Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Bioenergy’ tag

Ethanol Mills in the Amazon?

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It’s true that ethanol mills have the potential to protect forests, particularly in the Amazon region where cane producers are required by law to leave 75-80% of each plot of land forested. The question is whether or not these laws will be observed and enforced.

The Brazilian Forest Code mandates that agricultural producers do not plant crops on 75% of their land, and also leave riparian corridors and other sensitive areas fallow. These laws have traditionally not been enforced, however, as they risk causing production costs to rise, making Brazilian agricultural products uncompetitive.

Yes, ethanol production in the Amazon can create jobs, protect forests, and reduce petroleum consumption, all while localizing energy production for people who would use the fuel there in the Amazon where the cane is grown and the ethanol is milled. It will take vigilance by Brazilian citizens and media to ensure these laws are followed if this expansion of cane and ethanol production is to occur.

Reuters

Brazil Bill Seeks to Open Amazon to New Ethanol Mills

Tue, Jun 04 13:01 PM EDT

* Investors say ethanol production in Amazon economically viable

* Environmentalists fear pressure on land use

By Reese Ewing

SAO PAULO, June 4 (Reuters) – Brazil plans to vote on a bill in the coming weeks to reopen large areas of the Amazon to sugar cane mills, rekindling fears that ethanol production could accelerate deforestation and create a major marketing challenge for the country’s biofuels industry.

Environmentalists are concerned Congress’ vote could overturn a ban on cane expansion in the region that went into place in 2009 and increase pressure on land use in areas that amount to nearly a third of the broader Amazon region in Brazil.

Meanwhile, the expansion into the environmentally sensitive areas could hurt ethanol producers’ plans to open new export markets, economists say.

Read the entire article here.

Raizen and Iogen to Cooperate for Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in Brazil

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This has been a long time in coming, and is still a ways off, but is an important step towards renewable fuels from non-food feedstocks. Rather than use the sugar that has to date been the feedstock for ethanol production in Brazil, and is otherwise use as food, this process would separate the sugars in the bagasse, or the green leaves of the cane stalks, and ferment those for ethanol. Previously this bagasse was either burned in the field before manual harvest, or more recently harvested mechanically either to be left in the field to maintain soil structure or burned in the refinery to provide electricity.

The ethanol produced from cellulose in processes like this would be a tremendous leap forward in the production of renewable fuels.

Published 18 October 2012

Raízen Group, Iogen Energy to develop cellulosic ethanol facility in Brazil

Brazilian sugarcane ethanol producer Raízen and Canada-based cellulosic ethanol fuel manufacturer Iogen Energy will collaborate together to develop a commercial cellulosic ethanol project in Brazil.

The collaboration will be the first step towards commercialization of cellulosic ethanol biofuels in the country.

Continue reading here.

By Susanne Retka Schill | October 17, 2012

Engineering begins on Iogen-based cellulosic plant in Brazil

Ottawa-based Iogen Energy Corp. announced an initial investment by Raízen Group to develop a commercial cellulosic ethanol project in Brazil. Raízen, a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Cosan SA is the world’s largest producer of sugarcane ethanol. Iogen Energy, a joint venture with Shell and Iogen Corp., operates a demonstration facility in Ottawa where it has produced over 2 million liters (560,000 gallons) of cellulosic ethanol as it refined its process since 2004.

Continue reading this article here.

Cooperation on Biofuels Increasing between Brazil and US

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With the US ending both the tariff on imported ethanol and the tax credit for domestic blenders, cooperation between the US and Brazil on biofuel technology is increasing, as well as efforts to trade renewable fuels on global markets. (See my post at the end of last year)

Yes, we need to be ever vigilant on the possible effects of increased biofuel production on food availability and prices as well as on land use, soil and water quality, and related issues. In my doctoral dissertation, however, I examined these issues in depth and contend that increased production can occur along with protection of ecological health.

The cooperation discussed in the article below can lead to greater efficiency of renewable fuel production, using less land and less water to produce more fuel.

Energy is fundamental to economic growth, and as countries in Latin America and Africa increase their ability to produce renewable energy domestically, they create more jobs and better the lives of their people in ways that will improve economic as well as environmental conditions for generations. These are undoubtedly positive.

It is a fascinating time to be alive.

Insight: U.S. and Brazil – At last, friends on ethanol

A gas station worker fills a car's tank with ethanol in Rio de Janeiro April 30, 2008. Brazil is the world's largest producer and exporter of ethanol. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

By Brian Winter

BRASILIA | Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:21pm IST

(Reuters) – After years at each other’s throats, Brazil and the United States are working together to promote the use of ethanol in a collaboration that could revolutionize global markets and the makeup of the biofuel itself.

The breakthrough came in January when Washington allowed a three-decade-old subsidy for U.S. ethanol producers to expire and ended a steep tariff on foreign biofuels. The tariff, in particular, had poisoned diplomatic relations between the world’s top two ethanol-producing countries for years.

Continue reading this article here.

US Ends Tariff on Imported Ethanol

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With surprisingly little fanfare, the US has ended the $0.54 per gallon tariff on imported ethanol. This comes at the same time that Congress also allowed the $0.45 per gallon of ethanol tax credit for blenders to expire, potentially opening the door to much more US importation of Brazilian ethanol, as well as cooperation between the two countries on more advanced biofuels. Brazil was the leading producer of renewable fuel until 2005 when US production of ethanol from corn surpassed production of Brazil’s sugarcane ethanol.

The article below is clearly biased, quoting two top officials from UNICA, Brazil’s powerful sugarcane industry association, without presenting views from American officials who have been opposing these measures as they work to protect domestic energy production and agricultural markets.

That said, decreasing government intervention has always been favored by this humble author, and the elimination of these barriers to trade should make for the more efficient functioning of energy and agricultural markets.

Cooperation between the two largest producers of renewable fuels could also lead to faster development of fuels from non-food crop residues such as corn stover, sugarcane bagasse, and other cellulosic feedstocks.

Congressional Recess Means the End of Three Decades of US Tariffs on Imported Ethanol

Time for the world’s top two ethanol producers, the United States and Brazil, to lead a global effort for increased production and free, unobstructed trade for biofuels, says Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association.

SAO PAULO, Dec. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — For the first time in more than three decades of generous US government subsidies for the domestic ethanol industry, coupled with a steep tariff on imports, the United States market will be open to imported ethanol as of January 1st, 2012, without protectionist measures. The adjournment of the 112th Congress means both the US$0,54 per gallon tax on imported ethanol and a corresponding tax credit of US$0,45 per gallon for blenders, the VEETC (Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit), will expire as expected on December 31st.

Continue reading this story here.

Imports of Brazilian Ethanol Nearer as US May End Subsidies

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Just as the US Congress debates whether or not to end subsidies to corn ethanol, Royal Dutch Shell invests heavily in preparations to export Brazilian ethanol to the US.

July 10, 2011 4:37 pm

Shell to focus on exporting ethanol to US

Royal Dutch Shell is gearing up to become the biggest exporter of ethanol to the US, investing heavily in its joint venture in Brazil as global oil companies battle for control of the Latin American country’s sugarcane fields.

Under pressure to reduce the US deficit, lawmakers in Washington are preparing to scrap ethanol subsidies and tariffs – a move that would open up the country to cheaper imports while putting the spotlight on Brazil as the world’s only other leading producer of the biofuel.

[…]

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“The tariffs will be lifted; it’s just a question of when. That’s why we need to increase production of ethanol quickly,” Vasco Dias, Raízen’s chief executive said in an interview with the Financial Times.

“Our main priority now is to supply the internal market but our ambition is to become a big exporter of ethanol to the US when the time comes, and also to Europe.”

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

July 13th, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Obama and the New Brazil

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After a first visit to Brazil earlier in the 20th Century, a foreign diplomat boldly stated that “Brazil is the country of the future!” Self-deprecating Brazilians quickly added, “And it always will be.”

Based on my four years of living in Brazil and many return visits in the four years since, I don’t think Brazilians are saying this any longer, nor are the popular media or President Obama.

It has been fascinating to watch the changes in Brazil since my first arrival shortly before Lula’s election in 2002. I feel very fortunate to have earned the job that first brought me there, and to have stayed in close contact with the amazing colleagues and friends with whom I worked and laughed during the past decade.

Mr. Obama, Meet the New Brazil

By JULIA SWEIG and MATIAS SPEKTOR
Published: March 18, 2011

When Barack Obama lands in Brazil this weekend, he will find a country transformed. In little more than a decade, some 30 million people have been lifted out of poverty and the country has risen to seventh place in the world economy.

Change at home has revolutionized policies abroad. Brazil has woken up to the 10 states along its borders, becoming the eminent power and driver of regional integration in South America. It has set out to develop closer ties simultaneously with Israel, Syria and Iran.

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With most of the Amazon within its borders, the world’s 10th largest oil stores, and nearly a fifth of the world’s fresh water, Brazil is an environmental power, an energy power, and guarantor of global food security.

Read the entire article here.

More Advancements in Cellulosic Biofuels

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Government investments in cellulosic biofuels may be paying off.

Not only do these advances move us closer to using grasses and other crops that require less water and fertilizer and compete less with food, it also moves us closer to the advanced biofuels that, unlike ethanol, can be used as drop in replacements for gasoline (read more here).

We need to combine these advancements with further efforts in conservation and efficiency, or we risk converting so much of the Earth’s biomass to serving human uses that we will decrease biodiversity to the extent that we risk further ecological collapse.

This doesn’t just diminish our ability to go camping in pretty places, it also threatens our supply of essential resources such as clean, healthy water and soil.  I like to go camping, but I like eating and drinking healthy food and water even more. They’re really important, and clearing diverse forests and prairies so we can plant crops such as grasses, whether for fuel, food, fiber, or feed, poses risks to water and soil.

Energy Department Announces New Advance in Biofuel Technology

Highlights Opportunity to Reduce America’s Oil Dependence and Create Jobs in Rural America

March 07, 2011

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today congratulated a team of researchers at the Department’s BioEnergy Science Center who have achieved yet another advance in the drive toward next generation biofuels: using bacteria to convert plant matter directly into isobutanol, which can be burned in regular car engines with a heat value higher than ethanol and similar to gasoline. This research is part of a broad portfolio of work the Department is doing to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and create new economic opportunities for rural America.

[…]

Secretary Chu added that: “America’s oil dependence—which leaves hardworking families at the mercy of global oil markets—won’t be solved overnight. But the remarkable advance of science and biotechnology in the past decade puts us on the precipice of a revolution in biofuels. In fact, biotechnologies, and the biological sciences that provide the underlying foundation, are some of the most rapidly developing areas in science and technology today – and the United States is leading the way. In the coming years, we can expect dramatic breakthroughs that will allow us to produce the clean energy we need right here at home. We need to act aggressively to seize this opportunity and win the future.”

Read the entire article here.

Biofuels Are Not Limited to Corn Ethanol

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It’s true that if we attempt to meet George Bush’s Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) (36 Bgals of renewable fuels by 2022) only with corn ethanol, food prices will rise as a result. But, as has been written before on this site, the rise in food prices in 2008 had more to do with petroleum prices than with ethanol.

So, if we fail to diversify our energy matrix, food prices and much of the economy as a whole will be subject to the high volatility in petroleum prices. Developing other ways of fueling our transportation fleets, and reducing the amount we transport ourselves and our goods, will go much further in terms of protecting ourselves from this volatility than will eliminating our biofuels efforts.

I’m not a proponent of corn ethanol, but I am a big proponent of objective, accurate information. So it’s also important to note that the RFS caps corn ethanol at 15B gals in 2015 (we’re now producing about 12B gals/yr). That’s still a lot, and I’m not convinced it’s a great idea, but, ceteris paribus (it means, all things being equal–Latin is fun), food prices will not likely rise much more due to corn ethanol. The rest of the biofuels we produce to meet those federal standards are supposed to come from grasses, trees, and agriculture residues. There’s still plenty that can go wrong with that, but other issues aren’t addressed in the article below, so I’ll end here.

Thanks for reading.

ps, I both dig and am disturbed by getting information from a source that provides news only if I can profit from it.

January 28, 2011

By Kerri Shannon, Associate Editor, Money Morning

U.S. Clean Energy Investment Puts Upward Pressure on Rising Food Prices

In U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday, he highlighted clean energy investment as a key component of America’s future, one that will be reflected in his budget proposal for fiscal 2012.

“With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015,” the president said in his speech to members of Congress. “[I]nstead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

This commitment to clean energy investment increases the importance of biofuels like ethanol, made from corn and other agricultural products. About 40% of U.S. corn is used to make ethanol, and increased ethanol production leads to higher corn and food prices.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 31st, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Determining the Benefits of Biomass-Based Energy

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There are two important points to consider here: 1.Establishing the appropriate methods for the Life Cycle Analysis, and 2. Determining the definition of “Waste.”

1. Life Cycle Analysis:

Will it really take three years for life cycle carbon emissions of biomass-based electricity to be established? It shouldn’t.

It’s important to be careful, but private, public, and academic researchers can provide clear, comprehensive studies in a much shorter time frame, certainly less than a year, unless we let them stick to the typical academic and government calendars where there are no deadlines or consequences for being slow.
Fortunately, some industry folks are optimistic about the recent ruling.

Bob Cleaves, CEO and president of the Biomass Power Association (BPA), the largest U.S. biomass trade group, said the decision “provides a lot of regulatory certainty at the moment.”

“Three years is a long time,” he told SolveClimate News. “During that period, projects that are viable and are ready to be permitted, will be permitted.”

Industry believes its arguments will win out in the EPA review process. “The science is very clearly on our side. Biogenic emissions are far different than fossil fuels, and they’re beneficial to the climate,” Whiting said.

To shorten this from three years to less than one, let the private firms involved produce their own studies. They’ll be fast, and tell the academics and bureaucrats that if they want to be a part of the conversation, and they will, they need to be close behind their industry counterparts, and they will again.

There will be different results produced, but it shouldn’t take three years to analyze these results objectively and decide what is the most accurate method of accounting.

2. “Waste”:

Another important issue is the common use of the term “waste” both for agriculture and forestry (really just another form of agriculture). When the term “waste” used, they are referring to biomass that is not directly used in the industrial processes, such as food, paper, or pulp production.

But these materials, such as corn stover (corn stalks and leaves) or wood chips, are essential to soil health, which is in turn necessary for the future production of the desired products, as well as for the health of the overall ecosystem.

In naturally occurring ecological systems, there is no such thing as waste, as all materials and energy are used in the processes and entities involved.

If all biomass, or waste, is removed from the soil and used for energy or any other purposes, this is not a sustainable system in the most literal definitions of the word “sustainability”: the ability to continue the process for generations to come.

Biomass-based energy provides much promise, so long as we realize that the Earth’s biomass serves essential purposes—namely the sustenance of life and other processes that guarantee clean, healthy air, water, and soil for generations to come—beyond our immediate needs.

No, it’s not simple, but it’s also not beyond our comprehension. We need to be thoughtful.

Relax, then let’s get to work. We can do this.

Is Biomass Clean or Dirty Energy? We Won’t Know for 3 Years

content by SolveClimate

By Stacy Feldman              Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:34pm EST

A recent study out of the University of Washington supported that pint of view. Called Unintended Consequences of the Tailoring Rule’s Treatment of Biomass,  a compilation of previous research, the study concluded that “new investment in bioenergy development will be discouraged and existing biofuel facilities may be motivated to shut down or use more fossil fuels.”

The resource is seen as a particularly valuable in Southern states, which lack wind and solar opportunities available in other states.

For Sheehan and other advocates, the game plan now is to try to put the industry a freeze on growth of the industry until 2014.

“We will be calling for a moratorium on all permitting for biomass plants during this three-year period,” she said.

Cleaves of BPA said “the idea of a moratorium has no basis in law” under the Clean Air Act, which “certainly doesn’t prohibit biomass plants from being constructed.”

Read the entire article here.

Biodiversity’s Value to Humans and the Energy Matrix

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I’ve written before on the relationship between biodiversity and energy, mainly pointing out that if more land is converted to monoculture for biofuels feedstocks–be they corn, sugarcane, or grasses such as switchgrass or miscanthus–we threaten the long term viability of biofuels as a clean, renewable energy resource.

As the article below points out, biodiversity is essential for basic processes such as soil renewal and health, as well as water quality. Regardless of climate change or esoteric claims on the intrinsic value of nature, soil and water health have very tangible impacts on humans. It’s not to say that the former factors are irrelevant, but for most people there need to be more practical and immediate motivations to preserve biodiversity.

We find an excellent example of this in the surprising recent success of Brazil’s Green Party in last month’s presidential elections. In a country that, despite its meteoric economic growth of the last several years, continues to face serious poverty, nearly 20% of the votes in the national election went to the Green Party’s Marina Silva. As I have found in my own doctoral research on stakeholders’ priorities regarding sugarcane and ethanol production, the Brazilian people are finding that while continued economic prosperity is a necessity, so is the environmental health required to keep its population thriving, and this environmental health is not mutually exclusive to the health of an economy largely based on natural resources.

Convention on Biological Diversity

The least of God’s creatures has value

Global discussions on biodiversity are all very well, but most good conservation is done locally

Oct 21st 2010 | From The Economist print edition

SINCE the birth of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, there has been a welcome transformation in the language of global conservation. Policymakers and even some businesses have started to express a view of nature as a store of wealth—or “natural capital”. Talk of “ecosystem services” now draws attention to the helpful things that nature does unbidden, such as providing fresh soil and clean water.

This approach not only has the advantage of moving conservation from the domain of lofty morality down to earth, reflecting a pragmatism more likely to support and sustain action. It also serves to highlight the interests of the people who have most to gain from the recognition of natural capital’s value, and the most to lose by its squandering: poor people living close to nature in the developing world.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

October 22nd, 2010 at 10:09 pm