Weekly Resource for December 9, 2011
Level the Playing Field for All Energy Sources
Amid the political clamor surrounding congressional efforts to cut federal spending over the next decade and reduce the nation’s deficit, the ethanol industry has conceded that a seven-year subsidy benefiting the sector will end Dec. 31. Elsewhere, Congress has significantly cut back funding for a number of 2008 Farm Bill energy title programs in recently enacted 2012 appropriations measures.
Further cuts are also expected in funding support for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs undertaken by the DOE when Congress takes up those appropriations measures. As Congress faces a Dec. 16th deadline to reach agreement on remaining federal budgets for the current fiscal year or face a government shutdown, it's a good time to assess the inordinate sacrifices the renewable energy sector has made to ease the burden on U.S. taxpayers. And it is an appropriate time to ask other players in the energy sector just what they are willing to offer in the struggle to bring our deficit spending under control and draw down our national debt. Read more…

News of Note

Navy, USDA Announce Major Advanced Biofuels Purchase

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week that the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) signed a contract to purchase 450,000 gallons of advanced drop-in biofuel, the single largest purchase of biofuel in government history. While the Navy fleet alone uses more than 1.26 billion gallons of fuel each year, the latest biofuel purchase accelerates the development and demonstration of a homegrown fuel source that can reduce America's, and the military's, dependence on foreign oil, the officials said.
The Defense Department will purchase biofuel made from a blend of non-food waste (used cooking oil) from the Louisiana-based Dynamic Fuels, LLC, a joint-venture of Tyson Foods, Inc. and Syntroleum Corporation, and algae, produced by Solazyme. The fuel will be used in the Navy’s demonstration of a Green Strike Group next summer during the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world's largest international maritime exercise.

The announcement, Mabus and Vilsack said, furthers "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future," a 2010 presidential directive calling on the departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy to work together to advance a domestic industry capable of producing “drop-in” biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel. As part of the presidential blueprint, the secretaries of Agriculture, Energy and Navy earlier this year announced plans to invest up to $510 million over the next three years in partnership with the private sector to produce advanced drop-in biofuel to power military and commercial transportation. While that investment awaits congressional action, this week's biofuel purchase uses existing authority – leveraging Defense Department procurement – to support the energy security goal.

The biofuel will be mixed with aviation gas or marine diesel fuel for use in the Green Strike Group demonstration. It is a drop-in fuel, which means that no modifications to the engines are required to burn the fuel. Its cultivation did not interfere with food supply and burning the fuel does not increase the net carbon footprint. In preparation for this demonstration, the Navy recently completed testing of all aircraft, including the F/A-18, all six blue Angels and the V-22 Osprey, and has successfully tested the RCB-X (Riverine Command Boat), training patrol craft, Self Defense Test Ship, and conducted full-scale gas turbine engine testing.

At $15 per gallon, DLA will pay half the price for the Green Strike Group biofuel than it paid for biofuel for testing in 2009, and defense officials say increased demand will likely continue this trend toward more cost-effective biofuel. Renewable jet fuel produced by Dynamic Fuels has already been used in regularly scheduled commercial airline flights by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Finnair, Thomson Airways, and Alaska Airlines.

"This contract clearly demonstrates that we're building momentum for the continued commercialization of advanced renewable fuels production here in the U.S.," said Andy Rojeski, a management committee member for Dynamic Fuels. "We believe the federal government's commitment to procure more energy from renewable sources will help make our high performance, environmentally friendly fuel more cost competitive, potentially creating more jobs in the biofuels industry."

For more information, click

Vilsack Says Now is Not the Time to Become 'Risk-Averse'

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the failure of a cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia last week should not prevent USDA from assisting new biofuel industries. The Range Fuel plant in Soperton, Ga., designed to produce transportation fuel made from wood residues, has defaulted and been shuttered and put up for auction by its principal creditor.

In a media call announcing a large biofuel purchase for the Navy, Vilsack said that with more than 300 facilities in the country producing some form of biofuels, "Obviously, there are going to be circumstances with new technologies that may not work." However, Vilsack said, "I don’t think we want to get to the point where we are totally risk-averse here. This country was built by risk-takers, not by those who avoid risk."

In response to the Range Fuel closure, a USDA spokesman late last week said the department “has a long history of successful lending that supports rural homeowners, business owners, utilities and cooperatives, and over 90 percent of USDA’s loans are successfully repaid.”

The Range Fuels plant was one of six projects across the country receiving Bioenergy Assistance Program loan guarantees since 2009. The latest development came last month when the department closed on an 80% guarantee of a $54.5 million loan to construct a Sapphire Energy facility in New Mexico that is expected to annually produce 150 million gallons “green crude” oil from algae that can be refined into transportation fuel.

While some farm energy stakeholders fear a reaction to the Range Fuels failure similar to that from those in Congress who heavily criticized the Obama administration for the DOE’s 2009 guarantee on a $536 million for recently failed Solyndra, Vilsack said his department will continue to assist the advanced biofuels industry.

Vilsack acknowledged “slight reductions” made to farm energy programs in recent appropriations measures adopted by Congress, but “none that would make our work more difficult. For the most part, our programs are intact. We still have resources under the 2008 Farm Bill,” he said. “We are still in a good position to be of assistance to this industry.” He said announcements of additional projects targeted for Biorefinery Assistance Program loan guarantees are pending.

DOE Seeks to Remove Industry Barriers to National Labs, Commercializing Technology
The DOE this week announced a new pilot initiative to reduce some of the hurdles that prevent companies from working with the department's national laboratories. The new Agreements for Commercializing Technology (ACT) will help businesses bring job-creating technologies to the market faster by allowing them to work with the DOE's national laboratories from start to finish to develop and deliver new clean energy technologies and other innovations.

"To compete in the 21st global economy, we need to make it easier for businesses to move great ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace," said Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman. "The Agreements for Commercializing Technology will cut red tape for businesses and start-ups interested in working with our nation’s crown jewels of innovation, the national laboratories, and strengthen new domestic industries by helping bring innovative, job-creating technologies to the market faster."

In January, the Department will announce the laboratories selected to participate in the pilot. The initiative is expected to remove barriers for businesses and startup companies that are interested in accessing the research, facilities, and scientists available at the laboratories, pushing new products to the marketplace.

ACT is part of DOE’s broader efforts to unleash American innovation by reducing barriers so industry can more easily work with our national labs, officials say. In March, DOE launched “America's Next Top Energy Innovators Challenge," which gives start-up companies access to the Energy Department's thousands of unlicensed patents at a greatly reduced cost and paperwork.

Last week, the Department also announced the Rooftop Solar Challenge, which allocates $12 million to support 22 regional teams competing to spur solar power deployment by cutting red tape   streamlining and standardizing permitting, zoning, metering, and connection processes   and improving finance options to reduce barriers and lower costs for residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems.

Addressing input from industries based on their experience working with the laboratories, ACT authorizes a more flexible framework for negotiation of intellectual property (IP) rights to facilitate getting technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. It also allows contractors operating national laboratories to partner with businesses using terms that are better aligned with industry practice, attracting more private investment. And the initiative allows national laboratories to participate in groups formed to address complex technological challenges that are of mutual interest.

For an FAQ on ACT, click

AWEA, ASCE Team Up On Uniform Practices, Standards for Wind Turbine Structures

Seeking a benchmark that could lead to more efficient permitting for wind turbine equipment, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) signed a joint agreement establishing a framework for the two organizations to administer recommended permitting practices and still-to-be-developed standards for wind turbine structures, including towers and foundations.

AWEA and ASCE plan to jointly issue recommended procedures for issuing permits for large wind turbine structures in the United States, an initiative of the AWEA Standards Development Board. The agreement will also govern the management and release of new wind turbine structural standards that may be developed under a voluntary consensus standards process accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

The consensus standards process would follow the ASCE standards development procedures and tap both wind energy and structural expert volunteers in the development of any new wind turbine structural standards. Both the recommended practices and any new standards are expected to increase efficiencies in the permitting of large, land-based wind turbines, reducing time and costs associated with the process.

"AWEA is excited to work with ASCE in advancing our evolving and growing industry," said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. "Through this agreement, the two organizations will engage wind and structural technical experts to develop permitting recommended guidelines and new standards to help drive our dynamic industry forward. This is just one more indication of how wind power is a mature and mainstream technology, providing 35 percent of all new electric generating capacity installed between 2007 and 2010."

"ASCE is committed through policy and actions to engineering and development that leads to environmentally, economically and socially sustainable natural and built environment," said ASCE Executive Director Patrick Natale, P.E., F.ASCE. "By working together, we know we can increase efficiencies in the turbine permitting process and further advance this exciting industry in order to meet future energy needs."

Farm Credit Supports 25x'25 Alliance with Renewable Energy Grant

Farm Credit has awarded the 25x'25 Alliance with a $50,000 grant to help continue its efforts to build consensus on stable, comprehensive energy policies that make use of energy solutions from our nation’s farms, ranches and forestlands.

The Farm Credit grant also will help enable the Alliance to continue its efforts in bringing together feedstock producers, technology providers and special interests groups to explore pathways to a clean and secure energy future. Furthermore, Farm Credit’s support reinforces the Alliance’s efforts to overcome differences among renewable fuel groups, bioenergy feedstock providers, animal agriculture stakeholders and other natural allies that can participate and benefit from a 25x’25 future.

Alliance efforts are aimed at reframing the national energy conversation from discussions of cost and sacrifice to ones highlighting how clean energy solutions from farms, ranches and forests will create jobs, drive economic development, improve national security and provide valuable ecosystem services, says project coordinator Ernie Shea.

"The Farm Credit System’s financial performance will be directly impacted by the degree to which agricultural- and forestry- based energy solutions are integrated into America’s energy future," Shea said. "The Alliance is extremely grateful for this financial support. Farm Credit is helping to maximize the role of the agriculture and forest sectors in our nation’s evolving clean energy future."

"Farm Credit’s mission is to support agriculture and rural America, and the 25x’25 mission aligns with that in many ways," said Christina Bowen, national contributions director for Farm Credit.

Headlines of Note for the Week Ending December 9, 2011

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