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Alternative Energy / Biofuels

  • Do Biofuels Still Have A Place In The Global Energy Mix?

    Less than a decade ago, biofuels were set to take the energy world by storm. They promised a low-carbon alternative to gasoline, while advances in algae technology were taking biofuels beyond the traditional soybeans and corn. In 2015, the contrast could not be starker. The new frontier of biofuel technology has all but disappeared off the energy agenda, while opposition to traditional biofuels has only grown. The overarching question now is whether biofuels have a place in a sustainable energy future and what role should they play? The debate over the negative impact of ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel is not…

  • How A Yeast Cell Could Transform The Biofuel Industry

    Researchers at the University of Texas have engineered a yeast cell that transforms sugar into biofuel to improve its yield and make it more competitive with conventional fuels. Building on its previous research developing the special strain of yeast, the team under Associate Professor Hal Alper combined metabolic engineering and directed evolution to identify and cultivate high-performing cells that produce 1.6 times as many fuel substitutes in a shorter time. “This significant improvement in our cell-based platform enables these cells to compete in the biofuels industry,” Alper said in announcing the development. “We have moved to concentration values that begin…

  • New Report Destroys Biofuel Claims

    Despite their promise over the past decade or so, biofuels have been found to be a very inefficient way to generate energy, are bad for the environment and even contribute to world hunger, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI). In fact none of these conclusions is new. Research into biofuels for years has focused on making them more potent. And no one has ever thought cutting down trees, for example, is good for the environment, even if more trees can be grown. And as for nutrition, who benefits more from corn: a hungry child or…

  • Ethanol Producers Poised To Gain From Oil Price Drop

    Energy stockholders have been watching in horror as their investments tank and those with a short time frame are considering cutting their losses, as the oil price rout looks certain to continue into 2015 and possibly beyond. But one area that could be poised to withstand the oil price carnage and might even toss out some gains for investors is the sector that produces an important, yet controversial element of gasoline: ethanol. As the prices of oil and gasoline have plummeted, so has ethanol, taking ethanol equities down with it. While that may seem like a good time to hit…

  • New Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Commercializes Renewable Fuel

    A new factory that hopes to break oil’s stranglehold over America’s transportation sector has just opened its doors in Iowa.The $275 million factory will churn out ethanol – a renewable fuel that can be blended directly with gasoline and used normally in cars and trucks. However, this factory won’t produce traditional ethanol, which is made from corn. Instead, it will use farm waste from left over corn stalks, husks, corncobs, and leaves. Dubbed Project Liberty, the new cellulosic ethanol factory in Iowa promises a “new era” for renewable fuels. It is the second commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant to be constructed…

  • The Global Outlook For Biofuels

    Introduction to the GSRToday I want to take a deep look at the global biofuels picture, drawing mainly from the Renewables 2014 Global Status Report (GSR) that was released in June by REN21, the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century. I had intended to draw data primarily from the recently released Statistical Review of World Energy 2014, but I believe that the GSR is the most comprehensive report available when it comes to the global renewable energy picture. The GSR has more complete renewable energy data than the BP Statistical Review, but both reports complement each other. Full…

  • Rethink Biofuel Sources, Not Biofuels Subsidies

    The world’s foremost economic authorities are divided as to whether the planting of conventional crops to produce biofuels makes sense. Some say that the amount of money and resources poured into growing corn, rapeseed, jatropha, sugarcane and other plants for biofuels is wasted -- that it takes away land needed for food production, creates more emissions than it saves, and has caused food prices to go up worldwide. Others say that if the price of food crops includes the cost of linked oil production, then biofuels are still cheaper, that certain biofuel crops have not been fully tested and that…

  • Why Biodiesel May Not Be The Miracle Fuel You Think

    Nine years ago, U.S. President George W. Bush passed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) with the goal of lessening America's dependence on foreign oil supplies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.The RFS mandated that a certain percentage of transportation fuel sold in the U.S. contain ethanol, which is mostly produced from corn. Two years later, the standard was expanded to include biodiesel, derived from vegetable oils such as rapeseed or palm oils.With more retailers being incented to offer biodiesel, and regular diesel becoming nearly extinct for owners of diesel-fueled cars, it is important to ask whether biodiesel actually helps or harms…

  • Biofuel Industry Presses White House To Strengthen Renewable Fuel Program

    The White House is expected to issue goals soon for the country’s use of renewable fuels during 2014 and its coming under pressure from the biofuels industry and some Democratic senators to set higher long-term objectives.The Renewable Fuel Standard calls for gradually raising the proportion of biofuels mixed in with gasoline and diesel fuel every year through 2022. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to increase the amount of corn ethanol to about 13.6 billion gallons from the current level of 13 billion gallons set in November 2013.But biofuel industry officials say the EPA’s longer-term plans are to limit…

  • US Restaurants Join Anti-Ethanol Mandate Rally

    The ethanol industry, already reeling from a draft plan for cuts in the ethanol mandate for this year, will now face more pressure as everyone from conservatives and environmental activists to restaurant chains pool their resources to lobby for more cuts.In November, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposal to reduce the ethanol and biofuels mandate for 2014 and now a new coalition of the unlikely, which includes industry groups, the Clean Air Task Force and even the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR) are pushing lawmakers to ensure more cuts. For restaurant chains such as Pizza Hut and…