The Truth About Cars » biofuel The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » biofuel Tales From The Cooler: It Seemed Like A Gouda Idea: Utah State Students Build Car Powered By Cheese Waste Tue, 02 Oct 2012 14:00:31 +0000

I don’t think Bertel would have gone for my original headline:

It Seemed Like A Gouda Idea. Colby Was A Dip But Knew He Curd Build The Car. He Was Not A Whey Nacho Man Nor A Whiz At Car Building As His Wife Brie Reminded Him On Those Nights She Got Grilled On Kahula And Cream While Sitting On A Brick In Front Of Their Swiss Cottage In Monterey, Jack Baruth Being Her True Love. Colby Was Becoming A Basket Queso In His Quest To Get His Kraft In Front Of Auto Writer Csaba Cheddar: Utah State Students Build Car Powered By Cheese Waste

The website reports that a Utah State team has built and tested the world’s first biofuel vehicle powered by cheese. The watery fuel is actually a yeast blended with waste material from a local cheese processing plant.

Powered by a one-liter two-cylinder diesel motor, the blue dragster-like single-seater débuted at the Bonneville Salt Flats where it shredded the world land speed record in its biofuel class, topping out at 64.3 MPH. According to onlookers, the car’s exhaust smelled like, “fresh-baked bread.”

Utah State biochemistry professor Lance Seefeldt says this technology could come to market in as few as five years. One obstacle to growth might be if the EPA catches wind of the cheese and steps up regulation of the use, storage and transporting of discarded cheese waste.

Kudos to Utah State. If this technology is used on cars that burn corn ethanol we would have a cheese/corn hybrid!

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House Science Committee Approves Bill Blocking E15 Thu, 09 Feb 2012 17:12:34 +0000

The House Science Committee approved a bill that bars the EPA from approving E15 gasoline without a further study into its effects. The bill passed 19-7 as members voted along party lines. The bill was sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

Automakers and corn growers have clashed over E15, which is made from 15 percent corn-based ethanol biofuel. The EPA allowed its use in 2001 and newer vehicles, but various interest groups, including  Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute protested. In December 2011, Congress ended a 30 year subsidy for corn-based ethanol, that cost taxpayers an estimated $6 billion per year. Brazilian ethanol, which is made from sugarcane, also had its tariff lifted.

Opponents of ethanol noted that 40 percent of America’s corn crop went to ethanol usage, boosting food and animal feed prices unnecessarily by as much as 20 percent. Ethanol blend fuels are said to cause engine problems in vehicles not specially adapted to use them. Brazilian automobiles, for example, are designed to run on heavy blends of ethanol, including E85.

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U.S. Congress Stops Ethanol Subsidies & Tariff on Brazilian Imports Tue, 27 Dec 2011 20:24:36 +0000 After spending thirty years and $45 billion dollars encouraging the use of ethanol the United States Congress has adjourned for the year without extending tax subsidies to the to ethanol industry. The subsidy currently costs taxpayers $6 billion a year. A related import tariff on Brazilian ethanol was also allowed to expire. With a wide group of critics, cutting across political and ideological lines, the tax break had become unpopular in Washington. Business interests in the food and cattle industry as well as environmentalists opposed the law which paid 45 cents per gallon to fuel blenders to subsidize their costs for producing E10 gasoline/ethanol blend. The subsidy resulting in corn being diverted from feedlots and food processors to ethanol production, raising the cost of many foodstuffs. The environmental movement now opposes corn ethanol as a fuel it because it considers the fuel and its production to be “dirty”, in the words of Friends of the Earth.

Ethanol trade groups have said that the industry would survive the loss of the subsidy, now that the US ethanol production industry has become established. The industry is still protected by congressional mandates that call for 15 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2015 and 36 billion gallons by 2022.

The ethanol issue involves a number of powerful players, corn growers and affiliated industries on one side and food interests, automakers and engine builders on the other. Then there’s the EPA to consider. The EPA has approved the use of E15, an 85/15 gasoline/ethanol blend, for use in post 2001 cars. Manufacturers say that without modifications, E15 will damage engines. In February, in a bipartisan move the House voted 285-136 to block the EPA from moving ahead with E15 regulations.

While ending the subsidy would seemingly discourage ethanol’s use, the end of the 54 cents per gallon tariff on imported Brazilian ethanol might do more to encourage that use than the subsidies did. Brazil is one place where it makes sense to use ethanol as a fuel because of Brazil’s huge sugar industry. The ratio of energy needed to produce it vs the energy obtained in the fuel for ethanol made from corn is barely greater than one, 1.3:1, compared to 2:1 for using sugar beets and 8:1 for sugar cane, the feedstock for Brazil’s ethanol. It costs half as much to make Brazilian cane ethanol as it does to make American corn ethanol. According to one academic study transportation costs to US ports eliminate that competitive advantage, but if that was a certainty, Brazilian sugar cane producers wouldn’t have threatened to start a trade war if the tariff wasn’t ended.

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Ethanol “Blender Credit” Under Attack Again Wed, 16 Mar 2011 17:48:38 +0000

At the end of last year, the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (aka “Blender’s Credit) very nearly expired before congress passed a one-year, $6b extension to the subsidy. The near-collapse of the largest “renewable energy” subsidy on the federal books came as the backlash built against the EPA’s approval of E15 (15% ethanol) blends for certain vehicles, with a huge coalition of industries, environmentalists and budget hawks coalescing around the idea of ending government support for corn-based ethanol. That coalition lost some momentum as the VEETC was extended in order to drum up support for the controversial tax bill that was passed during December’s lame duck session. But now, SolveClimate [via Reuters] reports that the brewing deficit battles have put the Blender’s Credit back on the chopping block, as a new bill seeks to cut the wasteful, inefficient and unpopular (outside of farm states) subsidy.

Sponsored by a Maryland Democrat and an Oklahoma Republican (Sens. Ben Cardin and Tom Coburn, respectively), the bill is being pitched as a bipartisan effort to correct “bad economic policy, bad energy policy and bad environmental policy.” And the Cardin-Coburn bill doesn’t stop at corn ethanol, but ends government subsidies for all forms of feedstock-based ethanol, including sugar beet-derived fuels. A competing Democratic proposal, forwarded by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Jim Webb, would cut support only for corn ethanol. That bill would also

ower the tariff on imported ethanol to match the 45-cent-per gallon subsidy that will remain in place under what the duo calls “non-corn, second generation advanced biofuels.”

“Ethanol is the only industry that benefits from a triple crown of government intervention: its use is mandated by law, it is protected by tariffs, and companies are paid by the federal government to use it,” Feinstein said. “By lowering the import tariff to match the non-corn ethanol credit, we allow refiners to purchase cheaper, environmentally-friendly ethanol from foreign sources while at the same time preventing foreign producers from benefitting from U.S. subsidies.”

Both bills face challenges, as the House and Senate struggle to create a budget that will keep government operating.

the anti-VEETC crowd might wonder why ethanol tax credits aren’t at the top of the trim list. Mostly it’s because of a Capitol Hill aberration that draws a sharp divide between legislating and appropriating.And that is eternally frustrating to Kate McMahon with the advocacy organization Friends of the Earth. Congress, she emphasized, could operate more efficiently and thoughtfully if it took less of a piecemeal and more of a holistic approach to policy.

“The hard part is that the budget is in a different world from appropriations and you can’t legislate in the appropriations process,” McMahon, FOE’s biofuels campaign coordinator, told SolveClimate News in an interview.  “We could be doing both of these things at once and not doing them in silos. It’s an insane narrative. We need to be having a broader conversation.”

Still, perhaps the desire to create a leaner budget combined with bipartisan opposition to ethanol subsidies will be enough to send the corn juice scam packing. In any case, it seems that from here on out, the ethanol lobby will at least have its work cut out for it simply maintaining the status quo. And with the VEETC expiring again at the end of this year, 2011 could well be the year that the subsidy keeping ethanol afloat finally gets the axe.

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Reduced Ethanol Blender’s Credit Headed For Senate Vote Fri, 03 Dec 2010 18:38:37 +0000

It seems that yesterday’s optimism about a possible end to the ethanol “Blender’s Credit” may have been somewhat premature, as Senate Budget Committee chair Max Baucus has now proposed extending the 45 cents per gallon tax credit at the lower rate of 36 cents per gallon. The ethanol industry has expressed disappointment, but says it will accept the proposal. Which, given the fact that the Blender’s Credit is opposed by groups as diverse as Friends Of The Earth and FreedomWorks, seems like the reasonable step. And because the 36 cent per gallon extension is only good for a year, even if it is approved, this battle will rage on.

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Ethanol Futures Tumble As Blender Credit Renewal Faces Opposition Thu, 02 Dec 2010 23:56:04 +0000

The ethanol industry might have enjoyed a small popularity bump when NASCAR switched to E15 (15% ethnol blend) gas, but it’s facing one of its biggest tests yet, as the so-called “blender’s credit” draws within a month of its expiration date. And the signs aren’t looking good for the most important subsidy in the ethanol playbook. Bloomberg reports that 17 Senators from both parties are pushing to end the 45 cent-per-gallon tax credit for ethanol blenders (and 54 cent-per-gallon import duty), and they’re opposed by only 13 Senators openly pushing for renewal. Plus, they’ve got a pretty strong argument:

If the current subsidy is extended for five years, the Federal Treasury would pay oil companies at least $31 billion to use 69 billion gallons of corn ethanol that the Federal Renewable Fuels Standard already requires them to use. We cannot afford to pay industry for following the law

Ethanol futures have hit an eight-week low, as the market suddenly seems to be realizing that maybe, just maybe, popular concern about budget deficits will kill off the ethanol blender’s credit. If this actually happens, expect plenty of hand-wringing about lost “green jobs,” the death of the American family farm, and how much of a tool Al Gore comes across as. On the other hand, it will also mark the long-overdue end of an expensive, environmentally and engine-unfriendly boondoggle that the market never asked for. Ya win some, ya lose some.

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E85 Boondoggle Of The Day: EPA Lets Corn-Free Ethanol Goal Slide Tue, 13 Jul 2010 22:51:02 +0000

Since corn-based ethanol began coming under attack for a wide variety of negative environmental and social impacts, the renewable fuels industry has sought to cover the sins of its corn juice gravy train with a coat of “advanced biofuel” greenwash. Accordingly, the ethanol blending mandate (from the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA)) has included requirements for cellulosic and non-corn-derived biofuels which the industry says will replace corn… eventually. Unfortunately it seems that “eventually” is going to take longer than was expected, as the EPA has already slashed the 2010 mandate for advanced biofuel blending from 100m gallons to 6.5m gallons. And today the EPA announced rules for the 2011 advanced biofuel blending goal, and once again the non-corn fuels are getting the short end of the stick.

The new goal is as follows:

Biomass-based diesel (0.80 billion gallons; 0.68 percent)
Advanced biofuels (1.35 billion gallons; 0.77 percent)
Cellulosic biofuels (5 – 17.1 million gallons; 0.004 – 0.015 percent)
Total renewable fuels (13.95 billion gallons; 7.95 percent)

The new goal allows for a range of cellulosic biofuel production of between 5m gallons and 17.1m gallons. That means that it’s possible that next year’s cellulosic biofuel blending level could actually be lower than this year’s 6.5m target. The overall blending level for all renewable fuels next year is now set at 7.95 percent (13.95b gallons), down from 8.25 percent.

Why the reduction in renewable biofuel mandates, especially cellulosic ethanol which can be made from waste biomass? According to the EPA’s release

Based on analysis of market availability, EPA is proposing a 2011 cellulosic volume that is lower than the EISA target. EPA will continue to evaluate the market as it works to finalize the cellulosic standard in the coming months. Overall, EPA remains optimistic that the commercial availability of cellulosic biofuel will continue to grow in the years ahead.

Not that market demand (or lack thereof) has ever stopped the government from subsidizing corn-based ethanol. In fact, sales of E85 are so low that renewable fuel lobbyists worry that the so-called “blend wall” which prevents the blending of more than 10 percent ethanol in regular gasoline will hurt cellulosic and corn-based ethanol producers alike. But even the lobbyists from the Renewable Fuels Association admit that this drop in cellulosic biofuel blending goals will hurt the struggling industry, telling BusinessWeek

While this may be prudent for EPA based on market conditions, it does send a chilling effect through the investment community with respect to cellulosic ethanol technologies

And since the overall biofuel blending mandate hasn’t gone down, the cellulosic ethanol industry’s loss is the corn ethanol industry’s gain… even though the whole point of biofuel subsidies is to promote environmentally responsible options (weak demand hasn’t stopped subsidies for corn ethanol or electric cars). With 36b gallons of biofuel mandated by 2020 but no government support available for the struggling cellulosic and advanced biofuel industry, there’s little doubt but that corn ethanol will continue to benefit heavily from the EISA mandate. And until such time as renewable biofuels start receiving extra help (or the corn ethnaol industry is cut off from its flow of federal cheddar), the US will be no closer to a widely-available, environmentally-responsible gasoline alternative.

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E85 Boondoggle Of The Day: GM Still Tilting At Biofuels Tue, 16 Feb 2010 18:57:34 +0000

GM is spending about $100 million a year adding flex-fuel capability to our vehicles. We can’t afford to leave this capital stranded… I think it would be very helpful if we could get government assistance. But I really want the oil industry, I want the people who are at this conference, I want the government and I want us to just work together to make ethanol a reality,

This was the message the GM’s Tom Stephens took to the Renewable Fuels Association’s National Ethanol Conference in Orlando. And though Stephens’ exhortation of the ethanol industry makes for a pleasant addition to GM’s typical ethanol message (i.e. the first sentence of the quote), it’s little more than filler. GM’s push to align itself with the ethanol industry continues unabated, as Stephens reveals that half of all GM vehicles will be flex-fuel capable by 2012. The problem is that GM reckons the country needs another 10k E85 pumps (up from the current 2k), and since the ethanol industry would effectively collapse without government support, nobody from the industry is jumping in to take responsibility for this self-serving infrastructure project.

Today’s there’s 2,200 (ethanol fuel stations) that are out there but that’s not enough. Two-thirds of the pumps are concentrated in 10 states and those 10 states have only about 19 percent of the flex-fuel vehicles that we have on the road. That’s a big problem for us.

Though Stephens can quantify the problem, and hope that the industry will fix it, he’s whistling in the wind. Even with government blending mandates and tax credits, few localities have any interest in expanding ethanol’s availability, in no small part due to its highly questionable environmental benefits (in the current corn-based form). In fact, the Southern California Association of Governments recently turned down $11m in federal grants aimed at expanding ethanol pump availability. Why? As one representative put it:

If we could prevent forest fires that’s a good thing. However, preventing forest fires by cutting down every tree in the forest might not be the way to accomplish that… You have to consider carbon emissions in your land use, you have to consider everything. That is something that has not been done by the boosters of ethanol.

Local companies confirm that without the federal grants, the pumps will not be built. If production, blending and infrastructure construction must be paid for by the government to make ethanol a viable gasoline alternative, well, how viable is it really? The irony in all this: corn use in ethanol production is actually increasing, and thanks to the new Renewable Fuel Standard proposed rules, it likely will continue to. And all because political convenience is a far more persuasive argument in Washington than mere science.

The fact that GM remains so whole-heartedly in favor of this country’s continued flirtation with the welfare queen of alternative energy will not help wash the “Government Motors” label off anytime soon.

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