Bush: "Biodiesel is Coming"

By | September 01, 2006
Americans must not be complacent toward their energy future, even in light of falling gas prices, according to President George W. Bush. Despite the recent drop in energy prices, the President reaffirmed his support for ethanol and biodiesel at an energy conference last week.

The jointly held USDA and U.S. DOE event, Advancing Renewable Energy: An American Rural Renaissance, was held Oct. 10-12 in St. Louis. Bush, USDE Secretary Mike Johanns and DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman each spoke at the event. One long-time biofuels proponent and Washington-insider said he believed it was "the most powerful bureaucratic lineup at any renewable energy conference in history." The focus of the event was on building partnerships and strategies for advancing the commercialization of renewable domestic energy. "It is apparent, and should be for most Americans, we've got to change our habits if we want to remain the economic leader of the world," Bush said Thursday.

Activity in the ethanol and biodiesel industries has been frantic since the President announced America was "addicted to oil" in January's State of the Union address. The ethanol industry is on pace to produce more than 5 billion gallons of the fuel this year. More than 100 plants are now operating with another 60 either under construction or expansion.

Likewise, the biodiesel industry continues to feverishly expand. There are at least 75 biodiesel plants in operation and approximately 40 under construction. There is nearly 600 MMgy of biodiesel production capacity currently available. "Biodiesel is coming," Bush said. "It makes a lot of sense for us to continue to invest in biodiesel technologies to make the production process even more efficient."

Bush became the first sitting president to visit a biodiesel plant when he toured Virginia Biodiesel Refinery Inc. in May 2005.
The President told conference attendees he was committed to furthering alternative energy sources. "We're too dependent on oil," Bush said. "Low gasoline prices may mask that concern. So, first, I want to tell you that I welcome low gasoline prices. However, it's not going to dim my enthusiasm for making sure we diversify away from oil."

Bush touted the potential of cellulosic ethanol. He said the lack of feedstock diversification is preventing the widespread production and use of ethanol. "It makes a lot of sense for the federal government to continue to invest taxpayers' money, because the more efficient raw materials that are practical in use, the more ethanol production facilities spread across the country," Bush said.

Commercial cellulosic development was recently boosted through several announcements. Sioux Falls, S.D.-based ethanol plant developer Broin Companies and DuPont recently announced an agreement expected to lead to a corn stover-to-ethanol plant by 2009. It would be the first commercial-scale facility of its kind. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Chevron Corp. also announced a five-year research alliance to develop biomass production technologies.

Bush also promoted the prospects of clean coal technology. He said the federal government is spending $2 billion to promote technologies to reduce emissions from coal-fired plants. "By the year 2012, we'll build the first clean-coal power plant that will remove virtually all pollutants and greenhouse gases from burning coal," Bush said. "In other words, there's a way coming that's going to enable us to use this plentiful resource."

For its June 2006 issue, Ethanol Producer Magazine surveyed ethanol projects regarding plant energy sources. Results showed that nearly 30 percent of ethanol plants under construction were planning on using coal-fired boilers or a combination of coal and natural gas to power their facilities. That is a significant shift from current ethanol producers, of which more than 90 percent rely on natural gas.

On Wednesday, Bodman and Johanns announced nearly $17.5 million for 17 biomass research, development and demonstration projects. The grants are intended to develop technologies to help make bio-based fuels cost-competitive with fossil fuels in the commercial market.

The DOE funds total $4.7 million and are directed toward three cellulosic ethanol projects. USDA's funding will be used to address feedstock production and product diversification. "This funding will spur new scientific innovation that will help us kick our over-reliance on oil," Bodman said. "President Bush's policies, like the Advanced Energy Initiative, have demonstrated a strong commitment to a secure energy and economic future. By investing in our nation's promising researchers we are closer to making clean, affordable alternative sources of energy a reality."

Bush announced his Advanced Energy Initiative in January's State of the Union address. He set a national goal of replacing more than 75 percent of oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. The initiative provides for a 22 percent increase in clean-energy research at the DOE.

"What I'm talking about is a comprehensive approach to solving the national issue, which is dependence on oil, and how best to protect this environment," Bush said. "It's time to get rid of the old, stale debates on the environment and recognize new technologies are going to enable us to achieve a lot of objectives at the same time."

The following projects received funding through Wednesday's announcement from the USDA and DOE:

-- Edenspace Systems Corp (Virginia) - $ 1,926,900
Development of commercial corn hybrids engineered for enhanced, low-cost conversion of cellulosic biomass to ethanol.

--Center for Technology Transfer (Wisconsin) - $1,521,800
Stabilizing value of biomass material before processing.

--Lucigen Corporation (Wisconsin) - $1,259,000
Novel enzyme products for the conversion of defatted soybean meal to ethanol.

--Ceres, Inc. (California) - $1,523,530
Enhance economic competitiveness of bio-based fuels through product diversification.

--Ceres, Inc. (California) - $1,572,460
Double switchgrass yield by 2020 (cellulosic ethanol).

--Western Governors' Association (Colorado) - $290,246
Strategic development of bioenergy in the western states.

--Southern Illinois University (Illinois) - $676,722
Expansion of ethanol production in the Upper Mississippi River Basin.

--DOE's Argonne National Laboratory (Illinois) - $400,000
Enhance animal feed values in corn dry mills with bio-based solvents.

--Iowa Corn Promotion Board (Iowa)- $1,762,157
Add value to commercial polymers through the incorporation of biomass-derived materials.

--Louisiana State University Agriculture Center (Louisiana) - $791,865
Natural fiber and commingled waste plastic project.

--Michigan State University (Michigan) - $376,616
Develop environmental information on corn and soybean cropping systems and platform chemical production.

--SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (New York) - $813,450
Willow biomass crop management.

--Clarkson University (New York) - $250,001
Waste biomass feedstocks for ethanol fuel production.

--North Carolina State University (North Carolina)- $435,997
Strategic positioning of biofuels in the context of agriculture, crude oil and auto manufacturing.

--The Pennsylvania State University (Pennsylvania)- $579,340
Lignin conversion to value-added materials.

--Drexel University (Pennslyvania)- $1,312,389
Improve bio-based polymers for moisture barrier applications.

--Virent Energy Systems, Inc. (Wisconsin) - $2,000,000
Co-production of propylene glycol with biodiesel production.

Dave Nilles is Online Editor for Biodiesel Magazine. Reach him at dnilles@bbibiofuels.com or (701) 373-0636.

Posted: 11:35 a.m. CDT Monday, October 16, 2006
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