Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gizmodo Solar Posts Worth Reading

I bounced over to Gizmodo and saw some interesting mentions.

The above is an apparatus that stores solar power into a fuel cell system. It would allow a more efficient storage sink for power than your standard inefficient battery. This idea is not a new one but being it looks like a marketable product moving to production. That being actually being worth mention as a new twist (an elegant idea making it to market).

Tranluscent solar panel windows. The above isn't the most cost effective technology today but the concept has been talked about for as long as I've been aware of solar panels. So prior to my ability to type this ideas been floated around as the future of solar. Cool to see in reality. I'm sure their are installs off the grid where this makes perfect sense though.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Fuel Milleage Throw Down

VW Jetta TDI vs. Smart Car vs. Toyota Prius vs. Ford Focus

This was a cool piece to watch. Being a big VW TDI snob I was excited to watch the Jetta beat the Prius in all real driving conditions (grandma getting milk once a week is not real driving in my opinion). I also was dissatisfied with the maintenance concern of the vehicle cost. The Ford Focus would likely beat all vehicles concerned in the first 100,000 miles. The Jetta if you extend the period beyond 200,000 miles.

Regardless. It was worth watching.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Biodiesel and Warranty

After quite a bit of work Nikola Davidson and the Northwest Biofuels Association pulled off policy for biodiesel with the new car dealers here in Oregon. Good job on Nikola's part. Any progress is good.

Please find attached a joint letter from the Oregon Auto Dealers and the Northwest Biofuels Association regarding biodiesel warranty protocol for auto dealers. This letter was created in close collaboration with Oregon biodiesel distributors and the hope is to replicate this in other states (tailoring it to reflect the needs of those members).

The next step will be distributing this letter to all the Oregon auto dealers. The letter is also available to download from NWBA's website:

This has taken longer than expected but I think having the auto dealer association's buy-off is worth the wait. Thanks for your input and support - Nikola

Nikola H. L. Davidson
DirectorNorthwest Biofuels Association

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ethanol Industry Responds to OPEC

OPEC's members and official spokespersons have been claiming publicly for a few month now that ethanol was partially to blame for high crude oil prices. The ethanol industry has responded to these claims from the oil producing nations by taking out an advertisement explaining their perspective (ad shown above).
That perspective being simple. Ethanol increases and extends petroleum supplies and that existence in the market place puts a downward pressure on petroleum prices. Additionally (my words not theirs) its my impression that the Ethanol Producers are also implying that ethanol will soon be a real competitor for petroleum worldwide offering choice.

I saw the initial story at the Biobased News and followed it over to the RFA's Press Release.

The groups –- the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA), the European Bioethanol Fuel Associations, the Brazilian Sugarcane and Ethanol Industry Association (UNICA) and the US Renewable Fuels Association – were answering the charges by OPEC that ethanol was in part responsible for the soaring price of crude oil, a price that will fetch OPEC nations more than $1.2 trillion dollars this year alone.

Also worth noting is the advertisement's citing of the Merrill Lynch study which claims that ethanol's effect on prices is downward. As without ethanol the world's petroleum producers would need to produce one million additional barrels of crude a day. The price effect of ethanol in the marketplace is believed to reduce overall crude prices as much as 15% according to the Merrill Lynch report.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

PMAA's Thoughts on Ethanol by Pipeline: Think About it First

PMAA reports an advisory on ethanol by pipeline.

When thinking about biofuels and market subsidies its always fair for the biofuels industry to point out that there are large barriers to entry which raise the cost of operating a biofuel distribution business. One of the largest of these being access to the most efficient transportation mechanisms used by the biofuels industry. Namely pipelines and barges.

As fuel prices rise and the fungible considerations of ethanol and biodiesel as blendstocks for refined petroleum products the need for barges and pipelines to allow the movement of ethanol and biodiesel blends becomes much more significant. Though South American nations have been moving ethanol by pipeline for decades the US market is hesitant (probably because of issues South American markets saw decades ago). This conversation though is positive for ethanol in particular.

See the PMAA's news piece below:

The U.S. DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued an advisory to pipeline operators on the potential dangers of transporting ethanol and biofuels by pipeline.

PHMSA advised pipeline operators that the transportation of batches of ethanol or other biofuels, including petroleum blended product in existing pipelines, may lead to internal corrosion, stress corrosion cracking, and a reduction in the performance of seals, gaskets and internal coatings. PHMSA advised pipeline operators to conduct risk analysis, monitoring, and controls as needed to move ethanol and biofuels safely through pipelines.

PHMSA is also requesting that pipeline operators conduct spill response planning for ethanol and bio-fuels products. The advisory said that PHMSA is willing to work with pipeline operators that plan to transport ethanol and bio-fuels in existing or new regulated hazardous liquid pipelines in order to better assess the risks these fuels pose to critical infrastructure.

PHMSA is asking pipeline operators for 60 days notice of intent to begin regular commercial transport of biofuels in pipelines. PHMSA asked pipeline operators to provide information on how pipelines will be prepared for ethanol and biofuel service, the anticipated blend concentration and batch frequency, additional emergency response planning and spill response plan revisions required, and plans for ongoing monitoring of pipes.

PHMSA said it will use the notice period to conduct a technical review of the operators' plans and provide feedback if necessary.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

GM Supports the Expansion of E85 Pumps

GM has recently become a champion for ethanol in the US. Not just a positive PR when its useful type supporter of biofuels but a full on advocate. Most recently I just saw a news report from Bloomberg where GM and the National Governor's Association will work together to get an expansion of available E85 pumps throughout 15 US states.

This is more than just talk from GM its actual market development. They aren't just developing E85 flex fuel vehicles they are also making lower cost and domestically made ethanol a real option for consumers attracted to their vehicles.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past
the time when the quo has lost its status.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jatropha Comes to the US

This is the first US agricultural story about Jatropha I've ever seen where farmers where actually growing it commercially. I will be interested to follow this as farming in the US can get very political.

At this years Sustainable Biodiesel Summit in Florida the very prominent biodiesel expert Dr. Shaine Tyson had some very strong words to say about Jatropha being a poisonous and dangerous crop. That any biofuel crop which didn't provide more food along with energy was a bad policy decision.

From Orlando TV News WESH

LA BELLE, Fla. -- For drivers in Hendry County, expensive gas prices may no longer be a problem.

Residents of the small county in southwest Florida have turned to a farm to grow their own oil to survive the difficult economic times.

"We wanted to find a solution to a problem in the U.S.," said Mark Dalton, owner of Dream Fuel, LLC. "With the rising demand of fuel worldwide, we wanted to create our own fuel."
Farms in La Belle have been busy growing Jatropha trees. Jatropha is widely considered the newest and greatest source of biofuel. The tiny trees produce small, green fruit which contains the vital oil-bearing seeds.

"It's grown in Brazil, China, India, Guatemala, Africa," Dalton said. "In many places all over the country, we're behind in producing Jatropha oil."

Many see potential in Jatropha's ability to stave off the high demand for oil, but it would take an exorbitant amount of plants to make a dent in the worldwide economy.
"It basically takes 20 pounds of seed to make one gallon of Jatropha oil," Dalton said. "So, you would have to grow quite a bit of it."

Farmers especially have been hurt by high gas prices.

"We have tractors that sometimes go through 120 gallons of fuel a day," said La Belle farmer Byran Beer.

On the verge of a recession, farmers need any help they can get. Now, Jatropha can be grown, processed and used in the tractors.

"Hopefully, with technology and enough people's inputs, this thing will really turn into something," Beer said.

To produce the alternative fuel, Jatropha plants require a tropical climate to flourish, such as the one found in southwest Florida. Farmers in Hendry County have planted nearly 1 million Jatropha trees, Dalton said.

"We're seeing good results," he added, "but there's still a lot of unknowns."