Category Archives: Climate Change

Happy Earth Day! Propel customers reduce CO2 emissions and petroleum use

In honor of Earth Day, we want to say a big THANK YOU to all of our customers who choose renewable fuel—even when it’s not Earth Day. Together, Propel customers have a significant and positive impact on our planet, reducing both harmful emissions and petroleum use. Just check out our Community CleanDrive Report:

Clean Drive Report Customizable

Interested to see your own impact? Any Propel customer can have a personalized CleanDrive report that shows the positive benefits of choosing renewable fuel. Simply register at propelfuels.com/CleanDrive and start racking up your numbers every time you fill. Plus, each time you track a fill you’ll be entered to win monthly prizes like free fuel and exclusive Propel gear.

What better day to start seeing your positive impact than Earth Day? Sign up now.

EPA aligns with CA emission standards, calling for cleaner cars and cleaner fuel

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released the finalized “Tier 3″ standards for vehicle emissions levels. The standard promises to “quickly and effectively cut harmful soot, smog and toxic emissions from cars and trucks” and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles on the road today, while bringing more fuel-efficient cars and trucks to market. The new standards closely align with emission levels and greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions set forth by the California Air Resources Board, allowing carmakers to focus on meeting one cohesive standard for the entire country.

Together, the federal and California standards will maximize reductions in GHGs, air pollutants and air toxics from cars and light trucks while providing automakers regulatory certainty, streamlining compliance, and reducing costs to consumers.

Tailpipe emission standards will phase in gradually starting in model year 2017 though 2025. The focus is on limiting emissions of non-methane organic gasses (NMOG), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particular matter (PM) for light-duty and some heavy-duty vehicles. All told, the tailpipe standards represent an 80% reduction from today’s average.

In addition, starting in 2017, gasoline refiners will be required to reduce sulfur content to no more than 10 parts per million on an annual average basis. That is a reduction of 60% from the current levels. According to the EPA, the “new low-sulfur gas will provide significant and immediate health benefits because every gas-powered vehicle on the road built prior to these standards will run cleaner – cutting smog-forming NOx emissions by 260,000 tons in 2018.”

The ultimate outcome of the standard will benefit consumers’ pocket books as well as overall public health. The changes promise to save Americans “more than $8,000 by 2025 over a vehicle’s lifetime” in fuel cost—and that adds up: “the fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards covering model year vehicles from 2012-2025 are projected to save American families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs.” Plus, by cleaning up air pollutants and harmful emissions, “once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children.”

Renewable fuels play a part in the program too—the program finalizes standards for E85 as an emissions test fuel (for the first time) in Flexible Fuel Vehicles and calls for the standard test gasoline to contain 10% ethanol by volume.

Read more about the EPA’s finalized Tier 3 emission standards.

US Senator Patty Murray and Propel discuss economic impacts of biodiesel industry

Monday morning, Senator Patty Murray (D – WA) & Propel hosted a press conference to discuss support for the Biodiesel Blenders Tax Credit and its positive impacts on job growth, carbon emissions reduction and national security. Since the tax credit was left to expire in January, US biodiesel production has largely screeched to a halt. As a result, many producers including Imperium Renewables have looked to markets outside of the US to sell its fuel. The industry’s message was clear; renew the tax credit and our industry will immediately increase production, and create jobs.

The event was held at Propel Fuels Clean Fuel Point, the first renewable fuels station in downtown Seattle, Senator Murray was joined by the leaders of companies from up and down the biodiesel value chain (bioscience, refining, production and retail consumer access), who discussed the importance of the extension of the tax credit currently being debated in Congress.

Speakers included Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels, Todd Ellis, VP of Business Development for Imperium Renewables, Dr. Margaret McCormick, COO for Targeted Growth, and Cameron Hewes, President and CEO of General Biodiesel.

Next generation biorefinery breaks ground in Boardman, OR

With production expected to begin next year, Colorado-based ZeaChem has broke ground on a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Boardman, OR. The plant will use ZeaChem’s core technology, to produce ethyl acetate, a salable chemical intermediate that can turn poplar tree waste into cellulosic ethanol. The biorefinery is expected to produce up to 250,000 gallons per year.

“Breaking ground on ZeaChem’s biorefinery in Boardman is a significant milestone,” said Jim Imbler, president and chief executive officer of ZeaChem. “As a leader in this industry, ZeaChem is committed to producing economical and sustainable advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals, creating jobs, and being a good neighbor in the community.”

ZeaChem is receiving $25 million in stimulus money for the plant that will create 300 direct and indirect jobs.

Read Press Release.

Buick Regal joins 2011 Flex Fuel Vehicle lineup

Add another flex fuel capable model to the list. All 2011 Buick Regals will be flex fuel ready starting this fall. The retooled 2.0-liter direct injected turbo engine is designed with alternative fuel in mind. The new design will increase fuel efficiency while using Flex Fuel E85.

As technology continues to improve, future engines will maintain the same level of fuel efficiency whether using flex fuel or petroleum gasoline.

Read more from autoblog.com.

See a list of all Flex Fuel Vehicle models.

Amtrak runs biodiesel in America’s heartland

Earlier this week, Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer train made its first journey powered by B20 biodiesel.

The Heartland Flyer will run on tallow-based B20 biodiesel for the next year with plans to potentially expand the program to the entire system. The Heartland Flyer uses over 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel every year on its 400-mile route between Fort Worth, TX and Oklahoma City, OK.

The biodiesel test program is funded by a federal government grant. Amtrak will monitor and track train performance and emission reductions from the use of biodiesel.

The majority of Amtrak’s passenger trains burn petroleum diesel. In one year, Amtrak trains use over 62 million gallons of fuel. Switching to B20 biodiesel would significantly reduce consumption of petroleum diesel and has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by almost 200 million pounds.

More about the Heartland Flyer’s biodiesel test.

Celebrate Earth Day with Propel

Come celebrate Earth Day with Propel in Sacramento on Thursday, April 22, 2010 from 9am – 2pm at Cesar Chavez Park at 10th and I Streets. Propel will be giving away FREE FUEL CARDS to lucky flex fuel and biodiesel drivers.

Enjoy free entertainment, interactive learning and celebrate the earth! For more information please call the Earth Day HOTLINE (916) 808-6525.

Find Propel Events on Facebook

Just in time for BBQ season . . . grill with ethanol

Trade in your charcoal barbaque for a cleaner burning alternative–grill with ethanol using FlameDisk®. Sologear, a Wisconsin-based company, developed FlameDisk® technology to create a new, more ecofriendly heat source for existing grills. The grilling technology uses solidified ethanol, it lights quickly and is ready to cook right away.

Sologear describes FlameDisk® as  “much more eco-friendly than charcoal and lighter fluid because it features renewable ethanol. Ethanol is extremely clean burning and generates 90% fewer pollutants than charcoal. The FlameDisk®’s aluminum casing is also recyclable.”

More about FlameDisk®.

UC Davis research shows sustainable biomass energy potential for California

A recent article published in California Agriculture illustrates the potential for sustainable biomass energy crops in California.  California Agriculture is a peer-reviewed journal reporting research, reviews and news from the University of California and its Agriculture and Natural Resources division.

Article Abstract
Biomass constitutes a major renewable energy resource for California, with more than 30 million tons per year of in-state production estimated to be available on a sustainable basis for electricity generation, biofuels production and other industrial processing. Annually, biofuel production from these resources could exceed 2 billion gallons of gasoline equivalent, while providing opportunities for agricultural and rural economic development. Continuing research and large-scale demonstrations now under way will test alternative technologies and provide much-needed information regarding costs and environmental performance. Biomass can help meet state goals for increasing the amounts of electricity and fuels from renewable resources under the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), and can similarly help meet national biofuel targets under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Internationally consistent sustainability standards and practices are needed to inform policy and provide direction and guidance to industry.

>> Read More

Article Authors
Bryan M. Jenkins, UC Davis
Robert B. Williams, UC Davis
Nathan Parker, UC Davis
Peter Tittmann, UC Davis
Quinn Hart, UC Davis
Martha C. Gildart, UC Davis
Steve Kaffka, UC Davis
Bruce R. Hartsough, UC Davis
Peter Dempster, UC Davis

E85-driving Vikings fans get free parking

E85_Parking_MNThe Minnesota Vikings team up with the American Lung Association to offer FREE parking to the first 25 flex fuel vehicles at every home game. The flex fuel drivers get prime parking in the Gold Lot, which normally goes for $40, plus discount coupons for the closest flex fuel E85 station.

The new environmental initiative, “Viking Purple Planet – Helping Sustain Vikings Country,” focuses on working with green companies and organization like the American Lung Association to support sustainable programs.

Read more from Live Green Twin Cities.

Flex fuel-driving Viking fan? Enter the E85 contest.

A Step Toward Algae Into Ethanol

Algenol Biofuels announced plans for a pilot algae-biorefinery to produce ethanol from captured CO2. The demonstration plant will have the capacity to produce 100,000 gallons a year, with desired cost of the ethanol at $1.00 per gallon.

algenol_biorefinery

Algenol Biofuels

Paul Woods, CEO of Algenol, said in a recent press release, “this project sets the stage for commercial scale production by proving two critical principles: first, that ethanol can be made economically without consuming fresh water or displacing valuable farmland better suited to food and feed production; second, that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide can be reduced by capturing CO2 from a variety of industrial sources and using it to produce fuel that can displace conventional, high carbon gasoline.”

The project will move forward in partnership with Dow Chemical Company, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Membrane Technology & Research.

Propel’s fueling platform currently delivers advanced low-carbon fuels including biodiesel from waste stream feedstocks like recycled fats and oils, and locally grown, marginal land crops like camelina. The fueling platform is designed with the flexibility to accommodate low-carbon fuels today, as well as future fuels such as algae- and cellulosic-based fuels, hydrogen and electric chargers. As petroleum extraction becomes more harmful and invasive, today’s alternative fuels are already more sustainable, with next generation fuels on the horizon providing even greater benefits.

Diesel hybrid, Peugeot engineers progress

peugeot_3008A step beyond conventional hybrids, Peugeot gears up for production of the new HYbrid4 hybrid diesel 4WD prototype. The 3008 HYbrid4 crossover vehicle is scheduled for release to the European market summer 2011. Similar to the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight concept, the 3008 HYbrid4 will use regenerative power from braking to charge a lithium battery pack for the rear wheels and the diesel engine to drive the front wheels.

Register Hardware‘s Car Tech explains, that “the benefits of this system are many: the electric motor can be used either as a power boost; as sole motive power when pootling around town at low speed; to provide four-wheel drive without the usual drive shafts and differentials; or to cut fuel consumption on the open road.”

The diesel-electric technology will not only provide better fuel economy with an expect 68 mpg, but also reduce carbon emissions by up to 35%, according to Peugeot

Read more about HYbrid4 technology from AutoBlog Green.

At the Pump . . .

Propel Community members share their stories.

Rocklin, CA – Rocklin Clean Fuel Point – Thursday, April 23rd
bud_filling1

Bud is hoping for a Propel station in Nevada County, but until then, he’s happy to fill his Ford F-250 with biodiesel in Rocklin.

“People have told me that it runs more quietly now that I’ve been using biodiesel — less knocks,” says Bud.

Biodiesel does enhance engine lubricity, making diesel engines run more smoothly. Many drivers testify to a smoother, quieter ride with biodiesel fuel.

bud_ford

Citrus Heights & Elk Grove pricing signs

Propel’s new pricing signs are up in Citrus Heights and Elk Grove.

Citrus Heights (map)

photo

Elk Grove (map)

eg-signo1

Filling up a Genie Beam Setter with B20

B20 is $2.59 at the Bellevue Factoria site this afternoon. Chris ran into contractors working on the new Puget Sound Energy service center down the road. They like the price and the fuel. In the rain, work goes on…

img00196

img00197

Propel CleanDrive featured in The Washington Post “Cars & Fuels of the Future”

Special Pumps Help Drivers Track Emissions Reductions

wa_post_logo

FlexFuel. Biodiesel. Hydrogen. Electric. E85, B20, B99.

You’re going to be seeing more vehicles in 2009 that can run on these types of environmentally friendly fuels.

But how do you really know how much good you’re doing for the environment when you use these fuels? Propel Fuels, based in Sacramento, plans to roll out hundreds of self-serve alternative fuel pumps, mostly placing them at existing gas stations. The pumps, connected to a central network, enable consumers to see just how much they are helping the environment with each full-up. A dozen Clean Fuel Points – stand-alone alternative fuel stations – already operate in California and Washington state, with more slated to open on the West Coast.

rocklin_flexfuelThe “carbon footprint” of renewable fuels, such as E85 ethanol mixtures and biodiesel, is smaller than petroleum. So each time you fill up at a Propel pump, the CleanDrive system calculates your carbon emissions reductions—whether it’s your first tank or one of many over the course of a year. The application has several ways of showing the impact: it calculates the amount you have saved in carbon emissions and oil, as well as the equivalent annual impact of mature trees, which consume carbon dioxide.

CleanDrive tracks carbon reductions for individuals, companies and business fleets—even neighborhoods.

Here’s an example: Seattle resident Troy Johnson has been a CleanDrive user since 2007 and, so far, has reduced his carbon emissions by 22,000 pounds, according to his CleanDrive report. You can see a sample report by going to www.propelfuels.com/cd.

“As an alternative fuel consumer, inherently you believe you’re doing the right thing,” Johnson said. “With CleanDrive, I can see my contribution. It makes using these fuels more meaningful.”

For more information, go to www.propelfuels.com or email info@propelfuels.com.

Toyota Tundra goes Renewable

toyota_tundra1Toyota has announced  new options for its 2009 Tundra full-size truck. Most notable is flex-fuel capability on the powerful 5.7L engine option. According to Auto Blog Green Toyota has been planning on adding this capability since the new Tundra was introduced. All of its major competitors offer the ability to run on ethanol mixtures higher than 10 percent. There is no price increase planned on models equipped with E85 capability.

AutoBlogGreen

Carscoop.

Mercedes BlueTEC SUVs get credit

Mercedes-Benz three new BLUETEC SUVs now qualify for the Advanced Lean Burn Technology Motor Vehicle income tax credit.

  • 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL 320 BlueTEC $1,800
  • 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML 320 BlueTEC $900
  • 2009 Mercedes-Benz R 320 BlueTEC $1,550

Visit DOE to see all deisel models that qualitfy for credit, including the Jetta TDI

B20 performance shines in Challenge X Competition

With the Challenge X Competition, GM posed university students across the US with a challenge: How do you re-engineer a Chevrolet Equinox Crossover SUV to maximize fuel efficiency and minimize pollution? Their answer: direct-injection diesel engine fueled by B20 biodiesel. In fact, all three of the top placing teams in GMs Challenge X Competition employed B20 biodiesel. Read more at the daily green.

The team’s turbocharged direct-injection diesel engine fueled by B20 biodiesel was 38% more fuel-efficient than the original, produced 44% less pollution but managed to improve quarter-mile acceleration by 1.6 seconds.

NW Biodiesel Network Monthly Meeting on Tuesday April 22, 2008

Biodiesel and Marine Use: Boats, Shipping, & Ferries.  Learn what boaters need to know about using biodiesel.  What’s happening with the ferries using biodiesel again?  What’s the scoop on biodiesel use in cruise ships and commercial shipping? Why is biodiesel use especially important on our waters?  Speakers include Barbara Cole with the Port of Seattle and Paul Brodeur with Washington State Ferries.  Get your questions answered!  7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Seattle Phinney Center, 6532 Phinney Ave. N, Seattle WA 98103. Cost is Free.  Information at www.nwbiodiesel.org/.

CleanDrive members on the cutting edge

CleanDrive Report Screenshot

Are you a CleanDrive member? If so, you are at the forefront of a movement towards tracking and monitoring you carbon footprint. A recent New York Times article discusses how visibility into our carbon output will become a part of our lives, and influence behavior for the better. From thermostat price monitors, to eco-mood jewelry – the article outlines several ways carbon savings, or lack thereof, will be worn on our sleeve. Have a read: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/25/science/25tier.html?ex=1207108800&en=30d6236cc4c256da&ei=5070&emc=eta1

So if you haven’t already, register for CleanDrive and be at the head of the carbon tracking revolution. Review you report with your family, or show your customers. It’s a powerful thing to see how your choice to use biodiesel is making a change for the better. Combined the Propel community has saved nearly 1 million pounds of CO2. Now that’s powerful.

Register for CleanDrive: http://propelbiofuels.com/content/cleandrive/

Check your CleanDrive account: https://www.propelbiofuels.com/site/clean/login.htm

GREET model not properly applied in recent biofuels studies. Michael Wang of Argonne Labs responds to Science Mag study

Michael Wang of Argonne’s Transportation Technology R&D Center and Zia Haq of the Department of Energy’s Office of Biomass respond to the article by Searchinger et al. in the February 7, 2008, Sciencexpress, “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases through Emissions from Land Use Change”

______________________________

Letter to Science

Michael Wang

Center for Transportation Research

Argonne National Laboratory

Zia Haq

Office of Biomass Program

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy U.S. Department of Energy

 

The article by Searchinger et al. in Sciencexpress (“Use of U.S.

Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases through Emissions from Land Use Change,” February 7, 2008) provides a timely discussion of fuel ethanol’s effects on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when taking into account GHG emissions from potential land use changes induced by ethanol production.

Land use change issues associated with biofuels were explored in life-cycle analyses beginning in early 1990s (Delucchi 1991). In general, the land use changes that occur as a result of biofuel production can be separated into two categories: direct and indirect.

Direct land use changes involve direct displacement of land for farming of the feedstocks needed for biofuel production. Indirect land use changes are those made to accommodate farming of food commodities in other places in order to maintain the global food supply and demand balance.

Searchinger et al. used the GREET model developed by one of us at Argonne National Laboratory in their study (see Wang 1999). They correctly stated that the GREET model includes GHG emissions from direct land use changes associated with corn ethanol production; the emissions estimates in GREET are based on land use changes modeled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1999 for an annual production of 4 billion gallons of corn ethanol in the United States by 2010. Needless to say, the ethanol production level simulated by USDA in 1999 has been far exceeded by actual ethanol production – about 6 billion gallons in

2007 (Renewable Fuels Association 2008). Thus, the resultant GHG emissions from land use changes provided in the current GREET version need to be updated. Argonne, and several other organizations, recently began to address both direct and indirect land use changes associated with future, much-expanded U.S. biofuel production. Such an effort requires expansion and use of general equilibrium models at the global scale.

Many critical factors determine GHG emission outcomes of land use changes. First, we need to clearly define a baseline for global food supply and demand and cropland availability without the U.S. biofuel program. It is not clear to us what baseline Searchinger et al. defined in their modeling study.

Searchinger et al. modeled a case in which U.S. corn ethanol production increased from 15 billion gallons a year to 30 billion gallons a year by 2015. However, in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), Congress established an annual corn ethanol production cap of 15 billion gallons by 2015. Congress established the cap – based on its awareness of the resource limitations for corn ethanol production – to help prevent dramatic land use changes. Thus, Searchinger et al. examined a corn ethanol production case that is not directly relevant to U.S. corn ethanol production in the next seven years.

Corn yield per acre is a key factor in determining the total amount of land needed for a given level of corn ethanol production. It is worth noting that U.S. corn yield per acre has steadily increased – nearly 800% in the past 100 years (Perlack et al. 2005). Between 1980 (the beginning of the U.S. corn ethanol program) and 2006, per-acre corn yield in the United States has increased at an annual rate of 1.6% (Wang et al. 2007). Seed companies are developing better corn seeds that resist drought and pests and use nitrogen more efficiently. Corn yield could increase at an annual rate of 2% between now and 2020 and beyond (Korves 2007). Despite these trends, Searchinger et al. used a constant corn yield, assuming that low yields from corn fields converted from marginal land would offset increased yields in existing corn fields. A more accurate approach would be to use the increased yields in existing corn fields, determine how much additional land was required for corn farming in the United States, and then use the corresponding yield of the new corn fields (some of which could be converted from marginal land). Searchinger et al. further assumed constant corn yield in other countries, many of which have lower corn yields and, consequently, greater potential for increased yields.

Searchinger et al. also assumed that distillers’ grains and solubles

(DGS) from corn ethanol plants would displace corn on a pound-for-pound basis. The one-to-one displacement ratio between DGS and corn fails to recognize that the protein content of DGS is much higher than that of corn (28% vs. 9%). The actual displacement value of DGS is estimated to be at least 23% higher than that assumed by Searchinger et al.

(Klopfenstein et al. 2008).

Searchinger et al. estimated that U.S. corn ethanol production (between

15 billion and 30 billion gallons) would result in an additional 10.8 million hectares of crop land worldwide: 2.8 million hectares in Brazil, 2.3 million hectares in China and India, and 2.2 million hectares in the United States, and the remaining hectares in other countries. The researchers maintain that the United States has already experienced a 62% reduction in corn exports. Actually, U.S. corn exports have fluctuated around the 2-billion-bushel-a-year level since 1980. In 2007, when U.S. corn ethanol production increased dramatically, its corn exports increased to 2.45 billion bushels – a 14% increase from the 2006 level. This increase was accompanied by a significant increase in DGS exports by the United States – from 0.6 million metric tons in 1997 to 3 million metric tons in 2007.

Searchinger et al. had to decide what land use changes would be needed in Brazil, the United States, China, and India to meet their simulated requirement for 10.8 million hectares of new crop land. With no data or modeling, Searchinger et al. used the historical land use changes that occurred in the 1990s in individual countries to predict future land use changes in those countries (2015 and beyond). This assumption is seriously flawed by predicting deforestation in the Amazon and conversion of grassland into crop land in China, India, and the United States. The fact is, deforestation rates have already declined through legislation in Brazil and elsewhere. In China, contrary to the Searchinger et al. assumptions, efforts have been made in the past ten years to convert marginal crop land into grassland and forest land in order to prevent soil erosion and other environmental problems.

In estimating the GHG emissions payback period for corn ethanol, Searchinger et al. relied on the 20% reduction in GHG emissions that is provided in the GREET model for the current ethanol industry. Future corn ethanol plants could improve their energy efficiency by avoiding DGS drying (in some ethanol plants) or switching to energy sources other than natural gas or coal, either of which would result in greater GHG emissions reductions for corn ethanol (Wang et al. 2007). Searchinger et al. failed to address this potential for increased efficiency in ethanol production.

In one of the sensitivity cases, Searchinger et al. examined cellulosic ethanol production from switchgrass grown on land converted from corn farms. Cellulosic biomass feedstocks for ethanol production could come from a variety of sources. Oak Ridge National Laboratory completed an extensive assessment of biomass feedstock availability for biofuel production (Perlack et al. 2005). With no conversion of crop land in the United States, the study concludes that more than 1 billion tons of biomass resources are available each year from forest growth and by-products, crop residues, and perennial energy crops on marginal land.

In fact, in the same issue of Sciencexpress as the Searchinger et al.

study is published, Fargione et al. (2008) show beneficial GHG results for cellulosic ethanol.

On the basis of our own analyses, production of corn-based ethanol in the United States so far results in moderate GHG emissions reductions.

There has also been no indication that U.S. corn ethanol production has so far caused indirect land use changes in other countries because U.S. corn exports have been maintained at about 2 billion bushels a year and because U.S. DGS exports have steadily increased in the past ten years.

U.S. corn ethanol production is expected to expand rapidly over the next few years – to 15 billion gallons a year by 2015. It remains to be seen whether and how much direct and indirect land use changes will occur as a result of U.S. corn ethanol production.

The Searchinger et al. study demonstrated that indirect land use changes are much more difficult to model than direct land use changes. To do so adequately, researchers must use general equilibrium models that take into account the supply and demand of agricultural commodities, land use patterns, and land availability (all at the global scale), among many other factors. Efforts have only recently begun to address both direct and indirect land use changes (see Birur et al. 2007). At this time, it is not clear what land use changes could occur globally as a result of U.S. corn ethanol production. While scientific assessment of land use change issues is urgently needed in order to design policies that prevent unintended consequences from biofuel production, conclusions regarding the GHG emissions effects of biofuels based on speculative, limited land use change modeling may misguide biofuel policy development.

 

References

Birur, D.K., T.W. Hertel, and W.E. Tyner, 2007, The Biofuel Boom: The Implications for the World Food Markets, presented at the Food Economy Conference, the Hague, the Netherlands, Oct. 18-19.

Delucchi, M.A., 1991, Emissions of Greenhouse Gases from the Use of Transportation Fuels and Electricity, ANL/ESD/TM-22, Volume 1, Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill., Nov.

Fargione, J., J. Hill, D. Tilman, S. Polasky, and P. Hawthorne, 2008, “Land Cleaning and Biofuel Carbon Debt,” Sciencexpress, available at www.sciencexpress.org, Feb. 7.

Klopfenstein, T. J., G.E. Erickson, and V.R. Bremer, 2008, “Use of Distillers’ By-Products in the Beef Cattle Feeding Industry,”

forthcoming in Journal of Animal Science.

Korves, R., 2007, The Potential Role of Corn Ethanol in Meeting the Energy Needs of the United States in 2016-2030, prepared for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Pro-Exporter Network, Dec.

Perlack, R.D., L.L. Wright, A. Turhollow, R.L. Graham, B. Stokes, and D.C. Urbach, 2005, Biomass as Feedstock for Bioenergy and Bioproducts

Industry: the Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply, prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ORNL/TM-2005/66, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., April.

RFA (Renewable Fuels Association), 2008, Industry Statistics, available at http://www. ethanolrfa.org/industry/statistics/, accessed Feb. 13, 2008.

Searchinger, T., R. Heimlich, R.A. Houghton, F. Dong, A. Elobeid, J.

Fabiosa, S. Tokgoz, D. Hayes, and T.H. Yu, 2008, “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases through Emissions from Land Use Change,” Sciencexpress, available at www.sciencexpress.org, Feb. 7.

Wang, M., 1999, GREET 1.5 – Transportation Fuel-Cycle Model, Volume 1:

Methodology, Development, Use, and Results, ANL/ESD-39, Volume 1, Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill., Aug.

Wang, M, M. Wu, and H. Hong, 2007, “Life-Cycle Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emission Impacts of Different Corn Ethanol Plant Types,” Environmental Research Letter, 2: 024001 (13 pages).

Study blasting biofuels. The other side of the story…

This week articles in Science and Scientific American blasted the use of crops as biofuel feedstocks. The studies question the environmental benefits of ethanol, forecasting gloomy scenarios based on corn-ethanol  farming technologies as they exists today. They do so by effectively changing the way the carbon footprint of the fuel is calculated by directly linking global forest and land depletion to biofuels.

However, the real driver of forest depletion is not biofuels, its people. Population growth across the globe is increasing demand for agricultural land for food, clothing, etc. If biofuels production stopped altogether, the deforestation outlined in the study would not change. It’s erroneous to link agriculture expansion solely to biofuels, when all agriculture products make up the demand for land. Past studies have singled out organic farming practices, animal feed, and coffee – to name a few. This study has opted to ignore all other agricultural sectors, see here: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=biofuels-bad-for-people-and-climate

Propel is providing access to the cleanest low carbon fuels available. Fuels that solve the problem, not add to it. Our feedstocks come from sustainable sources that do not deplete our essential forest lands. The world’s current fuel, petroleum – is not sustainable. And while a few scientists focus on calculating worst case scenarios, there are scientists and businesses actively working on second generation, low impact feedstocks, like algae, that have huge potential to provide truly sustainable biofuels.

So what are other experts saying? Here’s a sample…

 

NRDC
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ngreene/biofuels_not_quite_dead_yet_th.html
There are no easy solutions to a low-carbon transportation sector that do not require a significant contribution from biofuels. The challenges facing vehicle efficiency, electrification, VMT reductions, smart growth are different from those facing biofuels (they lessen the benefits we can get instead of risking costs), but for me, they do mean that the just-say-no approach to biofuels is irresponsible.

 

25x’25 Responds to Media Coverage of Studies Published in Science Magazine

http://www.25×25.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=379&Itemid=57

Studies recently detailed in Science magazine address the possible consequences of a faulty approach to utilizing lands to produce biofuel feedstocks. Unfortunately, mainstream media coverage of the studies failed to report that they also identified ways to avoid these problems and insure that future biofuels give us both a new renewable energy source and greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Comment from Tim Raphael of Pac Ethanol

from Grist article: http://www.grist.org/news/2008/02/08/biofu/index.html

Land Use Impacts Analysis Flawed
Why should US-based corn ethanol, other crop-based biofuels, or advanced cellulosic fuels take a carbon hit for international land use changes for food or housing or other non-fuel related production?  By that logic:
*    Any US farmland not growing food crops is creating a carbon debt by increasing demand for international food production–What are the “secondary land use impacts” of US grass seed farmers? Or tobacco farmers?  Or nursery owners? Or cotton, tomatoes grapes and a myriad of other non-food related agricultural acreage in the US?
*    Every new subdivision and greenfield commercial, industrial or residential development creates a carbon debt by taking potential food-producing land out of production and shifting that demand to sensitive, international native ecosystems; and
*    Any effort in the US to protect ancient forests or native ecosystems creates a carbon debt by increasing demand for international sources of wood products.

Any analysis that shifts away from a life cycle analysis of the carbon potential for a single product or fuel and attempts to distribute carbon potential to “secondary” or “tertiary” impacts will create a dead-end, through-the-looking-glass scenario that is inaccurate and unworkable.

The real implication of accepting “secondary land use impacts” is an on-going dependence on CO2 intensive, polluting, imported fossil fuels.  Inclusion of secondary impacts is the wrong approach–each product should stand on its own.

It’s Not Acre for Acre – Productivity Gains Means We Get More From Less

The analyses of land use impacts assume that for every acre of land dedicated to renewable energy feedstocks, another acre of land must be put into production elsewhere in the world.  This assumption is flawed for several reasons:

*    It fails to account for advances in seed and processing technology that are providing greater yields for each acre of feedstock.
*  Corn acreage in the US peaked in 1917 with 116 million acres planted, compared to 93 million acres in 2007.  During that period yields have increased by more than 1 bushel/acre/year, from 29 bushels/acre to 200 bushels/acre.  This year the US will harvest more than 10 billion bushels of corn, and exports are rising, so certainly US corn ethanol production is not causing a need for increased grain production in the world.

*    It ignores the value of the feed co-products that are produced at today’s biorefineries.
*    The food value of corn is not lost in ethanol production–distillers grain is a high protein, high nutrient co-product that is sold back into the food market.

*    It inappropriately assigns all of the impact to growth in renewable fuels, ignoring the effects of a growing world economy, increased demand for food, and urban sprawl.

The Environmental Impacts of Fossil Fuels are Increasing
The reports fail to account for the fact that every gallon of biofuel produced today requires less land, requires less water and is less energy intensive than a decade ago, while the opposite is true for oil production.  Every new gallon of oil produced is more energy intensive and requires much more water than before. 

The “easy” sources of oil have been found and are being depleted.  What is left are more remote, costlier and more environmentally damaging nontraditional sources like Canadian tar sands or Rocky Mountain oil shale.  By failing to capitalize on the opportunity renewable fuels offer to begin breaking our adherence to the oil standard, the world would be forced to develop these nontraditional sources of oil that carry significant environmental price tags.

Even traditional sources of oil have steep environmental costs that are not accounted for in the land use reports.  Where is the accounting for oil drilling in the Amazon?  Oil spills in San Francisco Bay?  Or asthma deaths from air pollution?

 

Canola biodiesel reduces CO2 emissions between 85-110%

A comprehensive independent peer reviewed study of Canadian canola for biodiesel has determined the emission reductions to be even more compelling than previously known.

Link to PDF 

New Food Vs Fuel Report

New Report from Worldwatch Institute…

“Decades of declining agricultural prices have been reversed thanks to the growing use of biofuels,” says Christopher Flavin, president of the Institute. “Farmers in some of the poorest nations have been decimated by U.S. and European subsidies to crops such as corn, cotton, and sugar. Today’s higher prices may allow them to sell their crops at a decent price, but major agriculture reforms and infrastructure development will be needed to ensure that the increased benefits go to the world’s 800 million undernourished people, most of whom live in rural areas.”

Biofuels for Transport, undertaken with support from the German Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection, assesses the range of “sustainability” issues the biofuels industry will present in the years ahead, ranging from implications for the global climate and water resources to biological diversity and the world’s poor. The book finds that rising food prices are a hardship for some urban poor, who will need increased assistance from the World Food Programme and other relief efforts. However, it notes that the central cause of food scarcity is poverty, and seeking food security by driving agricultural prices ever lower will hurt more people than it helps.

Growth in biofuels production may have unexpected economic benefits, according to the experts who contributed to the report. Of the 47 poorest countries, 38 are net importers of oil and 25 import all of their oil; for these nations, the tripling in oil prices has been an economic disaster. But nations that develop domestic biofuels industries will be able to purchase fuel from their own farmers rather than spending scarce foreign exchange on imported oil.

Leading the World in Gasoline Consumption

 From The Economist Via AutoBlogGreen

Food vs Fuel, or Food vs Petroleum?

Domestic Fuel Reports:

US Agriculture Secretary points to petroleum and weather, not agricultural energy crops, as the causes behind the small rise in some food prices.

Ethanol continues to get more than its fair share of blame for higher food prices, but Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns urges people to look at the whole picture.Speaking to farm broadcasters in Washington D.C. recently, Johanns said that he hates to pick out one item in the food chain and start blaming it for rising costs. “Look at how much diesel fuel has gone up recently,” he said. “What’s a significant piece of the food chain? It’s moving that commodity from farm to table.”

The latest forecast for food price increases this year is between three and four percent. Beef and poultry are up already over 4.5% from last year. But the largest increases are in fresh fruits and vegetables, which are up six to eight percent over 2006. According to USDA economist Ephraim Leibtag, “Part of this is due to weather damage, but also we just have seen higher production costs overall and higher costs of transportation coming into the system more fully.”

So, when it comes to reports that increased ethanol production is the cause of increased food prices, Johanns said, “Again, I would just urge people to be very cautious about this story. It tends to be an interesting story but it may not have the significance that one would argue. We need to tell the whole story.”

Diesel Vehicle Market Opportunities Attracting Attention

Markets have a way of balancing themselves, particularly when consumer demand overwhelms entrenched suppliers of goods. The US automotive market is undergoing a massive populist driven transformation. Detroit automakers are fighting for survival, can they innovate? Will Detroit compete in a market based economy, anymore? AutoBlog Green reports on India based Mahindra’s plans for diesel, and diesel-hybrid ,vehicle offerings in the US for the 08 model year.

City’s use of biodiesel eliminates 4,000 tonnes of emissions annually

Ottawa Reports:

 “When the entire fleet of buses is powered by biodiesel, it will be equivalent to taking over 1,000 cars off the road annually, ” added Councillor Feltmate. “This means our air will be cleaner and we  will all breathe a little easier.”

The City’s Fleet Services Branch has been studying the use of biodiesel for two years as part of the City’s Council-approved Fleet Emissions Reduction Strategy and will continue to work towards using even higher blend ratios. With this ongoing commitment the City will further reduce GHGs emissions from the transit fleet by at least 9%, or over 9,000 tonnes a year, which will help achieve the target of a 20% GHGs reduction set in the City’s 20/20 Official Plan.

Boomers New Ride: Diesel

Washington Post reports on the rapidly emerging market for green autos, including diesel.

Mercedes-Benz is betting on luxury diesel sedans. Diesels emit 15 to 20 percent less carbon dioxide per mile than gas-powered vehicles, when taking into account the fuel production. Mercedes’s E320 BlueTec diesel sedan ($52,000 sticker price) gets 32 miles per gallon on the highway and 23 in the city.

Diesel models are a tricky option for the earth-conscious, however. Although they cut down on emissions of global-warming gasses, their dirty exhaust has long been a top public-health concern. Auto companies think they can overcome these challenges with better engine technology and cleaner fuel. European nations have moved to diesels to meet carbon dioxide reduction targets. Volkswagen, BMW and Honda have all pledged to expand their diesel lineups in the U.S. market.

Susan Gayle of Arlington bought an E-320 diesel in January. The 51-year-old financial services executive had promised herself that her next car would be better for the environment.

“Maybe its my age or just having a grandson,” Gayle said. “He’s almost 2. I hope the resources are there so he’s able to drive and the other natural resources are in good condition — the water and the air. I really didn’t think about it before until recently.”

Gayle says she ignored the warnings and horror stories from friends about diesels — difficulty in finding diesel pumps, the slow starts and the noise. “I’m finding it’s not hard to find the fuel,” she said. “They don’t make noise, and they start up right.”