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National survey finds strong support for corn farmers, corn ethanol

A nationwide survey conducted for the National Corn Growers Association found broad public respect and trust for family farmers and support for corn as food, feed, and fuel. Ninety-five percent of those polled find farmers to be “trusted” messengers on issues such as agriculture, corn products, and ethanol – and ethanol itself was “supported” or “strongly supported” as a good fuel alternative by 65 percent.

“We expected to see some pretty solid results in this polling, but the final numbers were beyond what we imagined,” said NCGA President Darrin Ihnen, a farmer from Hurley, South Dakota. “This high level of support is gratifying, and it is also a challenge for us to work hard to maintain the trust consumers have placed in us.”

When it comes to uses for corn, support was broad. Ninety-five percent support its use as food for people and 93 percent as livestock feed, while 67 percent support the use of corn as a sweetener and 65 percent, as noted, support corn ethanol. Other uses of corn, such as for fiber and packaging, were supported by 73 percent of those polled.

Respondents also spoke out about what they saw as the top benefits of corn-based ethanol. Thirty-four percent mentioned reduced dependence on foreign oil, 19 percent mentioned the creation of new jobs and 16 percent liked it for its environmental benefits.

“Farming is under attack in the mainstream media because some reporters seem to have the wrong idea about modern American agriculture,” Ihnen said. “One of our goals at NCGA is to help educate the media and the public about how current technology has helped family farmers do their traditional jobs more efficiently, more effectively and more affordably.”

The survey of 1,000 U.S. voters nationwide was conducted in mid-September by David Binder Research and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

BlueFire Ethanol receives $3.8 million from DOE

California-based BlueFire Ethanol Fuels, Inc. has received a $3.8 million reimbursement from the U.S. Department of Energy to be used for pre-construction activities for its second planned biorefinery, to be located in Fulton, Mississippi.

BlueFire is currently receiving funding under the $40 million DOE grant it was awarded in 2007 for the development of the Mississippi plant. The $3.8 million reimbursement was issued to cover costs spent on the basic engineering design that is directly related to the development of the Fulton facility.

The company says the revised DOE contract will further aid its plant development. BlueFire’s facilities will use its patented Concentrated Acid Hydrolysis Technology Process for the conversion of cellulosic waste into cellulosic ethanol. The Fulton plant will utilize green and wood wastes available in the Mississippi region to produce approximately 18 million gallons of ethanol per year.

BlueFire has completed a 20-month licensing process and is currently awaiting the final financing needed to break ground on its ethanol biorefinery in Lancaster, California. The Lancaster facility will use post-sorted cellulosic wastes diverted from Southern California’s landfills to produce approximately 3.9 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol per year.

University of Tennessee study predicts substantial biomass markets for farmers

A new economic study conducted by the University of Tennessee’s Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group has determined that there are significant market opportunities for agriculture if Congress enacts a national renewable energy standard (RES) policy. Presented October 23 during a briefing at the U.S. Senate, the report suggests that RES policies would create a large new market for biomass from the agricultural and forestry sectors, and therefore have a positive effect on farm income.

“The results indicate how farmers may benefit from an expanded renewable energy industry through a variety of means from bioenergy feedstocks such as dedicated energy crops, animal manure, and forest wastes and residues to wind lease payments to farmers and rural land owners,” said Dr. Kim Jensen, study co-author and professors of ag economics at UT.

Renewable electricity standards provide an efficient mechanism to increase the share of electricity generated by renewable resources nationwide. Technologies that typically qualify for renewable energy standards include solar, wind, landfill/digester gas, geothermal, biomass (agricultural, wood, co-firing, methane recovery/animal waste), and biogas.

A national RES policy could require utilities to provide a minimum percentage of energy from renewable sources. To date, RES policies to promote renewable energy have been adopted by 27 states and the District of Columbia, generating growing momentum for a national-level program.

The study examined current proposals for Federal renewable energy standards based on legislation introduced in the 111th Congress, as well as state-level renewable energy standards currently in place in Colorado and North Carolina. The Senate briefing was sponsored by the National Farmers Union and the National Milk Producers Federation. The study was funded by the Bipartisan Policy Center, which also sponsors the 21st Century Agriculture Policy Project, which works to identify new economic opportunities for agriculture.

Clean Fuels Development Coalition named in two DOE awards

The Clean Fuels Development Coalition (CFDC) announced it received an award from the U.S. Department of Energy as a team member on two different awards recently issued by the agency. Both projects will focus on increasing infrastructure and demand for biofuels like ethanol.

CFDC teamed with the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC ) to win a $1.6 million award from DOE to develop classroom materials to raise awareness of alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies. The award was one of 23 projects funded under DOE’s Clean Cities Program with $13.6 million for infrastructure and was one of only three awards for educational projects.

The second award included the Clean Fuels Foundation and the FlexFuel Vehicle Club teaming with the Tennessee Clean Cities program. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK) was awarded up to $818,091 to increase the availability of E85 and B20 along I-75. This project will provide E85 and B20 every 200 miles or less, enabling drivers to travel from Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan to Miami, Florida using only one of these alternative fuels.

POET unveils new co-product to replace petroleum-based ingredients in household products

Ethanol producer POET, LLC has announced a new ethanol co-product called “Inviz,” which the company says can replace petroleum-based ingredients in household products ranging from pill coatings to plastic packaging.

Inviz is POET’s brand of zein, a biodegradable, low-nutrient protein found in corn. It can be used as a gum based or in films, packaging, adhesives, coatings, and glazes. It is extracted from the corn kernel using a patent-pending process. Inviz is derived from the less valuable protein in the distillers grain at the company’s ethanol plants, and the company says it differs from other zein products because POET’s production process fractionates the corn kernel and ferments it without using heat.

POET has been researching zein since 2004 through a collaboration with the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research.

Coskata starts up semi-commercial ethanol facility in Pennsylvania

On October 15, Coskata Inc. announced the successful startup of its semi-commercial, feedstock-flexible ethanol facility located in Madison, Pennsylvania.

“We are proud that we have successfully scaled our technology to this significant level,” said Bill Roe, president and CEO of Coskata. “This facility is demonstrating that our efficient, affordable and flexible conversion technology is ready for commercialization. The next step is to build full-scale facilities and begin licensing our technology to project developers, project financiers, and strategic partners.”

Unlike other technologies and facilities that may rely on one primary source of feedstock, Coskata’s flex ethanol facility will be producing ethanol from numerous feedstocks, including wood biomass, agricultural waste, sustainable energy crops, and construction waste. This flexible approach at the Madison facility is enabled by Westinghouse Plasma Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Alter NRG, and their plasma gasification technology. The feedstock-flexible nature of the Coskata approach also allows for true geographic flexibility, meaning facilities can be built anywhere a feedstock can be sourced or delivered.

“The integrated biorefinery – utilizing Westinghouse Plasma Gasification on the front end and Coskata’s syngas-to-biofuels conversion process on the back end – serves as an excellent example of two leading companies working together to deliver a viable process to the biofuel market,” said Mark Montemurro, President and CEO of Alter NRG. “We’re excited to be delivering the feedstock flexibility to Coskata’s efficient and affordable process.”

The facility is a demonstration of “minimum scale engineering,” which means it is the smallest size that will still allow the company to scale directly to 50 million and 100 million gallon Coskata facilities. Some of the ethanol that is being produced at the facility has been delivered to the General Motors Milford Proving Grounds for early testing, as well as to another major strategic partner.

“We invested in Coskata so that we could enable the rapid deployment of commercially viable and environmentally sustainable ethanol globally,” said Bob Babik, GM Vehicle Emissions Director. “We’re proud to say that we have already accepted some of Coskata’s ethanol at our Milford facility.”

GM is on track to make more than half of its vehicle production flex-fuel capable by 2012.

Coskata leverages proprietary microorganisms and efficient bioreactor designs in a unique three-step conversion process that can turn virtually any carbon-based feedstock into ethanol, from anywhere in the world. Coskata’s biological fermentation technology is ethanol-specific and enzyme independent, contributing to high energy conversion rates and ethanol yields.

 
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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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