickly.
One caveat: while demand may be substantial, no one knows for sure if supply can keep pace, which makes statements from aviation experts at the World Biofuels Markets taking place in Amsterdam this week all that more interesting. (more…)
Friday, March 19th, 2010
While we are all aware that we should only be using BPA-free, reusable water bottles, at least now there are some new, earth-friendly alternatives to traditional plastic bottles.
Green Planet Bottling has introduced a 100-percent plant-based water bottle that is carbon neutral and toxin-free, compared to bottles contained both petroleum and BPA. Green Planet water is vapor distilled for taste and purity, and the bottles are fully recyclable and compostable in 80 days.
Bottles returned to Green Planet are ground into flakes and then hydrolyzed to make new bottles. Consumers can find Green Plant water in 16.9-ounce bottles at schools, select restaurants, corporate settings, hotels, and convenience stores. Twelve-ounce bottles are due out later this spring
Friday, March 12th, 2010
Bubble, Bubble, Methane is Trouble: A vast storehouse of methane under the Arctic Ocean has perforated and is starting to leak, researchers disclosed. While scientists have long been preoccupied with methane release from permafrost on mainland Siberia, the underwater stores in the adjoining East Siberian Arctic Shelf are much larger, and the release of even a small fraction could lead to a dramatic increase in global warming. Methane is a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more powerful than CO2.
Now a Word from Our Other Gases: It was a promising week in the world of fuels. A Colorado startup revealed a solar concentrator that can vaporize biomass and make high-yield synthetic fuels. British scientists explored enzymes in the gut of a boat-eating bug that could break down straw or waste wood. Meanwhile, a California newbie called Transonic Combustion claims to have invented a fuel-injection system that could boost mileage of plain old gas by 50 percent. The company registered 64 miles to the gallon in recent test drives. (more…)
Thursday, March 11th, 2010
The U.S. Senate voted 62 to 36 Wednesday to pass a tax extension bill (H.R. 4213) that includes a key $1 biodiesel tax credit.
The expiration of the credit on Dec. 31, 2009 put the breaks on an expanding industry and raised questions about biodiesel’s future in the U.S.
With many biodiesel plants either idle or shutdown throughout the country, the bill will reinstate the credit retroactively, extending it through Dec. 31., 2010.
Although biodiesel received a tremendous boost under the new renewable fuel standard (RFS2), without a tax credit, the industry could not compete on price with petroleum-based diesel.
Thursday, March 11th, 2010
Despite strong evidence that growing food crops to produce ethanol is harmful to the environment and the world’s poor, the Obama administration is backing subsidies and programs that will ensure that half of the U.S.’s corn crop will soon go to biofuel production. It’s time to recognize that biofuels are anything but green.
In light of the strong evidence that growing corn, soybeans, and other food crops to produce ethanol takes a heavy toll on the environment and is hurting the world’s poor through higher food prices, consider this astonishing fact: This year, more than a third of the U.S.’s record corn harvest of 335 million metric tons will be used to produce corn ethanol. What’s more, within five years fully 50 percent of the U.S. corn crop is expected to wind up as biofuels.
Here’s another sobering fact. Despite the record deficits facing the U.S., and notwithstanding President Obama’s embrace of some truly sustainable renewable energy policies, the president and his administration have wholeheartedly embraced corn ethanol and the tangle of government subsidies, price supports, and tariffs that underpin the entire dubious enterprise of using corn to power our cars. In early February, the president threw his weight behind new and existing initiatives to boost ethanol production from both food and nonfood sources, including supporting Congressional mandates that would triple biofuel production to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
Thursday, March 11th, 2010
According to the United Nations, an estimated 40 percent of the global population, or close to 2.6 billion million people do not have access to a toilet of any sort, even a pit latrine.
This has created a public health crisis in developing countries, both in terms of contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation techniques. More than one million children mostly under the age of five die each year from diarrhea resulting from this lack of sanitary conditions. While the technology exists to solve this problem, it is expensive and sometimes hard to install.
But Swedish architect and entrepreneur, Anders Wilhelmson is hoping to tackle the issue with his invention: a safe, affordable, biodegradable plastic bag called the Peepoo that can be used as a single-use toilet. (more…)