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2013 Ethanol Tax Credit Extension


Posted on : 03-01-2013 | By : Mr. Green | In : BioDiesel Industry, Biofuel Industry, Ethanol Industry, Industry Issues
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Three Ethanol Tax Credits Are Extended For 2013


The U.S. Capitol Building


2013 begins on a positive note for the Ethanol,  Biofuel, and Wind Energy Industries as the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended three ethanol tax credits for 2013 and extended the Wind Energy production tax credit.

Growth Energy, the group leading national awareness of ethanol,  released the following statement:

“I commend both the Senate and the House of Representatives for recognizing the importance of renewable fuels and acting to extend both the cellulosic producer tax credit and the alternative fuel infrastructure tax credit through 2013…”

The full statement can be read on Growth Energy’s Website

The major ethanol benefactor of these tax credits is cellulosic ethanol, which is produced using non-edible portions of plant life and other non-food sources, which include municipal waste.  Although still in the development stages cellulosic ethanol has great potential to be a viable source of fuel for the future.   A number of full scale production plants are in development in the U.S. and globally a number of cellulosic plants are operating successfully.

Algae which has shown tremendous promise in scientific studies as an ethanol producing agent was also another ethanol source material added to the tax credit.  Biodiesel production tax credits were also extended for the next two years.

The Wind Industry had put a number of projects on hold until the tax credits were reinstated .  The benefits of these tax breaks for the Wind Industry may not be felt until 2014 when a lot of these projects are completed.

In 2012 the standard corn producing ethanol tax credit in the U.S. expired.  Since its expiration the ethanol industry has struggled, largely due to a drought, but it has been able to sustain itself and the implementation of E15 will further help it to succeed. The goal of the tax credits is to encourage the production of new renewable sources of fuel that could have potentially long term benefits in helping the U.S. achieve fuel independence.









Arundo Donax: An Old Plant, A New Source Of Energy


Posted on : 29-03-2012 | By : Mr. Green | In : Biofuel Industry, Cellulosic Ethanol, Ethanol Industry
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Great Biofuel Potential For A Non-Edible Plant

What is Arundo Donax?

Arundo Donax is a large cane plant that is native to Asia and parts of Africa.  It is currently showing great potential as a biofuel producing plant, and as a feedstock for producing cellulosic ethanol.  Despite being native to these portions of the world humans have brought it to Europe and North America, showing that it can thrive in versatile climates.

The stem of the Arundo Donax plant is very durable and sturdy and has been used throughout human history to make fishing poles, walking sticks, and many different types of flutes.  Currently they are used to make the reeds for woodwind instruments like the clarinet, saxophone, oboe, and bassoon, but recent studies are showing the potential this plant has to be converted into biofuel.

Arundo Donax has great biofuel potential because of how large the plant is and how fast it can grow.  Arundo Donax grows to heights between 20 and 33 feet tall on average, and can be harvested twice a year per field it is grown on.  Large amounts of fertilizer are NOT needed to grow this plant, and additionally it is also resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses.   This means it does not require a lot of pesticide thus saving farmers or growers of this plant a considerable amount of money.

Arundo Donax has also shown to offer protection against soil erosion and land degradation, and it even has even adapted to grow in saline (salt) land and water.  This ability to grow in harsher conditions and on harsher lands means that Arundo Donax will not need fertile land that is required to grow food crops, another major benefit.

States in GREEN are locations where Arundo Donax grows in the U.S.

Arundo Donax yields approximately 8,000-8,400 BTU’s of energy per pound, and about 20-25 tons of the plant can be produced per acre.  These energy yields plus its ability to grow in difficult areas makes this plant a great choice for producing biofuel.

Arundo Donax is already beginning to be applied to biofuel production.  Midway through 2012, construction on the largest cellulosic ethanol facility in the world will be completed in Italy.  The Crescentino Plant will be able to produce over 13 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year.  The primary feedstock for this plant will be Arundo Donax.

As the world continues to look towards alternative forms of energy, Arundo Donax looks to be another potential and realistic source of alternative energy.







Ethanol Creates Energy Gains


Posted on : 04-01-2012 | By : Mr. Green | In : Biofuel Industry, Cellulosic Ethanol, Ethanol Industry, Industry Issues
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Part 1: Does Ethanol Cost More Energy to Produce than to Use?

Does ethanol cost more energy to produce than to use?

Since the ethanol industry has been the first industry to prominently challenge the oil industry in the U.S. over the fuel market in almost a century a lot of criticism has been thrown towards ethanol.  Ethanol costing more energy to produce than to use has been one of the most common attacks against the ethanol industry.  This statement is not true and this three part series of blog articles looks to show you the origins and motivations behind this idea, debunking the data and discovering the flaws of the research behind ethanol costing more energy to produce than to use,  and eventually to show that ethanol can produce more energy than is used to produce it.

The biggest contributor towards the “ethanol produces a loss in energy” fallacy was written by University of Cornell Professor of Entomology David Pimentel and University of California, Berkley, Professor Tad Patzek in 2001.  Pimentel’s research is frequently used by supporters of the oil industry to try and bring down the credibility of ethanol as a source for fuel.  Furthermore their claims don’t stack up to the research that has been done by other scientists.

The only other studies that show ethanol costing more energy to produce than to use are all done in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  It is possible that ethanol may have cost more energy to produce during those times but technology has improved since then even by the time Pimentel’s study had gone underway.  A year after Pimentel’s study was released the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that ethanol gives 34% more energy than it takes to produce it.  Below is a graph showing how Pimentel’s results aren’t matching up with current ethanol studies.

Pimentel’s study features a number of disputed claims and other problems in regards to how the experiments were performed and what they did and didn’t factor in.  These problems/disputed claims are:

  • Ethanol production yields a 29% loss in energy when produced from corn
  • Between 45% to 57% more energy would be lost in producing ethanol from wood or switchgrass
  • Pimentel’s study uses outdated information and data
  • Pimentel’s study uses data incorrectly
  • Pimentel’s study omits crucial data that could help determine ethanol’s energy production

Further hurting the Pimentel and Patzek study is Patzek’s connections with the oil industry.  At the University of California Patzek is the director of the schools oil consortium which is financially backed by Chevron and Phillips.  He also worked at Shell for over decade as a research consultant and expert witness.  These ties to oil indicate a bias in their study towards the oil industry, which has been working to remove ethanol from the fuel market, securing it exclusively for themselves.

Part 2 in this series will be focused on debunking Pimentel’s results and showing how some of the data collected from Pimentel’s research was old or outdated.



Pimentel/Patzek Article Oil Ties and Arguments  http://www.biofuelsjournal.com/articles/ethanol_industry_refutes_david_pimentel_s_study_showing_negative_energy_balance_for_ethanol-27165.html

2002 U.S. Department of Agriculture Study http://journeytoforever.org/ethanol_energy.html

Pimentel Claims: http://www.freelists.org/post/biofuels-forum/Key-Differences-between-PimentelPatzek-Study-and-Other-Studies,1


National Renewable Energy Laboratory See Section 7.1 Net Energy Balance http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/pdfs/doe-02-5025.pdf

USDA Switchgrass yields http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=grass-makes-better-ethanol-than-corn

U.S. Ethanol Distiller Grains http://growthenergy.org/images/reports/ethanol_livestock.pdf

Dry Mill Ethanol Efficiency Gains http://www.ethanolrfa.org/exchange/entry/from-farm-to-biorefinery-ethanol-production-efficiency-improves/

Dry Mill Ethanol Efficiency (Thermal Energy) http://www.ethanolrfa.org/news/entry/dry-mill-ethanol-production-shows-significant-improvements-in-efficien/ DGS in the U.S. http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/AF/527.pdf


Will Switchgrass Be Fueling Your Car?


Posted on : 15-12-2011 | By : Mr. Green | In : Biofuel Industry, Cellulosic Ethanol, Ethanol Industry, Industry Issues
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Switchgrass Has Great Alternative Energy Potential


Switchgrass is a type of wild prairie grass that grows abundantly in the United States.  It’s so abundant that the only four U.S. states you can’t find switchgrass are California, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington.  At the turn of the 20th century an increased number of scientific studies have found that switchgrass could be used  to make biofuels, biogas, and cellulosic ethanol.  These alternative fuels can be made cheaper and more energy efficient.  As more research continues to improve the energy output of switchgrass, and because its very durable and abundant, switchgrass makes a strong economical choice for an alternative fuel.

Economically speaking switchgrass is a highly adaptable strong crop that’s already abundant.  Switchgrass has great longevity, it can resist floods and droughts,  it can grow in poor soil (sand and gravel based soils have supported switch grass), and it can grow in versatile climates (see the map above).  Furthermore it requires a small amount of herbicide and fertilizer which decreases the cost to grow it as a crop.  Switchgrass is also non-edible so producing it and worrying about whether or not the crop should be used as fuel or food is no longer a part of the debate.

Switchgrass doesn’t require a lot of water to grow it either.  Mariano Martin, a doctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon found that switch grass uses less than a gallon of water to produce a gallon of fuel that is made from switchgrass.  Oil by comparison used 1.5-2.5 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of oil based fuel.

Switchgrass is energy efficient too.  The USDA along with mid-western farmers experiment on growing switchgrass as a crop.  Crops were grown on fields between 7 and 23 acres in size and produced between 5 and 11 metric tons of grass bales.  Furthermore 13.1 megajoules of energy were produced for every megajoule of oil based energy consumed, when the switchgrass was converted to ethanol.  That’s 540% more energy produced by switchgrass than what is needed to produce it.

New research focused on increasing energy outputs of switchgrass are also being conducted.  The Department of Energy recently inserted a gene called Corngrass1 (CG1), which is used in corn, into the genetic makeup of switchgrass.  The gene keeps switchgrass in a juvenile state, making it easier to breakdown.  The genetically modified switchgrass yields more than 250% more starch, and it also makes it easier to extract polysaccharides and convert them into fermentable sugars.

As the technology for converting switchgrass into fuel advances; production of alternative based fuel increases.  As I mentioned in a previous article about cellulosic ethanol there are, as of Spring 2011, 38 cellulosic ethanol plants that have been constructed or are under construction in the U.S. and Canada.  9 of these plants plan on producing ethanol by using switchgrass as a feedstock.

Moving towards a brighter future, switchgrass promises be a great new source for producing alternative energy and fuel.



Location of Switchgrass in North America: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PAVI2

USDA and Midwest Farmer Experiment: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=grass-makes-better-ethanol-than-corn

Corngrass1 Research http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111118151414.htm

Carnegie Mellon Research http://www.thebioenergysite.com/news/10009/fuels-from-grass-researchers-explore-alternatives

Ethanol Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Posted on : 30-11-2011 | By : Mr. Green | In : Biofuel Industry, Cellulosic Ethanol, Ethanol Industry, Industry Issues
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Ethanol Produces Less GHG Emissions Than Oil

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is important  because it helps to keep our atmosphere clean and helps to prevent climate change.   Since the Industrial Revolution carbon dioxide emissions, the largest human contribution to the increase of greenhouse gases has skyrocketed.  One of the ways greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced is by using ethanol as a fuel.  Here is some background on greenhouse gases.

What are greenhouse gas emissions?

Greenhouse gases refer to a number of different elements that can absorb infrared radiation.  In our atmosphere the most abundant of these elements are water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrous oxide, and methane.  Greenhouse gases effect the temperature of the Earth, without them we would not survive, but they can also make a planet uninhabitable.

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, but it is not the hottest planet in the solar system.  The average temperature on Mercury is 167 degrees Celsius (by comparison the average temperature on Earth is  7 degrees Celsius), but Venus is hotter with an average temperature of 460 degrees Celsius.  The reason why Venus has a higher average temperature is because Venus has the most greenhouse gas of any planet in our solar system.  These greenhouse gases trap the suns rays heating the surface of the  planet, turning it into a furnace.

Fuel and oil are some of the largest contributors to GHG emissions.  Using ethanol in place of oil based fuel has been shown to reduce GHG emissions.

Yale University’s Journal of Industrial Ecology found that  ethanol has 59%  fewer GHG emissions in the Life Cycle Analysis compared to oil based gasoline.

Argonne National Laboratory documented ethanol reduced GHG emissions in 2007 by ten tons.  Argonne also predicted a bright future for ethanol stating that switch grass could reduce emissions by 94% and that stover and wood crops could reduce emissions by 100%.

Another large contributor to GHG emissions has been industry processes.  Ethanol and oil both fit into this category.  Compared to oil though ethanol has reduced production emissions by 59% by switching from coal fired plants to natural gas and alternative energy powered plants.

As we move further into the 21st century new technology and alternative energy sources will be needed.  Ethanol is one of the few economically viable alternatives to oil based energy today which is why it is important that myths around it creating more GHG than oil be debunked.