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Ethanol Industry News

North Dakota funds new blender pump program

North Dakota residents may soon have more access to mid-range ethanol blends. The Blender Pump Funding Bill recently passed both the North Dakota House and Senate by wide margins. The $2 million fund includes $1 million from the general fund and $1 million from stimulus funding. The North Dakota Department of Commerce will administer the grant program, which offers $5000 per blender pump from state funding sources. During testimony for the legislation, Tom Lilja, Executive Director of the North Dakota Corn Growers and Corn Utilization Council, said “The blender pump initiative will lead our state to energy independence, save your constituents money at the pump, and help retain young people in production agriculture.”


Mascoma highlights technological breakthrough in cellulose

Cellulosic ethanol technology company Mascoma has announced a breakthrough in its processing strategy, called consolidated bioprocessing or CBP. Mascoma’s process uses engineered microorganisms instead of enzymes for the conversion of cellulose to ethanol, a strategy they say offers a high yield at a lower cost.

“This is a true breakthrough that takes us much, much closer to billions of gallons of low cost cellulosic biofuels,” said Michigan State University’s Dr. Bruce Dale, Mascoma board member and the editor of the journal Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefineries.


Japan begins testing on E10

The market for ethanol in Japan could be increasing soon. According to a Reuters report, Japan’s Ministry of Environment will begin feasibility studies on E10, a higher blend than the limited amount of E3 the country is currently using. Ministry officials say it will allow two different groups to study issues related to E10, one group looking at ethanol produced from discarded construction materials, and the other studying ethanol made from discarded farm materials.


Slave labor concerns tied to Brazilian ethanol production

A watchdog group believes cases of debt slavery in Brazil have risen over the past year, many of which are tied to sugarcane production. The report released recently from Catholic Land Pastoral finds that there were 280 cases of debt slavery reported in 2008, a 6 percent increase compared to 2007.

The report, which used data from the Brazilian government, says that 36 percent of the slavery cases had ties to sugarcane production, which is the source of the Brazil’s ethanol. An Associated Press article says that debt slavery is common in Brazil’s Amazon, where poor workers take jobs in remote places, but then amass debt for everything from food to lodging and transportation on those plantations.

Catholic Land Pastoral states that 5,266 people working under these conditions were freed by authorities last year, 48 percent of whom were working on sugarcane farms. Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry and Brazil’s association of sugar and ethanol producers had no immediate comment on the report.


Indiana brings E85 infrastructure to schools

A bill signed recently by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will likely boost ethanol use on Indiana campuses and school grounds. House Enrolled Act 1193 would help provide grants for E85 pumps and fuel tanks to be installed on school areas including colleges and universities. Supporters say the increase in E85 availability in these areas will lead to more schools and universities using flex-fuel vehicles in their fleets. Schools using E85 would also benefit from the access to state tax breaks and incentives currently offered for those who produce and/or use biofuels.


New ownership for former VeraSun plants held by AgStar Financial

Carbon Green BioEnergy LLC has reached an agreement to purchase the Woodbury, Michigan ethanol plant from AgStar Financial Services. AgStar had acquired the 40 million gallon per year plant in March this year through VeraSun Energy’s bankruptcy. The Woodbury plant is the first plant owned directly by the Chicago-based Carbon Green BioEnergy.

“This acquisition is particularly rewarding because it is a win, win,” said Jim Murphy, President of Carbon Green BioEnergy. “Clearly it represents a sustainable business opportunity for us and our partners. But importantly, it also demonstrates our tangible commitment to the Woodbury and neighboring communities with our focus on buying corn and selling ethanol and its products locally.”

Terms of the agreement are not being disclosed. Carbon Green BioEnergy was formed by Carbon Green LLC and Energetix LLC to develop management, energy efficiency, and operational improvements to biofuel production.

In addition, Green Plains Renewable Energy has announced that it will buy the former VeraSun ethanol plants in Central City and Ord, Nebraska from AgStar. Green Plains currently owns ethanol plants in Iowa, Indiana, and Tennessee. Officials report a purchase price for the pair of plants of $123.5 million.

Switchgrass field trials show higher than expected yields

Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. has announced positive results from field trials on its switchgrass varieties. Officials say switchgrass is capable of producing higher amounts of biomass per acre than previously reported, making the average yields cited by academics and policymakers far too conservative.

Results from its nationwide network of field trials show the varieties tested last growing season yielded as much as 50 percent more than the government’s projected yields for 2022. The highest yield was reported in California, where a Ceres experimental switchgrass variety produced 19 tons per acre.

“Through trait development, better genetics, and improved crop management practices, we can continue to increase average yields for many years to come,” said Cory Christensen, Ph.D., Ceres switchgrass product manager.

Proprietary varieties sold under the company’s Blade Energy Crops brand were consistently the highest yielding varieties across multiple trial locations, with average yields reaching nearly 10 tons. A number of previous studies assume switchgrass yields as low as two to four tons per acre and hold that the yields will stay virtually flat into the future. EPA and DOE have used estimates of around 6 tons of grass per acre. Ceres believes policymakers should consider revising their yield estimates upward based on these breakthroughs being made in switchgrass varieties and yield.


EPA extends public comment period for E15

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has extended the public comment period on the E15 waiver by an additional 60 days. The comment period was to end on May 21, but has now been extended until July 20.

On March 6, the U.S. ethanol industry brought a formal waiver to the EPA, asking for an approval of up to 15 percent ethanol per gallon of gasoline, raising the current E10 limit that has been in place since the 1970s.

Supporters are encouraged to sign the American Coalition for Ethanol’s E15 petition, found online at More than 5500 people from all 50 states have signed at press time. People should also consider sending comments to the EPA through the July 20 comment period. ACE’s Legislative Action Center at has a built-in web form that can be used to easily send comments directly to the EPA, and also example talking points that can be consulted.


Iowa State University reports good cellulosic ethanol potential from corn cobs

Results from a new Iowa State University study show that corn cobs are an economical and environmentally friendly feedstock for cellulosic ethanol. The research was backed by POET as part of the ethanol producer’s ongoing study of the sustainability of using cobs as a feedstock.

The report finds that removing corn cobs from the field appears to have no substantial impact on the soil’s nutrient content, based on results from the first year of the multi-year study.

The first year of the ISU study, conducted on a test field near the Emmetsburg, Iowa site of POET’s existing corn ethanol plant and future cellulose biorefinery, indicate that fertilizer application for the field from which cobs are removed would be almost identical to the fertilizer applied where cobs are not removed.

ISU researchers will continue their work this year on the test plots, compiling more data to help farmers manage their land well while taking advantage of an additional revenue source.

© American Coalition for Ethanol, all rights reserved.
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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