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White House Moves to Reduce Use of Ethanol

Biofuel law falling short of expectations – even as criticism grows.

by on Nov.18, 2013

A corn showdown?

It’s been a rare hallmark of bipartisanship in recent years, but the Obama Administration is now looking to scale back the once-promising biofuel law enacted during the Bush White House.

The move recognizes that consumers have shown little interest in filling up on ethanol – even as criticism of the renewable fuel grows, some critics contending the law may actually be doing as much harm as good to the environment.

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The law passed in 2007 has required a steady increase in the use of ethanol – almost all of it currently being produced from corn.  Last year, reports the federal Energy Information Administration, 13.3 billion gallons were blended into the nation’s gasoline supply, slightly ahead of the 13.2 billion gallon mandate. But the sale of E85 fuel, which uses 85% ethanol and just 15% of gasoline, has lagged expectations despite significant discounting at the pump.

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President’s Budget Proposal Could Be Big Boon for Auto Industry

Administration wants $2 bil for advanced vehicle research funding.

by on Apr.11, 2013

President Obama is proposing efforts to promote America's energy independence, including tax credits for electric vehicles.

President Barack Obama is proposing a number of new efforts designed to improve the nation’s transportation system, with a mix of high-speed rails, cleaner fuels, tax credits for those buying alternatively powered vehicles – and as much as $2 billion in funding for advanced vehicle programs.

“We’ll continue our march toward energy independence,” Obama said in presenting his budget proposal to Congress. A key goal will be to eliminate the need for foreign oil imports over the next decade.

Part of that would involve increasing the Department of Energy’s vehicle research budget by 75% to $575 million, while also creating an energy trust fund the administration had previously outlined.

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The budget proposal renewed the White House push to expand credits for those buying electric vehicles and plug-ins. Such buyers now qualify for up to $7,500 in tax credits – for which they may have to wait months until next filing with the IRS. The administration would like to bump the number up to $10,000 for qualified vehicles and have the credits become available more immediately.

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Audi Transforming Wind Power into e-Gas for New A3 g-Tron

New model will use synthetic natural gas that recycles CO2.

by on Mar.13, 2013

Audi says the new A3 Sportback g-Tron produces 80% less CO2 than the same car running on gasoline.

Imagine capturing the gases spewing out of your car’s tailpipe and feeding them back into its engine.  In a sense, that’s what Audi hopes to do with the new A3 g-Tron.

The German maker is the latest among a small but growing list of manufacturers introducing vehicles that can run on CNG, a fuel generally hailed as more environmentally friendly than conventional gasoline. But what’s particularly significant about the launch of the A3 g-Tron is how Audi wants buyers to fill up their tanks.

It's a Gas!

Working with Germany’s largest utility EWE, the luxury marque has tapped into a low-cost source of excess power from the wind farms spreading out over the northern corner of that country. In a complex process, a pilot refinery Audi has funded splits water into its fundamental components and then combines the hydrogen with CO2 to create a synthetic version of natural gas.

It will offer as many as 1,500 g-Tron buyers special contracts for this so-called e-Gas, enough for them to each drive about 15,000 kilometers, of about 9,500 miles, annually — each producing a fraction of the CO2 emissions of a regular automobile.

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EPA Won’t Waive Ethanol Mandate

Critics cited shortages of corn in wake of summer drought.

by on Nov.19, 2012

A corn showdown?

The Environmental Protection Agency has declined to waive a federal mandate setting increased requirements for use of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply despite concerns about shortages of the corn used to create the fuel in the wake of last summer’s nationwide drought.

The agency, which oversees the ethanol rules, rejected a request by eight governors and 200 members of Congress – as well as many farmers dependent upon corn feed — but opposed by corn farmers who have been seeing a spike in prices as demand for ethanol increases. A senior United Nations official also sought a waiver by the Obama Administration to prevent possible food shortages around the world.

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“We recognize that this year’s drought has created hardship in some sectors of the economy, particularly for livestock producers,” said Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “But our extensive analysis makes clear that congressional requirements for a waiver have not been met and that waiving the (ethanol rules) will have little, if any, impact.”

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Greener Ethanol a Step Closer to a Pump Near You

Nation's largest ethanol supplier has cellulosic pilot plant up and running in South Dakota

by on Feb.09, 2009

poets-projectThe holy grail of renewable fuels is a commercially viable process for converting cellulosic materials into convenient, combustible liquids that can power cars and trucks. The longstanding challenge is breaking down cellulose into smaller molecules that can be re-assembled into ethanol or other fuels.

Cellulose is the stuff of which plants are mostly made, and it’s comprised of a long, tough chains of sugar-like compounds that God created (or nature evolved, if you will) for the express purpose of resisting breakdown.

With their multiple stomachs, cows break down cellulose just fine. The problem is that they (more specifically, the enzymes in their guts) are rather slow about it compared to the rate at which it needs to be digested to supply any meaningful portion of the 160 billion gallons of gasoline we guzzle each year. Those enzymes and the biorefining processes that use them are still quite pricey compared to what it costs to refine petroleum, unless oil gets (and stays) much more expensive than it is today.

Nonetheless, progress is being made. A notable development was recently announced by POET Energy, the nation’s largest ethanol producer. POET has taken its cellulosic ethanol process out of the lab and into a pilot plant now up and running in Scotland, South Dakota, a small town about an hour and a half southwest of Sioux Falls.

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Shift to Alternative Fuels Continuing

Recession, low gas prices can't halt switch.

by on Feb.06, 2009

Making a better case for alternative fuels

Making a better case for alternative fuels

Recession or not, the auto industry, or at least elements of it, are setting course for a greener future.

Ricardo Inc. of Van Buren, Mi., the American arm of the British engineering firm Ricardo plc, has announced it has developed technology that optimizes ethanol-fueled engines to a level of performance that exceeds gasoline engine efficiency and approaches levels previously reached only by diesel engines.

The technology, called Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection or EBDI, takes full advantage of ethanol’s best properties – higher octane and higher heat of vaporization – to create a truly renewable fuel scenario that is independent of the cost of oil.

“Developing renewable energy applications that can lead to energy independence is a top priority at Ricardo,” said Ricardo President Dean Harlow. “We’ve moved past theoretical discussion and are busy applying renewable energy technology to the real world. The EBDI engine project is a great example because it turns the gasoline-ethanol equation upside down. It has the performance of diesel, at the cost of ethanol, and runs on ethanol, gasoline, or a blend of both.”

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