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As technology improves, biofuel sources are everywhere
Mark Braly, Sacramento Bee
The excitement comes from new technology that could create more energy from organic sources. Two California biotech firms, both Danish-owned, have been working to reduce the cost of making fuel out of cellulose materials – crop wastes, weeds, forest underbrush, urban garbage or nearly anything organic. Novozymes’ bioenergy operation in Davis says it has proved a 30-fold reduction in the cost of the enzymes needed to break down cellulose material for fermentation into alcohol.

Glenn Nedwin, president of Novozymes’ biomass operation, thinks the technology is almost here. He sees two to five more years of work on reducing costs of other steps of the ethanol process. But even today cellulosic biomass energy might be competitive, depending on the cost of oil and corn: “Corn costs $40 a ton, but garbage might be free.”
(26 Feb 2006)
EnergyResources moderator Tom Robertson comments: “[This] more or less exuberant message … demonstrates how we are avoiding the still dormant but certainly emerging costs of (unnecessary) political and economic uncertainty, as all these schemes are tried and then mainly fail because no one wanted to look at the critical fact that they are driven by the highly limiting factor of photosynthetic productivity and the relatively high costs of converting one form of energy, e.g., plant matter into another form–liquid fuels.”

..although it should be noted that attempts to use woody biomass make more sense than using human quality food! -AF

Feds want to pump money into biorefineries
Chicago Sun-Times
The federal government wants to make $160 million available for the construction of three biorefineries to show that such facilities are financially viable, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said.

The proposal would put a $100 million cap on funding for a single operation, and private funds must cover 60 percent of the cost of a project while the government would kick in 40 percent, Bodman said.

”Our aim is to assist industry in demonstrating a commercial biorefinery that will operate profitably once construction is completed over the next three or four years,” Bodman said Wednesday at Archer Daniels Midland Co.’s headquarters in Decatur.

ADM is one of the world’s largest corn processors and has been in the forefront of producing ethanol for commercial use.
(26 Feb 2006)
Tom Robertson again points out “Public Law 93-577, that says at the time of commercialization all energy resource/technologies will have net energy analysis done to see just where they are compared to other options.”

See the reference in point a5 here. -AF

Charcoal-fired fuel cell

Jan TenBruggencate, Honolulu Advertiser
University of Hawai’i researcher Michael Antal has developed a working fuel cell that uses charcoal as its fuel and operates at bread-baking temperatures.

The Antal system, which he calls an aqueous alkali biocarbon fuel cell, is unlike other fuel cell technology both in that it uses a renewable fuel and that it does not require particularly high temperatures. …There are still technical issues to be resolved.
(26 Feb 2006)

GE eyes Wyoming coal for gasification

Casper Star Tribune
With a 37 percent share of the U.S. coal market, Wyoming is too large to ignore.

GE Energy Gasification, one of the world’s leading makers of coal gasification units, said it is developing the process to work with Wyoming coal.

The gasification process works well with bituminous coals in the eastern United States, but it needs some tweaking to make Wyoming’s higher-moisture sub-bituminous coals an economic feedstock, according to the company.*

“We, and others, are working on making the economics of IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) more competitive with the use of these lower-rank coals — i.e., non-bituminous coals, which is Powder River Basin,” said Edward Lowe, general manager of GE Energy Gasification. (26 Feb 2006)
See also news that the Wyoming Senate Minerals Committee on Friday unanimously endorsed a bill to give energy companies tax breaks on construction of coal gasification and liquefaction plants. It’s claimed by the coal industry that the IGCC method of coal gasification has higher efficiencies and lower emmissions than burning the coal directly. Not all coal gasification can make that claim: underground coal gasification (essentially burning some of the coal underground to heat up the rest to give off gases) would be less efficient and more greenhouse intensive. -AF

Carlyle eyes renewable energy, predicts IPOs
The Carlyle Group is set to boost its investment in the renewable energy sector as demand from U.S. state entities is rising, the firm’s founder and managing director, David Rubenstein, said on Wednesday.

“We intend to be much more active in the wind, power, solar energy, biomass and geothermal areas,” Rubenstein said.
(24 Feb 2006)
The Carlyle group has notoriously close ties to former US and other national politicians. -AF

UK: Soaring gas prices will lead to 7,000 layoffs in plastics sector

Tracey Boles, The Sunday Times
BRITAIN’s plastics manufacturers, which make goods as varied as toys, bottles, artificial hips and car bumpers, will this week warn energy minister Malcolm Wicks that 7,000 jobs are at risk in the industry because of crippling energy costs.

The British Plastics Federation (BPF), the industry association that represents 300 companies, is writing to Wicks tomorrow to request an urgent meeting, prompted by the soaring cost of gas on the wholesale market.
(26 Feb 2006)

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(February 2006)