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New report shows positive emissions profile for ethanol, quick rate of efficiency improvement

A new, extensive report has been prepared for the International Energy Agency's Bioenergy Task Force on the greenhouse gas emissions profile of today's grain-based ethanol. The research finds that many analyses on ethanol's lifecycle emissions do not accurately factor in the improvements in both growing the feedstock and processing the feedstock in to ethanol.

The report analyzed GHG reductions from grain-based ethanol since 1995 and projected them out to 2015, concluding that ethanol's GHG reductions over that time period will grow by 100%.

The report stated: "The GHG emissions savings from ethanol production and use have more than doubled between 1995 and the projected level in 2015. This indicates the danger of making policy decisions based on historical data without taking into account learning experiences and the potential gains that can be expected as industries develop."

The research also found that ethanol's energy balance continues to improve as well.

For 2005, grain ethanol’s energy balance ratio was estimated at 1:1.42, meaning every unit of energy used to produce ethanol returned 1.42 units of usable energy to the consumer. By 2015, the energy balance ratio is expected to be 1:1.93, a 55% increase in energy efficiency in just 10 years. Both the GHG performance and energy balance of ethanol will continue to improve, standing in stark contrast to the profile of gasoline and petroleum which will get worse.


VeraSun ethanol plants sold at auction

On March 17 in Wilmington, Delaware, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the sale of VeraSun Energy’s ethanol plants, with Valero Renewable Fuels as the successful bidder for seven ethanol plants plus one development site. Valero Renewable Fuels is a subsidiary of Valero Energy Corporation, the nation’s largest petroleum refiner and marketer. Valero is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas.

Valero paid $477 million for the ethanol plants in Aurora, South Dakota; Charles City, Fort Dodge, Albert City, and Hartley, Iowa; Welcome, Minnesota; Albion, Nebraska; as well as a development site in Reynolds, Indiana.

Secured lenders made successful bids for VeraSun’s remaining ethanol plants. Dougherty Funding, LLC submitted a credit bid of $93 million for the Marion, South Dakota plant. A group of lenders led by West LB AG submitted a credit bid of $99 million for the plants in Bloomingburg, Ohio and Linden, Indiana.

A group of lenders led by AgStar Financial Services submitted a credit bid of $324 million for the plants in Central City and Ord, Nebraska; Dyersville, Iowa; Hankinson, North Dakota; Janesville, Minnesota; and Woodbury, Michigan. AgStar officials say ICM, Inc. will be overseeing the plants while they are in idle mode as they are prepared to go back on sale in the near future.

VeraSun and 24 of its subsidiaries filed for relief under Chapter 11 on October 31 of last year.


USDA studies impact of cooperatives in America

A national study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture says investing in cooperatives is paying off for America. The findings show more than 29,000 cooperatives generate revenues of more than $654 billion and employed more than 2 million workers. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the study was comprehensive since its start in 2006.

“Because of the hard work that USDA and its partners did, the nation now has a more definitive view of the role and economic strength of cooperatives in our economy.” Vilsack said.

The study was funded by a $1.5 million Congressional appropriation. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the National Cooperative Business Association, and other private-sector associations also assisted with the study.


POET plant uses new technologies to cut water use

The POET Biorefining plant in Bingham Lake, Minnesota is using new technology to prevent ethanol production from becoming a drain on the local water supply. The company says zero liquid discharge cuts water usage at the ethanol plant and ensures that no water is discharged into the environment. Water leaving the plant is limited to steam and the water content of the distillers grain co-product.

“This process is yet another way POET is working to continue making ethanol production more efficient,” said POET CEO Jeff Broin. “Zero discharge technology benefits the plant, the community, and all the area water users.”

The Bingham Lake facility already used less water than the industry average, according to POET officials. The 35 million gallon per year plant achieved a 23 percent cut in water use using the zero discharge technology, from 3.42 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol down to 2.64 gallons of water.


Survey shows Americans back alternative energy

A recent survey shows that most Americans are starting to embrace alternative energy efforts. Among the findings of 1,001 U.S. residents, 86 percent agree that investing in alternative energy will create many new jobs. The survey shows 78 percent want higher fuel economy requirements for vehicles, and 68 percent want the nation to take steps to gain energy independence even if it raises energy costs.

The survey results also indicate that the public is concerned about energy independence, with 47 percent of the respondents saying they worry “a lot” about the country’s dependence on foreign oil. The study was conducted by the Public Affairs Project of George Washington University in conjunction with a PBS television show on energy issues that aired in mid-April.


Aventine files for Chapter 11

Illinois-based ethanol producer Aventine Renewable Energy has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Delaware court, citing poor operating margins as a result of supply exceeding existing demand. A company press statement also cites demand being negatively impacted by refiners and blenders using Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) to help meet the RFS obligations instead of purchasing actual gallons of ethanol.

Production continues at the Aventine plant in Aurora, Nebraska, though the expansion of the facility in Pekin, Illinois remains on hold after construction was suspended last September.

Aventine President and CEO, Ron Miller says remains optimistic about the future of the company. “I am pleased with the support shown by our bondholders and their vision for the future of Aventine. Aventine remains a business with strong potential, a committed group of employees, a recognized brand name and a proud heritage,” Miller said.


Midwestern Senators back ethanol pipeline legislation

Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), John Thune (R-SD), and Tom Harkin (D-IA) have introduced a bill that would authorize loan guarantees for the construction of renewable fuel pipeline projects. Senator Thune says the legislation would provide some much-needed infrastructure to transport ethanol to parts of the United States in an efficient manner.

“Pipelines are the safest, most reliable, and cost-effective way to move biofuels from the areas they are produced to the markets where they are consumed,” Thune noted.

“These loan guarantees will spur pipeline development and help create new jobs and lower our dependence on foreign sources of energy,” Senator Johnson added.

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