• Feb 22nd 2011 at 7:03PM
  • 22
The American political landscape is fraught with trouble and support for biofuels, but the overall shift is towards getting more and more of them in our fuel supply. That's a takeaway point from U.S. DOE Secretary Steven Chu's videotaped address to the National Ethanol Conference held in Phoenix, AZ recently. Most pointedly, Chu said, "We have only just begun to realize the benefits of homegrown fuels

Chu has previously said all vehicles in the U.S. should be E85 capable but that "corn is not the right crop for biofuels." Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said at the conference that "Chu's [negative] comments about our industry have been misconstrued." Dinneen called for debate on the following comprehensive reform proposals to keep support for biofuel production going in uncertain economic times, according to Ethanol Producer Magazine:
  • Changing the market-based incentive to a refundable producer tax incentive.
  • Changing the incentive so it only applies to mid-level ethanol blends and E85 as well as to fuel produced above the renewable fuels standard requirements.
  • Shifting the incentives away from biofuel production and to blender pumps and flex-fuel vehicles.
  • A carbon-based performance credit that is "favored by environmentalists."
  • A variable tax incentive.
[Source: Ethanol Producer Magazine | Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 22 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      "corn is not the right crop for biofuels."


      Hallefreakinlujah.

      I can only hope that line of thought survives the next regime change, but I have a feeling Monsanto's already planning the coup...
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Hallefreakinlujah."

        Yep, amen to that.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hope he knows what he is doing. Cell-o was a fraud. Range fuels went bust.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It’s great to read about more relevant issues that deal with renewable alternatives for the automotive industry. By continuing to work with biofuel, they are making strides towards improving the environment and putting less focus on our oil dependency. Along with advancements in renewable fuels, a group of engineering students at Penn State are also working to make positive changes within our environment by building their own hybrid electric vehicle. Penn State is one of 16 universities in North America participating in EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge, which is a three-year collegiate student engineering competition that focuses on vehicle integration of advanced propulsion technologies. With all the amazing work that’s being done out there, the EcoCAR Team is very hopeful that the automotive industry has a bright future in the “green” world.
      harlanx6
      • 4 Years Ago
      We have to stop importing fuel from our sworn mortal enemies in the middle east. WE NEED TO PRODUCE OUR OWN HOMEGROWN FUELS.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Agreed, but homegrown fuels will NEVER replace oil in the quantities that we consume it. We need to change our habits...drastically...
        harlanx6
        • 4 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        We need to do the best we can to avoid importing energy, and we are failing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        That is were the term "comprehensive solution" comes into play.

        No one "silver bullet" will get us off foreign oil. It will take biofuels + EVs + others to really make a difference.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Over the next 100 years, we will gradually transition to a point where at least 80% of our energy will come from nukes.

      There's only two ways to carry nuclear energy - electricity and hydrogen.

      The only place where biofuels might be able to compete is specialized applications like jet engines.
        • 4 Years Ago
        How about Thorium reactors? Let's use up those "spent" rods (waste) for fuel. Heck, even Bill Gates is investing other forms of nuke power!

        Smaller, local nuclear plants without uranium is the way to go, IMO!

        Now if I could just get that $20,000 EV with 200 mile range @ 70mph, I'm set! ;)
        • 4 Years Ago
        Uranium is not a renewable resource. Once all the easily mined uranium has all been dug up, and there becomes more competition for uranium ore, nuke energy will become very expensive. Just go look at the wild swings in yellow cake prices in just the last few years.

        That is the inevitable reality of all non-renewable energy resource.

        100 year guestimates mean nothing.
      harlanx6
      • 4 Years Ago
      Solar makes sense, particularly where the sun shines most of the time, and that is at least a third of the US.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Dave,

        Unfortunately, estimates for the total cost of nuclear (cost of building the plant, running the plant, disposal of waste, security, etc.) are getting more expensive. However Solar panels are comming down in price. As such, many recent estimates make nuclear more expensive than solar. Regardless of which is cheaper than the other at this point, there currently isn't a significant difference in price.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/27/business/global/27iht-renuke.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&sq=solar

        However, both have their place. Nuclear is useful to make base load energy. Solar tends to displace peak energy consumption-- people tend to consume more energy during the daytime, when the sun is shining.

        However, Solar has one distinct advantage. An individual can buy a solar system, put it up in a weekend, and make a difference on a personal level (also saving in distribution losses). A nuclear plant is restricted to certain secure entities, involves complicated safety and political considerations, costs billions and takes over a decade to build and put into operation.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Solar energy seems like a cool idea, but, unfortunately, even the least expensive solar installations will produce electricity (and hydrogen as well, I suspect) at about two or three times the price of nuclear:

        "In 2003, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) issued a report entitled, "The Future of Nuclear Power". They estimated that new nuclear power in the US would cost 6.7 cents per kW·h.[3] However, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 includes a tax credit that should reduce that cost slightly."

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_new_nuclear_power_plants#Cost_per_kW.C2.B7h

        "As of September 9, 2009; 17 months ago (2009-09-09), the cost of building a CSP station was typically about US$2.50 to $4 per watt,[17] while the fuel (the sun's radiation) is free. Therefore a 250 MW CSP station would have cost $600–1000 million to build. That works out to 12 to 18 cents per kilowatt-hour.[17]"

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentrated_solar_power#Costs
        harlanx6
        • 4 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        I agree we need Nuclear now! We aren't getting it, so we have to do what we can.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The key to biofuels is innovation. Nothing we have right now makes any sense, but one big breakthrough would change everything. All we need is one "magic" strain of bacteria that will turn sewage, wood pulp, or other waste directly into fuel (efficiently) and our whole energy outlook changes dramatically.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said at the conference that "Chu's [negative] comments about our industry have been misconstrued."

      I guess he means that Chu meant to say "corn is --- the right crop for biofuels." and threw in the word "not" by mistake.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well, Chu comes from a bio-fuel background. So, I expect him to be a true believer. But commercial large scale bio-fuel is not sustainable.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Good luck with that. We still do not have a good way to produce biofuels.

      Not putting any eggs in that basket personally. I'm saving up for a solar array.
        • 4 Years Ago
        2 Wheeled: My solar panels are getting installed next week. Great lease program with medium down payment and locked in rates for 20 years. Thanks Solar City.

        But I was hoping to pay for it with profits from one of my alternative fuel investments (speculative investments). I like Bluefire (BFRE) and Rentech (RTK).

        If the profits ever do come in...I'm reserving my Tesla Model S.

        It must be late...looks like I'm dreaming again !!!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Jealous! I personally am starting a big smaller as i'm a renter.
        Gonna get some panels that can power the laptop and the electric bike.

        It's a start. I won't be totally off gas yet, but the electric bike handles about 80% of my transportation needs now so it's an improvement.

        GL on your biofuels investments.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Range Fuels is really a travesty. There is obviously not enough EPA/USDA oversight in projects such as these. There are so many possible breakthrough technologies, but they need to be proven viable and scalable. I do believe that there is great potential in alternative fuels, but there is not a silver bullet that will solve all of our problems. There are different technologies that will be more effective in different areas.

      If Windfuels proves viable in the great plains, then they will turn a underutilized technology (wind electricity) and a waste product (CO2) into drop-in fuels.

      If Joule Unlimited works out then they will use bacteria to turn solar power and CO2 into ethanol and drop-in fuels.

      While algae has not proven viable yet, many companies are working on it, and they could possible genetically engineer the algae to produce drop-in fuels rather than oils used to produce biodiesel.

      Also, Waste Management and other companies are investing in using the methane developed in landfills for functional purposes such as electricity generation. Also, more companies will use the wastes at landfills for fuel generation.

      Also, while it is not green in the least, it is widely available in the US, and that is using coal as a source for FT synthesis. The waste CO2 and other byproducts can be captured and used for other purposes. The CO2 could be used as a source for other fuel technologies such as the ones mentioned.

      If the US is able to reduce consumption per capita and use these technologies as well as others effectively then we will have a fuel surplus and be able to export fuels rather than having a vast majority of our transport fuels used imported from other countries.
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