Posts tagged “cellulosic ethanol”
The Unicorn Analogy
It isn’t because it’s too far to work. Nor is it because it rains here in Hawaii nearly every day and I might get wet. It isn’t because the powerful automobile lobby has convinced me that driving a car to work is a better option for me. No, it’s a bit more fundamental than that.
I don’t ride a unicorn to work because unicorns don’t exist.
But imagine the following scenario. A number of companies claim that they are developing unicorns, and in 3 years they will be commercially available. The government thinks “Hey, this is a great idea. It would be a more environmentally friendly method of transport. Let’s force automakers to start selling these unicorns in 3 years. We will base our projections on how many unicorns these unicorn companies say they will produce. After that we will increase the number the automakers must sell in each subsequent year, and then force the automakers to pay up if they don’t meet these quotas.”
During the recent Total Energy USA Conference in Houston, I had a chance to interview Mr. Jan Koninckx. Mr. Koninckx is the global director of biofuels for DuPont Industrial Biosciences – an arm of DuPont that has a strong focus on biofuels. Also present was Wendy Rosen, DuPont’s PR director.
The interview was focused around DuPont’s efforts in 2nd generation biofuels. DuPont is currently engaged in two major projects to commercialize advanced biofuels.
The first is a 30-million-gallon per year corn stover-fed facility in Nevada, Iowa. DuPont has been working on this technology for about 10 years. They focused on corn stover because it is one of the easiest feedstocks to process, and because it is already there as a byproduct of corn production. The stover first undergoes a mild pre-treatment, which means that less inhibitors are produced, and this positively impacts the ability to ferment sugars to ethanol.
DuPont broke ground on this facility on November 30, 2012 and start-up is planned for mid-2014. The facility has about 100 farmers under contract, which will grow to eventually provide 360,000 tons per year of corn stover (dry mass basis) for DuPont’s enzymatic process. CONTINUE»
The following article was written by Andrew Holland for Energy Trends Insider, a free subscriber-only newsletter published by Consumer Energy Report that identifies financial trends in the energy sector. Get you free subscription today.
The ethanol industry has seen its position in Washington severely weakened over the last year. The modern ethanol industry is a creation of Congress; the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), the ethanol tax credit, and a tariff on imported ethanol were all responsible for creating the ethanol industry we see today. We should note that this industry has seen some remarkable successes: it has replaced almost 10% of the country’s gasoline fuel supply, with an impact on prices that is marginal at best.
It is important to note that more advanced biofuels still receive tax support: cellulosic ethanol receives $1.01 per gallon in tax credits, but that is set to expire at the end of this year. A Senate bill would extend that credit for a year, as well as retroactively re-instate the $1 per gallon biodiesel tax credit that expired at the end of last year. The fate of these credits is up in the air, as Congress will have to consider a broad range of tax policy questions before the ‘fiscal cliff’ coming this year.
Newly released documents show that government officials ignored repeated warnings from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) overseers concerning the feasibility of a south Georgia ethanol fuel plant, a debacle that eventually led to $75 million in lost taxpayer money – and not a single drop of usable ethanol produced.
In last week’s Energy Trends Insider (ETI) I explained Why Sugarcane Bagasse is the Most Promising Pathway for Cellulosic Ethanol. In addition, I answered a reader’s question about Ethanol’s Role in Rising Gas Prices and whether that increases the chances of a partial waiver this year of the Renewable Fuel Standard. As we have done previously, we would like to share a story from ETI with regular readers of this column. Interested readers can find more information on the newsletter and subscribe for free at Energy Trends Insider.
Why Sugarcane Bagasse is the Most Promising Pathway for Cellulosic Ethanol
The history of cellulosic ethanol is a lot longer than most people probably realize. In 1819, French chemist Henri Braconnot discovered how to break cellulose down into component sugars by treating biomass with sulfuric acid. Once sugars are released from cellulose, the solution can be fermented to ethanol in processes that are very similar to those used to produce corn ethanol or sugar cane ethanol. Regardless of the way the sugars are released, processes that produce ethanol from cellulosic sugars are collectively categorized as cellulosic ethanol. CONTINUE»
House Ag Committee Holds Hearings on Energy
On May 18, 2012 the House Committee on Agriculture held hearings on retaining Energy Title funding in the 2012 Farm Bill. Written testimonies and the video of the hearing are available at Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Energy and Forestry Programs.
The hearings were held as Congress prepares to write the next Farm Bill. The purpose of this particular hearing was to discuss the renewable energy development provisions of the current Farm Bill, whether particular programs are achieving the desired results, and whether specific programs should be continued.
There were some comments during the hearing that warrant further analysis. CONTINUE»
In this week’s episode of R-Squared Energy TV, I answer a few questions about pathways to biofuels, cellulosic ethanol, and Vinod Khosla. I have to apologize this week, because the microphone was a bit away from my mouth, so the volume is lower than normal.
Some of the topics discussed this week are:
- Some of the commercially viable pathways for turning biomass into energy
- The prospects for drop-in fuels
- The shift in Vinod Khosla’s optimism over the past 5 years
- What I think Vinod’s statements to the Wall Street Journal really signal
For those of you who missed it, the corn ethanol lobby failed to convince Congress to extend the ethanol import tariff (54 cents/gallon) as well as the blenders tax credit (46 cents/gallon), which were slated to expire at the end of 2011 …sound of crickets chirping.
My guess is that because we exported almost 9% of our ethanol production last year, it was hard to argue that we still needed a tariff to protect us from Brazilian ethanol imports, especially since Brazil was our biggest customer. In a related vein, it should also be hard to argue that we mandate ethanol use to reduce oil imports while exporting ethanol to Canada (second largest customer and largest oil importer) as well as the United Arab Emirates (our fifth largest customer).
As for the tax credit, well, paying oil companies to blend something they were already legally mandated to blend never did make much sense, except maybe to the oil companies who were not about to look that gift horse in the mouth.
This Week in Energy is a weekly round-up of news making headlines in the world of energy. Most of these stories are posted throughout the week to our Energy Ticker page. The purpose is to stimulate discussion on energy issues, and community members should feel free to turn these into open thread energy discussions. Suggestions and news tips are welcome. I (Sam) can be reached at editor [at] consumerenergyreport [dot] com . NRC Report to Congress: Cellulosic Biofuel Mandates Unlikely to Be Met A congressionally requested study by the National Research Council — an arm of the National Academy of Sciences — concluded that next-generation biofuels are costly, and their impacts questionable. “Absent major technological innovation or policy changes, the… Continue»
Rewards for Performance, Not Over-Hyped Promises I recently wrote a post detailing some steps that I believe should be taken to improve the nature of how we provide incentives for biofuels: How to Fix the Broken Cellulosic Ethanol Incentive System. My proposal is like a feed-in-tariff for next generation biofuels. The highlights are that we should reward companies that deliver, and not those that make promises. We shouldn’t put the taxpayer on the hook for broken promises, and we should create a more level playing field for advanced biofuels. At present that playing field is tilted heavily in the direction of cellulosic ethanol. The original article was edited a bit and also published at Forbes: Fixing A Broken Biofuel Incentive… Continue»