truthout challenges the “myth” that biomass is a clean, green energy source with implications for its future inclusion as a favoured renewable energy source. Biomass energy involves the burning of wood and other biological materials to produce heat and electric power. Many governments have introduced subsidies and favourable tax credits to encourage the use of this fuel. According to this post:

“…recent scientific and policy developments recognizing that biomass energy has significant greenhouse gas emissions have blown a major hole in arguments for treating biomass as a favored renewable energy source and could fundamentally reshape its future in the United States.”

In a related post Earth Techling asks: How Green Is This Clean Energy Source Really?

waste360 says the global waste-to-energy business will be a $7 billion plus industry this year. This is the conclusion of a new report from Visiongain. The study notes that while waste-to-energy projects are more costly than low-cost landfills, the energy source is being propelled by government subsidies and regulations.

From Biomass Magazine we learn the International Energy Agency (IEA) has published an update on global advanced biofuel projects. In an effort to minimize competition between food crops for transportation (eg. corn ethanol) and food production (and the rising food prices these entails globally), governments are encouraging the production of plant cellulose (eg. corn stalks) to be used for transportation purposes rather than the food component. The IEA now identifies 71 such projects under development worldwide in “Status of Advanced Biofuels Demonstration Facilities in 2012“. These projects hope to produce a variety of fuels, from cellulosic ethanol to drop-in gasoline or biobased jet fuel. As of the close of 2012, 48 of the 71 projects were operational, 9 were listed as under construction with 14 categorized as planned.

In Learning From the EU’s Biofuel Policy European Voice tells us: “the (European Union’s) biofuel policy has become an expensive way of mitigating climate change and spurring green innovation.” The post notes that the International Energy Agency estimates the EU subsidized biofuels to the extent of €8.5 billion in 2011, delivered through budgetary transfers, tax breaks and blending mandates that push the cost of this policy onto consumers. Subsequent economic and scientific research has found this approach to be an extremely expensive way to mitigate climate change, spur ‘green’ innovation, and strengthen energy security. Moreover, by simply replacing crude oil-based liquid fuels, they preserve the combustion engine without stimulating energy savings or innovative solutions in new kinds of transportation technologies such as hydrogen. Its recommendation?

In the short term, the EU should move quickly to phase out subsidies, mandates or any other forms of support for biofuel that, firstly, compete with food or animal-feed uses for the same feedstock crops and, secondly, have negative impacts on the environment.

The New York Times suggested the days for ethanol’s promise are fading in the US. Drought that has destroyed corn crops along with a decrease in driving brought about by the Great Recession and increased automobile fuel efficiency is taking its toll on that country’s ethanol industry.

Nearly 10 percent of the nation’s ethanol plants have stopped production over the past year, in part because the drought that has ravaged much of the nation’s crops pushed commodity prices so high that ethanol has become too expensive to produce. A dip in gasoline consumption has compounded the industry’s problem by reducing the demand for ethanol. The situation has left the fate of dozens of ethanol plants hanging in the balance and has unsettled communities that once prospered from this biofuel…Thousands of barrels of ethanol now sit in storage because there is not enough gasoline in the market to blend it with — and blends calling for a higher percentage of ethanol have yet to catch on widely in the marketplace.

The net effect is to leave many in the ethanol industry, including the farmers who supply the corn, wondering if this is a temporary or permanent change to what had once been a booming business profiting from lucrative government subsidies and favourable regulations.

Energy Trends Insider tells us the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the US is bankrupt. Western Biomass Energy LLC started producing cellulosic ethanol produced from bagasse (sugar cane waste) in April 2012 but never produced another batch. Recently the firm filed for bankruptcy protection noting that the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol faces a number of hurdles including production costs, restricted export opportunities, and the fact that very few US gasoline stations offer the newly mandated E15 blend which would encourage the production of more ethanol.

Domestic Fuel notes US.cellulosic biofuels production totaled about 20,000 gallons in 2012, “way below the 500 million gallons target set by Congress.” The post adds that 2013 should bring a substantial increase in production and grow over the next couple of years. The  Energy Information Administration estimates this output could grow to more than 5 million gallons in 2013, as operations ramp up at several plants. By 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that another 250 million gallons could be produced.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance thinks cellulosic ethanol could be cost competitive with corn-based ethanol by 2016. Currently the cost of cellulosic ethanol production is $0.94 per litre, around 40% higher than the $0.67 per litre cost of producing ethanol from corn. See also The Epoch Times Waste-Based Ethanol to Achieve Price Parity with Corn Ethanol.

Cellulosic diesel is being produced in the US says Globe News Wire. KiOR, Inc. is using pine wood chips to produce biodiesel and biogasoline at its commercial scale plant in Columbus, Mississippi. Drought in the midwest US has driven up corn prices and the ethanol refiners are looking for cheaper substitutes to maintain their production levels.

Big Picture Agriculture writes about the increasing use of corn oil and sorghum as ethanol feedstock in the US in an attempt to improve refining profit margins. In a related post, OPB notes that an ethanol producer in Colorado is using sawdust as an input.

Airlines using biofuels was a topic this week. Jaunted tells us how KLM is using cooking oil to power its flights from Amsterdam to New York. Flying reports that a 50-59  mix of cooking oil and jet fuel is being used by a Cessna flying along the east coast of the US. The latter flight cut fuel use by 40% according to Outer Banks Voice.

In Brazil the fish tilapia is being used to produce biodiesel and ethanol reports Fish Info & Services. Meanwhile in Australia, canola is being used to make biofuel. ABC says a biodiesell plant in the state of Victoria can produce 1.5 million litres per year for companies in the city of Melbourne.

Industry Week informs us the world’s largest biogas facility has opened in Finland. Fuelled mainly with wood residue from Finland’s forestry sector, the 140 megawatt biomass gasification factory is expected to cut coal use by up to 40%. It will produce electricity and heat for the city of Vaasa’s approximately 61,000 residents.

Cooking waste from thousands of London, UK restaurants and food companies will be producing renewable electricity. The Guardian reports the electricity generated from the grease, oil and fat will help run a major sewage works and a desalination plant, as well as supplying the national power grid. The power plant at Beckton, east London, due to be operational in early 2015 will produce 130 gigawatt hours (GWh) a year of renewable electricity – enough to run some 40,000 average-sized homes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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