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The U.S. Department of Energy has got its fingers in a lot of alternative-energy pies, from hydrogen vehicles to plug-ins. Today, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the DOE has announced that it will reach a little deeper into 13 biofuel and feedstock improvement projects with a $41 million investment. We hope there are gloves involved in the "manure to ethanol" project.

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Output of cellulosic ethanol will surge starting in 2013, according to the U.S.' largest corn-based biofuel production firm, Poet LLC.

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After falling to its lowest per-day output level in 2011, you might think that ethanol production would rebound. Well, that's not the case as U.S. ethanol production dipped again last week while as export demand depleted stocks by nearly three percent.

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Blame it on a harvesting delay, but the fact still remains that U.S. ethanol output slipped by 3.4 percent – to 841,000 barrels a day – in late September, the lowest per-day output in 2011.

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Brazilian energy giant Petrobras, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Petrobras Biocombustível, will invest a massive $2.5 billion between 2011 and 2015 to increase production of biodiesel and ethanol. This hefty chunk of change is part of $4.1 billion Petrobras earmarked for its biofuels operations, which includes $1.3 billion for ethanol logistics and $300 million for biofuel research.

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U.S. ethanol production fell 3.5 percent for the week ending July 8, down 32,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the prior week. Ethanol producers shouldn't worry much, since this is up six percent from the same time frame in 2010 and most biofuel refineries in the U.S. are reporting profitable margins.

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Brazilian energy giant Petrobras expects demand for biofuels to soar within the next decade and will spend $3.5 billion over the next four years to at least double its biofuel output. However, Brazil's mines and energy minister Edison Lobao told Petrobras (a company that's partially owned by the Brazilian government) that, effective immediately, it will need to produce more ethanol. In a television interview, Lobao said:

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With the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recent approval of E15 (a fuel consisting of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline) it's fitting that Canada-based Suncor Energy Inc. has completed the expansion of its St. Clair Ethanol Plant in Ontario, effectively doubling the facility's annual ethanol output.

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You've probably noticed that a growing numbers of vehicles are labeled with a Flex Fuel badge, indicating that the car or truck is capable of burning E85 – a blend of 85-percent ethanol and 15-percent gasoline. Even without that badge, today's vehicles have no problem running on E10 – a blend of 10-percent ethanol and 90-percent gasoline. Some even argue that E15 does no damage to most vehicles.

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Is all of the political fighting over ethanol subsidies kind of a moot point? Not entirely, but arguing over the role the biofuel will play in America in the future might be. This is the take from USDA chief economist Joe Glauber, who told Reuters point blank:

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Last Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released ethanol production for the month of October and, once again, makers of the corn-based fuel set a record high. For October, U.S. production of ethanol shot up to 27,410,000 barrels, beating the 26,061,000 barrels made in September and shattering the previous record of 26,963,000 barrels produced back in August 2010.

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Venture capitalist and biofuel supporter Vinod Khosla wrote, "The time has now come for us to stop subsidizing corn ethanol" arguing that "subsidies should be a short-term, and not a permanent measure, used for five to seven years after a technology first starts scaling in order to allow it to transition down the cost curve until it can compete on its own merits." Khosla's column, titled "Time to Move On," appeared on the Green Tech Media site and outlined his belief that it's now time for corn

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2011 Holden Series II family – Click above for high-res image gallery

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Now that we've covered the ethanol-related debate surrounding a move from E10 to E15 from almost every angle, it's time to move on to a discussion about E12. With the Environmental Protection Agency choosing to postpone its decision regarding E15 until further testing can be conducted, an interim move to E12 is now the suggested solution by farmers, ethanol blenders and proponents of renewable fuels.

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Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that its decision to raise the ethanol blend from ten percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15) had been postponed pending further testing. Prior to announcing the postponement, the EPA received reports from automakers suggesting that E15 could be detrimental to modern engines. Rather than act in haste, the EPA determined that in-depth testing of current vehicles could more accurately determine the effects of running E15. While the EPA's re

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Refiners and blenders pocket 45 cents for every gallon of ethanol blended with gasoline. The subsidy, courtesy of the U.S. government, helps the industry stay afloat amidst the dwindling demand for gasoline and increasing costs of ethanol production. It's been argued that, without the subsidy, the ethanol industry would die a quick death. If a report from BusinessWeek turns out to be true, then the industry might soon be dealt a glancing blow.

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Refiners and blenders pocket 45 cents for every gallon of ethanol blended with gasoline. The subsidy, courtesy of the U.S. government, helps the industry stay afloat amidst the dwindling demand for gasoline and increasing costs of ethanol production. It's been argued that, without the subsidy, the ethanol industry would die a quick death. If a report from BusinessWeek turns out to be true, then the industry might soon be dealt a glancing blow.

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The BP oil spill has reminded us that whether we love ethanol or hate it, it's still loads better than crude oil. Or at least that's what the corn ethanol lobbies would have us believe, according to Slate.

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Back in the early days of mass-produced biofuels, corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel were all the rage. But criticism about food vs. fuel and scalability abounded and, by 2008, cellulosic ethanol became known as a so-called second-generation-biofuel and, maybe, the answer to our oil-addicted prayers. Blame Congress, blame the economy, heck, blame T. Boone Pickens if you want to, but the fact of the matter is that in the two years since cellulosic ethanol's big appearance, large-scale pro

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Yep, it's that time of year again when we start to see some amazing prices on E85. This time around, the battle for the lowest prices will pit two fuel retailers against each other in a friendly rivalry that takes place on both sides of the St. Croix River dividing Minnesota and Wisconsin. The so-called "Biofuel Border Battle" lasts for just two hours on May 27th, but the remarkably low price of just $0.85 a gallon should draw a considerably amount of interest.

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