Weekly Resource for September 2, 2011
Extreme Weather Underscores Need for Adaptation Strategy
The casual question of “How’s the weather there?” has elicited answers in this country that read like the script of a Hollywood-produced natural-disaster movie. Extreme weather - extensive drought, prolonged heat waves, tornadoes and flooding - has hit the United States to an unprecedented degree. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said recently that nine $1 billion-plus weather disasters have been recorded this year, tying a record set just three years ago.
And that NOAA estimate doesn’t even take into account the damages left by Hurricane Irene along the East Coast last week. Putting aside the causes of the recently experienced extreme weather, the 25x’25 Alliance believes that a changing ecosystem poses a serious threat to meeting the alliance’s goal of providing 25 percent of our nation's energy from farms, forests, and ranches by the year 2025, all while continuing to meet the world’s food, feed, and fiber needs. The extreme weather underscores the importance of a 25x’25 Adaptation Work Group composed of agriculture, forestry, business, academic, and conservation leaders who are exploring the anticipated impacts of climate change on the agriculture and forestry sectors. The Work Group is developing for release early next year a prioritized series of recommendations to mitigate negative outcomes and identify those areas where additional research is needed in order to shape future decision-making. Read more…

News of Note

LEAD STORY: USDA to Give Rural Transmission, 'Smart' Grid a Boost in 17 States

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week announced that rural electric cooperative utilities will receive funding for smart grid technologies and improvements to generation and transmission facilities. More than $900 million in loans will benefit more than 19,000 rural consumers in 14 states. The loans are provided by USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to help electric utilities upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural America's electric infrastructure. RUS funding will help build nearly 1,500 miles of line and improve more than 1,700 miles of existing line in rural areas.

More than $19 million will finance smart grid technologies. USDA Rural Development also funds energy conservation and renewable energy projects. "Rural electric cooperatives provide direct jobs and support economic growth in our rural communities," Vilsack said. "By financing electrical system improvements, USDA and the Obama Administration help ensure sustainable growth and business job creation. Investments in smart grid technologies will give rural electric utilities and their consumers one more tool to better manage use of electricity, increase reliability and lower costs." For more information and a list of projects, click

Global Biofuel Production Reaches Record High
Global production of biofuels increased 17 percent in 2010 to reach an all-time high of about 27.7 billion gallons, up from almost 23.8 billion gallons in 2009. High oil prices, a global economic rebound, and new laws and mandates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, and the United States, among other countries, are all factors behind the surge in production, according to research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute's Climate and Energy Program.

The United States and Brazil remain the two largest producers of ethanol. In 2010, the United States generated 12.9 billion gallons, while Brazil produced almost 6.1 billion gallons. Corn is the primary feedstock for U.S. ethanol, and sugarcane is the dominant source of ethanol in Brazil.

Legislation proposed in the Senate (but facing a slim chance of passing) would cut current ethanol production subsidies, but maintain tax credits for related infrastructure such as blender pumps at filling stations. Worldwatch says that if the U.S. blenders' tax credit and the ethanol import tariff expire at the end of this year, as scheduled, sugarcane ethanol from Brazil will likely become more prevalent. Although sugarcane ethanol has the benefit of being cheaper and more efficient to produce, there are concerns that increased production will speed deforestation in Brazil as more land is cleared for feedstock cultivation.

Florida Biofuels-from-Waste Facility Gets $75 million Loan Guarantee
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week that USDA's Rural Development issued a $75 million loan guarantee to support the construction of a waste-to-energy bioprocessing facility in Vero Beach, FL. The plant is expected to produce up to 8 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year and create an estimated 380 new jobs. Vilsack toured the facility last week.

"Over the past two years, USDA has worked to help our nation develop a national biofuels economy that continues to help us grow and out-compete the rest of the world," said Vilsack. "In the months ahead, USDA will continue to work with federal partners like the Department of Energy, the U.S. Navy and the Federal Aviation Administration to improve our country's energy security and provide sustainable jobs in communities across the country." Vilsack said the Florida plan and others like it across the country represent the innovation needed to build a "competitively-priced, American-made, homegrown biofuels industry that helps to break our dependence on foreign oil and moves our nation toward a clean energy economy."

The INEOS New Plant Energy LLC plant, which is expected to be completed by the summer of 2012, will use a gas fermentation process to produce cellulosic ethanol from citrus fruit, vegetable and yard wastes. The plant will consume an estimated 300 dry tons per day of organic material and, in addition to ethanol, produce enough electricity to run the plant and provide for the power needs of 1,400 homes. It is estimated that the facility will create 380 jobs, including 175 construction jobs and 50 full-time jobs in Indian River County, FL. Compared to gasoline, the ethanol produced by the plant is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 90 percent. For more information, click

Energy Department to Fund 'Drop-In' Biofuel Projects
The DOE this week announced up to $12 million to fund three small-scale projects in Illinois, Wisconsin, and North Carolina that aim to commercialize novel conversion technologies to accelerate the development of advanced, drop-in biofuels and other valuable bio-based chemicals. Drop-in biofuels are fuels that can serve as direct replacements or supplements to existing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels, without any changes to existing fuel distribution networks or engines, and have the potential to significantly reduce U.S. reliance on oil imports.

The projects, funded through DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, seek to accelerate research and development that department officials say will lead toward affordable, clean alternatives to fossil fuels and diversify the nation's energy portfolio.

"Producing advanced, drop-in biofuels in the U.S. will reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and support development of a new industry that will create jobs in rural communities across the country," said Secretary Chu. "These investments aim to accelerate the discovery of innovative solutions that could drive down the cost of biofuels production and boost their availability in the marketplace."

Using what the DOE says are "innovative" thermochemical processes, the projects will help to improve the economics and efficiency of turning biomass into replacements for petroleum-based gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other products. Thermochemical processes use heat and catalysts to convert biomass, in a controlled industrial environment, into liquid and gaseous intermediates—or substances formed as a necessary stage in manufacturing an end product—which can then be chemically converted into fuels and other products. For more information, click

Headlines of Note for the Week Ending September 2, 2011

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