September 30, 2005
Minnesota set to turn on the pumps for B2
They are all set to start the 16M gallon mandate: New biodiesel fuel mandate is set to go. I expect the demand to be FAR beyond the 2% minimum as consumers and some forward thinking fleets decide on higher blends. I just drove to Portland and back on 100% biodiesel. No problems
September 28, 2005
Seattle Biofuels admits fuel quality problems, announces new certification and customer support
This from Seattle Biodiesel today on their blog: Seattle Biofuels: Has Seattle Biodiesel experienced fuel quality problems?. They will 100% warranty their fuel.
September 21, 2005
NREL responds to flawed Pimentel study
In a recent report published in the Natural Resources Research Journal by Dr. Tad Patzek, professor of petroleum engineering at UC Berkeley, and Dr. David Pimentel, professor emeritus of insect ecology & agricultural sciences at Cornell University titled Ethanol Production Using Corn, Switchgrass, and Wood; Biodiesel Production Using Soybean and Sunflower, they argue a negative net energy balance for ethanol and biodiesel production. Considering the growing literature on the subject, Pimentel and Patzek are largely in the minority. In fact, many experts in the field of biofuels are perplexed by the conclusions Pimentel and Patzek have been able to reach. Unfortunately, this recent publication has received considerable attention in the mainstream media with little attention paid to the reliability of the data. Therefore, the commentary for this issue of BCO will be dedicated to a discussion of the inconsistencies in this recent publication and was provided to EESI by John Sheehan, Senior Engineer in the National Bioenergy Center of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The following opinions expressed do not represent an official position of the Dept. of Energy or National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Response to Pimentel-Patzek Article on Biofuels John Sheehan,National Renewable Energy Laboratory
The recent publication by Pimentel and Patzek on the net energy balance of ethanol and biodiesel has received a great deal of attention in the media. Their paper concludes that production of these renewable biofuels does not offer a positive return on energy. The production and use of energy for transportation is complex. Pimentel and Patzek do a disservice to the public when they draw such conclusions based on what appears to be a superficial survey of these renewable energy technologies. On all counts, credible and detailed published studies of these biofuels published over the past ten years do not support this claim. Given the widespread attention given to these persistent claims by Pimentel, I would welcome the opportunity for a thorough review by an objective and respected third party of experts to sort out the reasons for the disparities between Pimentels claims and the findings of other published studies.
Ethanol from Energy Crops the ultimate alternative to fossil fuel
The most surprising suggestion in Pimentel and Patzeks new publication is the claim that ethanol made from energy cropstrees and grasses containing cellulose and hemicellulose sugarsrequires 50% more fossil energy inputs than the fuel energy it delivers. Pimentel and Patzek are uninformed about the technology for turning these new forms of biomass into ethanol. Studies by Argonne National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have demonstrated that ethanol from energy crops and from agricultural residues like corn stover offer large fossil energy savings: savings of 90% or more in the case of energy crops like switchgrass and residues from corn production. Why the big difference? Pimentel and Patzeks cursory review of the technology missed one very important design aspect for this new technologythe conversion of grasses and residues to ethanol is completely energy self-sufficient. That is, all of its energy needs are provided by the biomass, eliminating the need for the fossil energy that Pimentel and Patzek claim are needed to provide steam and power in the facility. It is unfortunate that such an uninformed claim has now been widely spread in the general media.
The Ongoing Corn Ethanol Debate:
Does it represent a deficit in fossil energy? If asked that question 30 years ago when the new gasohol industry was in its infancy, many experts would have said yes. But not today. Dramatic improvements in the efficiency and productivity of farming and in the efficiency of producing ethanol in a modern corn processing plant have changed the situation. Pimentel and Patzek claim that todays commercial corn grain ethanol technology invests 29% more fossil energy than it can deliver in each gallon of fuel. While Pimentel has made similar claims about corn ethanol over the past 15 years, well documented studies of corn ethanol conducted by USDA and DOE show just the oppositethat is, corn ethanol delivers a 34% gain in fuel energy for each unit of fossil energy invested (Wang, Saricks et al. 1997; Shapouri, Duffield et al. 2002) , with concomitant savings in greenhouse gas emissions from the savings in fossil energy consumption.
A New Attack on Biodiesel
Having focused most of his past attention on corn ethanol production, Pimentel has now turned his attention to the latest renewable fuel entry in the transportation fuel marketbiodiesel. Today, the bulk of biodiesel in the United States is made from soybean oil. Pimentel and Patzek claim that the growing of soybeans, and their subsequent processing to make biodiesel, consumes 27% more fossil energy then the fuel can deliver to an engine. Soybeans are a particularly efficient source of natural oil becauseas legumes that fix nitrogen from the atmospherethey use little or no energy-intensive nitrogen fertilizer. A comprehensive 300-page study of the energy and environmental impacts of biodiesel made from soybeans was conducted jointly by the U.S. Department of Energy and the USDA, and published in 1998 (Sheehan, Camobreceo et al. 1998) . That report finds biodiesel offers dramatic savingsusing 70% less fossil energy than its petroleum counterpart.
The Benefits of Biofuels for Petroleum Savings and Energy Security
While reducing our dependence on fossil energy is an important metric for assessing biofuels, we should not lose sight of the most strategic energy challenge facing our nation todaypetroleum. A top priority for the U.S. Department of Energy is reducing our reliance on foreign sources of oil. That is one reason why DOE supports the development of biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel. The studies cited here show that corn ethanol reduces oil consumption in your car by 85%. Biodiesel and ethanol from energy crops can offer petroleum savings of 90 to 95%. When I consider the ability of these fuels to slip seamlessly into our existing transportation system, I find these fuels to be among the best opportunities available in the near-term to cure our unhealthy addiction to foreign oil. In the future, energy crops, agricultural residues and other sources of waste biomass offer the ability to replace much of the oil we now consume for transportation, without significantly impacting the production of food, feed and fiber.
The Need for Open and Honest Debate
In the 21st century, weas a nationwill face unprecedented energy challenges as we transition from petroleum to more sustainable sources of energyespecially for transportation. If we are to make the right choices as a society, we must avoid the pitfalls of polarized debates in which opponents in the energy debate turn to sound bite experts to address conflicting points of view about our energy future. We encourage, instead, an open and honest debate about energy security and how to provide a sustainable energy supply for the future. No option is without its downside. Pimentel and Patzek fail to point out, for example, that gasoline and diesel fuel today actually do have a negative fossil energy balance. Let us engage in an intelligent and informed dialogue about energy so that we can make sound choices. We owe that to our children and to future generations.
 http://www.entomology.cornell.edu/Faculty_Staff/Pimentel/pimentel.htmlSources: Shapouri, H., J. Duffield, et al. (2002). The Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol: An Update. Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Chief Economist, Office of Energy Policy and New Uses. Sheehan, J., V. Camobreceo, et al. (1998). Life Cycle Inventory of Biodiesel and Petroleum Diesel for Use in an Urban Bus. Golden, CO, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Wang, M., C. Saricks, et al. (1997). Fuel-Cycle Fossil Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Fuel Ethanol Produced from US Midwest Corn. Argonne, IL, Argonne National Laboratory.
September 20, 2005
Washington State Republicans support biofuels
KOMO news reports today on a Republican initiative to help grow the biodiesel industry in the state. Both the Democrats and Republicans have come out saying biofuels are part of the solution to the high costs of oil for the state. Now lets see if we can get some agreement.
September 12, 2005
Schools buses go bio
With Diesel now well over $3 per gallon and school buses getting 6 mpg, many districts are taking agressive measures: kingcountyjournal.com - Gas bills pinching schools; rising costs to power buses could force cutbacks on trips; one district considers biodiesel. I am sure it is fun for the students to make biodiesel from the cooking grease, but I am also sure they wouldn't be able to make enough. I hope they find a local supplier to just convert to B100 which is now CHEAPER than diesel in Seattle.
September 9, 2005
Price Inversion in Seattle!
I noted last month that in California the price of DinoDiesel had surpassed the price of Biodiesel. That price inversion will drive ALOT of consumption in California. Now, as of Monday, price inversion has happened in Seattle. LuarelHurst Oil now has #2 diesel for $3.15 a gallon and 100% biodiesel for $3.10 a gallon. They also have both pumps next to each other. Now, let me see.... I pull up to the pump to fill up my diesel auto/truck/tractor, etc. One pump is more expensive, harms the environment, causes wars, and sends money to another country. The other pump is cheaper, very easy on the environment, domestically produced and supports American industry and farmers. Which one would you choose?
plastic bottles to diesel
humm. sounds like magic. Treehugger: Ozmoenergy - converts plastic to diesel! does anyone know if it works?
September 8, 2005
Australian Biodiesel IPO
Float to fuel plastic-diesel conversion - Business - Business - theage.com.au. Nice to be in a country that has a stock market willing to fund very early stage deals. I can't believe they are getting such a large amount for basically a plan to build an untested technology two years from now.