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Automakers Divided Over Bio-Diesel

Mercedes-Benz stops selling diesel models in Illinois.

by on Jul.26, 2013

At 46 mpg highway, the new Chevy Cruze Turbo Diesel gives even hybrids a run for their (gas) money.

It’s the stuff of dreams for some environmentalists: a fuel you can make from renewable sources as diverse as algae and used cooking oil. But for some automakers, bio-diesel is a nightmare so worrisome one major maker has pulled out of the Illinois market after lawmakers there approved incentives meant to boost demand for bio-diesel.

Mercedes-Benz isn’t the only maker worried that bio-diesel could have a downside far different from the green image proponents present. The German maker warns that if poorly blended, the fuel could gunk up its engines and worsen air quality. That led the maker to recently stop selling diesel models like the new E250 BlueTec diesel in the land of Lincoln.

A Good Investment!

Illinois lawmakers recently approved a plan to drop the state’s 6.25% sales tax on fuel with a bio-diesel content of at least 10%. Mercedes, which has been one of the strongest proponents of diesel fuel in the U.S. market, has set a limit of 5% biodiesel content, or B5. (more…)

EPA May Slash Use of Ethanol in Gasoline

Drought creating potential shortages of corn stock.

by on Oct.12, 2012

The EPA may shift corn away from ethanol use to reduce demand on drought-impacted farms.

Only months ago, the EPA was pressing hard to expand the use of ethanol in the nation’s gasoline supply, but in the wake of this summer’s fierce drought, the agency may soon reverse course and actually trim back because of shortages of corn used to produce the renewable fuel.

Senator Orrin Hatch, an influential Utah Republic this week urged the EPA to curb ethanol requirements, as have 200 members of the House and the governors of eight corn-producing states. Under a 2007 law signed by former President George Bush, 15.2 billion gallons of ethanol would need to be used this year, with the plan to more than double that by 2022.

Auto News From a Source You Trust!

But the viability of that plan came under sharp inspection when, yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast a sharp decline in farm grain output predicting next year’s global corn stockpiles will 5.4% – to the lowest levels in 39 years.  The USDA warned that only 23% of American corn crop yields are in “good” or “excellent” shape compared with 70% last year.


Corn Ethanol is Just a Very Bad Deal, Claims a New Anti-Farm Lobby Advertising Campaign

More scientific testing is needed to explore possible safety and environmental dangers of biofuels, advocacy groups charge.

by on Jul.23, 2010

At stake here is not only the fuel economy, operating cost, and performance of your vehicle, but also potentially huge negative effects on all small engines.

Politics might make strange bedfellows, but when environmental and industry advocacy groups hop into the sack together it gets our attention.

This is precisely what’s happening with a newly launched advertising campaign that challenges the pork-driven, pay-to-play U.S. Congress to put aside the influence – critics say bribes – of the huge contributions from agribusiness and stipulate that “objective” scientific testing be conducted before allowing an increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline. (See How a Bad Bush Administration Energy Policy Begets More Bad Policy?)

At stake here is not only the fuel economy, operating cost, and performance of your vehicle, but also potentially huge negative effects on all small engines, powering everything from lawn mowers, to outboard motors, to weed whackers, to chain saws – to name but a few.

Taxpayers currently subsidize corn ethanol at the rate of 45 cents a gallon, or roughly $6 billion last year.

From an automotive perspective there are two clear central issues:

  • The first is how to decrease emissions and our dependence on imports of foreign oil from terrorist supporting countries.
  • The second is a subset of the first: what if the biofuels we are using — ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas — really cause more emissions than they save?

That’s why how the EPA calculates the “life cycle emissions effects” is of such concern to the currently subsidized businesses, the agricultural lobby and various clean air special interest groups.

Anti Lobbies!

The U.S. is under Congressional mandate to use increasing amounts of renewable fuels because of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. EPA is responsible for revising and implementing regulations to ensure that gasoline sold in the United States contains a minimum volume of renewable fuels. The Renewable Fuel Standard program will increase the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into gasoline from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. At one point, the goal under President Bush was 35 billion/2017.


U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior Announce New Solar Energy Demonstration Projects

The first project will advance renewable, solar created electricity at a former nuclear weapons testing site in Nevada.

by on Jul.09, 2010

Funding is by a combination of private and taxpayer supplied dollars.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada have announced the site of a “Solar Demonstration Zone” for emerging solar energy technologies.

The Solar Demonstration Zone will be located in the southwest corner of the Nevada Test Site, a former nuclear site, on lands owned by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and administered by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Secretaries Chu and Salazar signed an interagency Memorandum of Understanding that will enable the Department of Energy to develop “innovative solar energy projects” there.

These projects will serve as proving grounds for new solar technologies, providing a link between DOE’s advanced technology development and full-scale commercialization efforts.

“The Nevada Test Site is about to play a new role in securing America’s future – but instead of testing nuclear weapons, we will test new solar technologies that will help put America on a sustainable energy path,” said Secretary Chu.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management oversees 23 million acres of Southwestern lands with solar potential, and could play an important role in supporting renewable energy goals.


“These projects on BLM land in Nevada can significantly reduce the costs and environmental impacts of utility-scale solar power facilities and demonstrate the commercial viability of these facilities,” Secretary Salazar said.


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.