Category Archives: Energy Balance

New engines maximize ethanol’s power and MPGs

Most drivers like the power, price and renewable benefits of E85, but are looking for ways to increase MPGs. Engines designed with gasoline as the primary fuel are not maximizing ethanol’s potential, which can often lead to mileage penalties. However, new  technology from manufactures like Ricardo is geared toward running efficiently with ethanol’s higher octane rating.

In a recent interview with Fleet Owner magazine, Robert Kozak, president of Atlantic Biomass Conversions pointed out that, “Such engine designs tap into the positive ability of ethanol to resist early ignition, thus regaining much of the previous fuel economy loss,” Kozak explained. “Higher octane ethanol makes an internal combustion engine operate more efficiently – up in the 30% to even 40% range – while it’s also priced lower than gasoline, on the order of 10 to 15%, because of its lower Btu or energy content.”

The goal is to produce direct injection engines that perform equal to if not more efficiently than current gasoline engines. And this is what Ricardo engine product group has developed in their ethanol boosted direct injection platform.  According to Rod Beazley, director of Ricardo, Ethanol’s higher octane rating allows the fuel to withstand compression rates closer to that of diesel engines. The higher the compression rates the better an engine can translate energy into power.

These first steps toward boosting ethanol efficiency in heavy-duty engines opens the door for continued technology innovation and helps solidify ethanol as a desirable choice for drivers.

Read more from Fleet Owner.

Michigan Sheriff’s Fleet Saves with E85

Low price at the pump combined with limited MPG-loss combine for significant savings.

Huron County Sheriff’s Office began an experiment last March that had the department testing blends of Ethanol from E50 to E85. The goal: saving the county money through its fleet of 12 flex-fuel vehicles.

Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson found that as long as ethanol prices are less per gallon than the price at the pump for unleaded fuel, it would result in a significant cost savings. “As it turns out, our patrol fleet, which is mainly Chevrolet Impala cars, averaged between 1.5 miles to 2 miles less per gallon on E85 as opposed to unleaded,” said Hanson.

The Department also experimented with E50 and found that there was just about a one mile per gallon difference.

“When we basically went and took a pencil to it, it was determined that as long as pricing patterns remained the same, E85 would be the better choice,” he said. “Obviously, we are going to have to continuously monitor price differences in order for the county to benefit.”

If the price difference (with unleaded fuel costing significantly more) remains the same between E85 and unleaded, Hanson said the department stands to save nearly $1,000 per 25,000 miles.

“When you take into consideration our office puts on more than 400,000 patrol miles in a year, our county could benefit from the use of ethanol,” he said.

But access to the fuel can be an issue. Because Bad Axe and Harbor Beach do not have ethanol stations, Hanson said those patrols vehicles that start out of Bad Axe and Harbor Beach will frequently be forced to use unleaded fuel.

“Our deputies are being encouraged to purchase ethanol if they are in the vicinity of an ethanol station and their vehicle could use fuel,” said Hanson. “It would be pointless to specifically drive several miles in order to just buy ethanol.”

Full Story

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

See a list of all Flex Fuel Vehicle models.

Enterprise’s shuttle fleet to run biodiesel

Enterprise, the largest vehicle rental company in North America, announced plans to fuel their entire airport shuttle fleet of more than 600 buses on biodiesel. Most shuttle buses will begin by using a B5 biodiesel blend, while in nine regions, buses will use a B20 blend with the intention of converting the entire bus fleet to B20 in the next five years.

By switching to biodiesel, the Enterprise fleet will reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of retiring 40 shuttle buses and will reduce petroleum use by 420,000 gallons–in the first year alone.

In California, Propel Fuels and Enterprise have formed a partnership aimed to educate Enterprise customers on the availability and benefits of alternative fuels, and to fuel Enterprise’s rental cars with renewable E85.

Read more from Enterprise.

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

Production advances create fuel from forest waste

Fuel sourced from waste derived feedstock is the gold-standard in sustainable energy production. And the pine forest waste left over from Georgia’s paper industry will soon be turned into fuel.

Range Fuels’ cellulosic ethanol production facility aims to utilize the limbs, needles and tops of timber typically left out in the woods as an entirely new source of fuel. A technology that is a perfect fit for the State of Georgia that has an abundance of forest-derived feedstocks.

“This is zero carbon footprint fuel” says David Aldous, Range Fuels’ CEO.

The Soperton, Georgia-based plant held ground breaking ceremonies in 2007 and is scheduled to be producing this fuel in 2010. The project is permitted to produce 100 million gallons of fuel per year.  In addition to vehicle fuel, the plant will generate renewable power from energy recovered during the process of converting biomass into fuel.

Watch Video from WSBTV.

Cellulosic Plant takes a big step towards converting Corn Cobs into Fuel

South Dakota based POET is pioneering commercial-scale next generation ethanol Poet_Libertyproduction with their Project Liberty plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. The 25 million-gallon-per-year plant reached a significant benchmark yesterday receiving a 20 million dollar commitment from Lt Governor Patty Judge. Former four-star General Wesley Clark spoke to attendees about the important role they would play in providing more homegrown fuel for the nation.

“We are involved in something that is historic,” Clark said. “We are going to significantly reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, and we will strengthen America’s national security.”

POET currently operates a pilot-scale cellulosic plant in Scotland, S.D. currently producing 20,000 gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol. The newly funded Iowa plant will commercialize the process creating hundreds of new green jobs.

Watch coverage by KTIV News 4

Study finds E85 increases efficiency offsetting MPG loss

PropelCD5_E85_pumpA study released by the University of Nebraska found that E85 delivers more efficiency over higher petroleum fuel blends, offsetting much of the loss in Miles Per Gallon (MPG) typically attributed to E85. The study illustrates that when calculating fuel MPG performance, both the energy density of the fuel (BTUs), and the energy efficiency must be accounted for.

The report tested light, medium and heavy vehicles showing E85 improved energy conversion by 13, 9 and 14 percent respectively when compared to higher petroleum blends. This increased efficiency translates into an MPG decrease of only 14 to 19 percent depending on vehicle size using E85, showing that energy density and efficiency of fuel both factor into overall MPG performance.

This difference in MPG is compensated by the lower price of E85 blends at the pump that are on average 20-30% less than regular unleaded. In fact, Propel E85 is nearly 60 cents cheaper than regular gasoline, making E85 the ecomomic choice.

Find the station nearest you.

Read the University of Nebraska study.

1000 Acres of Next Generation Fuel


Cellulosic feedstock projects are beginning to scale in size and frequency. An example of this is the 1,000 acre switchgrass plot in Oklahoma, now in its second year. The project is led by the Ardmore-based Noble Foundation, and strands are reaching 3 ft in height.
Unlike corn, switchgrass doesn’t need to be replanted each year. It also takes less tractor-fuel and fertilizer to produce, can be grown on marginal land and doesn’t require as much water.

Read More

Fulcrum Advances Ethanol from Waste

fulcrum_sierraHigh quality biodiesel refined from waste sources is becoming common, and has the lowest carbon footprint of any liquid fuel. In fact, much of the biodiesel sold by Propel, the highest-quality clean fuel available, comes from recycled fats and oils. And now strides are being made in waste-to-ethanol production through advances by companies like Fulcrum Bioenergy. Fulcrum is working to derive commercial-scale ethanol from municipal waste — and recently ran their first demo proving they are on their way to reaching that goal.

The successful demonstration has spurred the development of commercial scale production. Construction on Fulcrum’s municipal solid waste to ethanol plant, Sierra BioFuels, is set to begin this year. Located in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, in the City of McCarran, Storey County, Nevada, the plant will convert 90,000 tons of MSW into 10.5 million gallons of ethanol per year.
More from NY Times

More on Fulcrum

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:

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:

Check your CleanDrive account:

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.



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, 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., 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, 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).

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.

Farmer decides to grow his own biodiesel crop

 From High Plains Journal...

Luke Jaeger was fed up with high fuel prices.

Jaeger and his wife Darcy farm with his family in the Clark County area, raising a variety of row crops, including wheat and sorghum. When Jaeger found just how little of their acreage could be devoted to an oil crop production and still meet his farm’s energy needs, he knew that it was time for action.

“Dryland farmers, in western Kansas, if they would just put 1 to 2 percent of their farm acres to winter canola or sunflowers, they would have enough acreage to get diesel fuel to run their farm for the whole year,” Jaeger said. He planted 60 acres of winter canola because it holds moisture in the soil, similar to sorghum, and because it can protect soil from erosion at even the early stages in its growth cycle. Also, canola seeds have higher oil content, about 40 percent, than other oil crops like sunflowers or soybeans, Jaeger said.

Biofuel Bloodbath 2007 Pt2: Scale and Logistics

propel biodiesel

We wrote about the inevitable biodiesel surplus in our 2007 prediction post. Ethanol faces the same market dynamic. The ethanol business has its origins in top down, mandate and blending based, constructed market pull. Midwest Gasahol in the 80s. This has changed a bit recently, with marketing dollars and high gas prices building a viable consumer demand near corn production regions where economic upside is local, and FlexFuel vehicles are available. For most fuel retailers, the downside MPG of e85 limits retail pricing power, limiting consumer access to niche providers.

Biodiesel, on the other hand, delivers near equivalent MPG and is the ultimate “FlexFuel” i.e. backwards compatibility with any diesel engine powered vehicle. Biodiesel users pay for the upside benefits: CO2 reduction, renewable and domestic fuel advantages without a significant performance or MPG penalty. Biodiesel’s lifecycle energy balance is also significantly more positive than ethanol. Yet, these two fuels remain linked not only in D.C. policy but in Big Oil uptake blending contracts and downstream supply choices, and of course crude oil contracts and price at the pump.

When ethanol/biodiesel is cheap, the refiners blend low and make money on volume. When ethanol isn’t cheap, the refiners only blend to state or Fed mandates. E100/B100 blend stock has no pricing power when feedstock prices rise and petro prices fall. Ignorance of the last mile delivery, positioning, and greed, are leading to the inevitable crash and investor bloodbath of 2007. The small, feedstock isolated biodiesel production start ups will be the first to go, as their “creative” project financing scenarios allow investors to pull the plug vs throwing good money after bad into a small market that now includes Cargill and ADM. Feedstock and scale win.

EnergyWashington reports: Congress May Be Needed To Keep Ethanol Bubble From Bursting

Plummeting oil and gasoline prices, spiking corn prices, historically high natural gas prices and ethanol production capacity reaching 15 billion gallons in a few short years are all the ingredients needed for a market massacre in the ethanol industry. Unless Congress comes riding to the rescue.

…So, if the price of gasoline were to drop substantially below the price of ethanol, why would any refiner add a high priced fuel additive, beyond the 5.4 billion gallon 2008 requirement of the renewable fuel standard (RFS) when cheaper alternatives exist? Suddenly a 15 billion gallon ethanol industry could find demand is only 5.4 billion gallons. The market solution is to cut ethanol prices, and a market collapses. Small, high cost producers would be the first victims, many of them pioneers in the farmer co-operative approach to building a viable U.S. ethanol industry. Small producers face not only the cost pressure of higher feedstock and operating costs but they also lack the capacity to store their product to wait out price declines. Increasingly the railroads, which ship the bulk of ethanol in the U.S., are demanding ethanol plants ship via so-called unit trains, i.e. single commodity ethanol trains consisting of 100 cars or more. Ethanol plants must have a quarter mile or more of railroad spurs available to process unit trains, which many of the smaller plants do not have, putting them at a further disadvantage.

Biodiesel’s Very Positive Energy Balance

A quick link re: a subject we’ll drill down on, way down, in future posts. Chip Keen writes the DriveTime column for The Oregonian. A reader wrote presuming biodesel’s net energy negative conspiracy. Chip breaks down the factors from the “competing scientists” (Pimental and Patzak enjoy the equivalent science community peer status as climate change non believers)…

It draws this conclusion: “Biodiesel yields around 3.2 units of fuel-product energy for every unit of fossil energy consumed in the life cycle. By contrast, petroleum diesel’s life cycle yields only 0.83 units of fuel-product energy per unit of fossil energy consumed.”

In other words, petrodiesel has a negative energy balance of 17 percent, while biodiesel has a positive energy balance of 220 percent. Biodiesel crops yield more than double their fossil energy input. Petrodiesel is the fuel that takes more energy to produce than it provides in return.

See Propel’s about biodiesel page for more info.

The difference between how much energy is created when producing these top four fuel sources (longer bars are better)


Energy IN

Energy OUT

Biodiesel (soy bean) 1.0 3.23.2
Ethanol 1.0 1.341.34
Petro-diesel 1.0 .840.84
Gasoline 1.0 .810.81


Joint study by U.S. Dept of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Dept of Agriculture (USDA), 1998.