Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Range Fuels Produces Cellulosic Methanol From First Commercial Cellulosic Biofuels Plant

/PRNewswire/ -- Range Fuels, Inc., a company focused on commercially producing low-carbon biofuels and clean renewable power, today announced that it has produced cellulosic methanol from the initial phase of its first commercial cellulosic biofuels plant near Soperton, Georgia using non-food biomass.

The first phase of the Soperton Plant operations employs Range Fuels' innovative, two-step thermo-chemical process, which uses heat, pressure, and steam to convert non-food biomass, such as woody biomass and grasses into a synthesis gas composed of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The syngas is then passed over a proprietary catalyst to produce mixed alcohols that are separated and processed to yield a variety of low-carbon biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol and methanol.

The cellulosic methanol produced from Phase 1 will be used to produce biodiesel, ultimately displacing diesel oil in transportation fuel markets. It may also be used to displace diesel in heating applications, used as a fuel additive in gasoline-powered motor vehicles, or used to power fuel cells. Range Fuels plans to begin production of cellulosic ethanol from the plant in the third quarter this year. The cellulosic ethanol will meet ASTM standards for fuel-grade ethanol and will be used to displace gasoline in local and regional transportation fuel markets.

"We are ecstatic to be producing cellulosic methanol from our Soperton Plant, and are on track to begin production of cellulosic ethanol in the third quarter of this year," said David Aldous, Range Fuels' President and CEO. "This milestone is a giant step in overcoming the technological and financing challenges facing the commercialization of cellulosic biofuels and positions us extremely well to expand production of cellulosic biofuels. Additionally, with the first U.S. commercial production of cellulosic biofuels from non-food biomass, Range Fuels has taken a giant step in delivering on its vision of offering solutions to the pressing global challenges of energy independence, the environment, and the economy."

The Soperton Plant will initially use woody biomass from nearby timber operations, but plans to experiment with other types of renewable biomass as feedstock for the conversion process, including herbaceous feedstocks like miscanthus and switchgrass. Range Fuels plans to expand the capacity of the plant to 60 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels annually with construction to begin next summer. The Soperton Plant is permitted to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol and methanol each year.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Announced Wood Bioenergy Projects Overstate Wood Use for Energy in the US; New Products Track Emerging Bioenergy Markets

/PRNewswire/ -- Analysis of public data by Forisk Consulting indicates a 67% success rate for announced wood-using bioenergy projects in the continental US. Projects with the highest probability of success share two requirements. One, they employ currently viable and scalable technology. Two, they demonstrate verifiable progress in planning and executing bioenergy project development. As of July 29, 2010, Forisk screened 363 announced and operating wood-consuming bioenergy projects. These projects represent potential, incremental wood use of 121 million green tons per year by 2020. Based on Forisk's screening methodology, projects representing only 68.4 million green tons per year pass basic viability screening.

"Why is this important? Because assessments of emerging wood bioenergy markets in the US that assume all projects succeed overstate likely wood use for energy by nearly 77%," says Brooks Mendell, President of Forisk. Clearly, tracking and screening bioenergy projects challenge those interested in renewable energy investments, economic development, and timberland markets. Wood Bioenergy US and Wood Bioenergy shapefiles for GIS mapping applications, two new subscription products from Forisk, solve this challenge.

"In Wood Bioenergy US, we continuously confirm, in a systematic way, that each project is moving forward and getting closer to being operational," says Amanda Lang, Managing Editor. The current issue indicates that bioenergy projects in the South comprise the largest volume of potential wood use of the three US regions, but the lowest pass rate through Forisk's screening. Southern projects representing 24 million tons - a 40% pass rate based on volume - appear viable based on current analysis. Alternately, the US North - which includes Appalachia, the Lake States and the Northeast - has the largest number, with 153 projects announced.

Wood Bioenergy US is published ten times per year. For more information, visit www.foriskstore.com and click on "Bioenergy." A monthly, complimentary Wood Bioenergy US summary is available by signing up for the Forisk News at www.forisk.com.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lawsuit: Department of Energy Hiding Risk of $8.33 Billion Taxpayer-Backed Loan Guarantee for Proposed Georgia Nuclear Reactors

/PRNewswire-/ -- U.S. taxpayers are being denied timely access to information that could be used to assess the risk to their pocketbooks posed by the controversial $8.33 billion federal loan guarantee for two proposed nuclear reactors at Southern Company's Plant Vogtle in Georgia, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). Despite the fact that the President announced the Vogtle taxpayer-financed loan guarantee on February 16, 2010 amid much fanfare, all meaningful details of the deal have remained shrouded in secrecy.

In announcing its lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), SACE was joined today by Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS). Although not a party to the lawsuit, TCS shares similar concerns about the secrecy in the DOE loan guarantee program.

SACE filed the lawsuit because of DOE's failure to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on March 25, 2010. Under FOIA, DOE was obliged to respond to the SACE request by April 22 - well in advance of when DOE and Southern finalized the loan guarantee deal on June 11, 2010. However, DOE released no documents to SACE until July 6, 2010. When DOE finally released a handful of documents relating to the Vogtle loan guarantees, they were heavily redacted, with all important details blacked out, including one that was censored 244 times with half a dozen pages nearly or entirely obscured. (To see one of the DOE-censored documents, go to http://www.cleanenergy.org/index.php?/Reports-and-Publications.html on the Web.)

The clear foot dragging and improper handling by DOE of the SACE FOIA request provide the latest proof of the validity of the criticisms set out in the July 12, 2010 U.S. Government Accountability Office report, "Further Actions Are Needed to Improve DOE's Ability to Evaluate and Implement the Loan Guarantee Program." (See http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-627.) The GAO found that the program is inadequately planned and executed, lacks objective performance goals, and provides preferential treatment to nuclear loan guarantee applications over other types of applications.

Stephen Smith, executive director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said: "This is too large a sum of taxpayer's money, being spent on too risky a project for there to be this much cover-up and secrecy. This is the first award of what could be tens of billions of dollars more in new federal subsidies for the nuclear industry - setting the precedent of hiding the financial ball from the public in round one is a bad start. We need openness and transparency. Obama's Department of Energy, Southern Company and the public power companies which are part of this cover-up need to set the record straight and tell the truth about what is going on here; that they are socializing the risk and privatizing the profits for big power companies."

Ryan Alexander, president, Taxpayers for Common Sense, said: "DOE is hiding critical information behind their back with the one hand while they have their other hand out asking for billions more in loan guarantees. They already have the authority to give out more than $18 billion for nuclear reactors and still have yet to provide any assurances that these projects are smart investments. In fact, all the evidence points to taxpayers losing big on reactors like the Vogtle project. This is unacceptable and DOE must come clean and start fully answering these information requests or lawmakers should stop the program."

Larry Sanders, acting director of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law, and an attorney for SACE, said: "In the Freedom of Information Act, Congress provided citizens a right to timely access to federal agency records. In this case, Southern Company and its partners have been awarded loan guarantees that could end up costing the federal treasury billions of dollars. Yet, in violation of the law, DOE refuses to allow public scrutiny of this subsidy to the nuclear energy industry. With billions of taxpayer dollars on the line, SACE had no choice but to file this lawsuit to force DOE to disgorge records related to the Plant Vogtle loan guarantees."

The March 25, 2010 SACE FOIA request covered such items as: the Southern Company loan guarantee; related correspondence between DOE and Southern Nuclear Operating Company, Georgia Power Company, Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Municipal Authority of Georgia, and the City of Dalton, Georgia; environmental review records related to the loan guarantee request; any credit analysis conducted by DOE in relation to the loan guarantee; all records related to the general terms and conditions of the loan guarantee; and all records related to issuance of the loan guarantee.

Of the seven areas addressed in the SACE FOIA request, DOE has failed entirely to respond to five items. DOE's partial response to two items in the request yielded only five responsive documents, months after the FOIA deadline. Most documents responsive to SACE's request remain hidden from public view. Even where the tardy responses were provided, the documents were so highly redacted as to make them largely or entirely meaningless.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gulf Area Energy Workers to Policymakers: My Job Matters

/PRNewswir/ -- Fifty independent energy industry representatives joined U.S. Senator John Cornyn (TX) and former Congressman John Peterson at a Capitol Hill press conference to urge the Obama Administration and Members of Congress to lift the moratorium on energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and resist efforts to raise taxes on U.S. energy companies. The event, which took place this morning, was organized by Save U.S. Energy Jobs, a project of the American Energy Alliance.

"My job matters," Thomas Clements a small business owner from Broussard, Louisiana, said. "So I've come to Washington to find somebody to hear me, to see my hopelessness, my no-man's-land that I'm in because of these proposed tax changes to the energy industry and the moratorium. I hope that Congress listens to us and protects American jobs."

Thomas and his wife, Melissa, are co-owners of Oilfield CNC Machining. They opened their business at the end of 2008 with a focus on producing quality metal parts for oilfield equipment used on offshore drilling rigs. With a year under their belts, the Clements were hoping that 2010 would be a breakout year for their new company. They were looking to hire more workers and expand their facility workspace. Although the oil spill in April 2010 and the initial 30-day moratorium put a damper on things, they weren't going to let that keep them down. But when the six month moratorium was issued their business came to a complete halt. Every order was cancelled. Now they are worried that taxes on American energy companies could harm the entire U.S. energy industry.

The Clements are just one tragic story.

Today more than fifty Gulf area residents came to Washington to share their perspectives. They're here to tell their representatives, "My Job Matters" and to ask their elected officials to lift the moratorium on energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and to not support changes to the tax code that would unfairly harm American energy companies.

According to a recent study released by Louisiana State University professor Dr. Joseph Mason, the six month moratorium will cost the Gulf region more than 8,000 jobs and more than $2.1 billion in economic activity. And if the moratorium is extended - the consequences could be much, much worse.

In addition to the current moratorium, President Obama and Members of Congress have not ruled out extending the moratorium and have also suggested repealing two provisions of the tax code that would raise taxes on U.S. based energy companies. One of these taxes would amount to a double taxation on American energy companies, hurting U.S. companies and acting as a de-facto bailout to foreign owned ones. Policymakers are also considering raising the cap on liabilities for energy companies - making their work unsustainable. Any of these new laws would do irreparable harm to American energy companies, raise the price of energy for consumers, weaken our nation's energy security, and kill U.S. jobs.

"In an economy like this, the President and Congress should be looking for ways to strengthen U.S. businesses, not weaken them," Thomas J. Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, said. "I'm proud that these hardworking small business owners are fighting for American energy jobs."

Following the press conference, the Gulf Coast residents fanned out across Capitol Hill to meet with their representatives in Congress and staffs.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nationwide Low-Carbon Fuel Standard Would Increase Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Study Finds

/PRNewswire/ -- The implementation of a nationwide low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) in the United States would increase global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 19 million metric tons each year - contradicting the claim of LCFS advocates that the standard would reduce such emissions - according to a study issued today.

The study assumes that because an LCFS would prevent American refineries from importing petroleum obtained from oil sands in neighboring Western Canada, the United States would instead have to import more oil in tankers from the Middle East and elsewhere. At the same time, the Canadian oil would be shipped in tankers across the Pacific to China and other Asian locations.

The study calls this long-distance movement of oil thousands of miles around the world in tankers a "shuffle" that would result in higher carbon dioxide emissions than simply extracting the Canadian petroleum from the oil sands for U.S. consumption, due to emissions created by shipping the oil such great distances.

Barr Engineering Company of Minneapolis conducted the study for members of NPRA, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.

"In conducting this technical study, we looked at the most accurate data publicly available, and the conclusion was clear," said Joel Trinkle, senior air quality consultant at Barr and one of the authors of the study. "Crude shuffling under a nationwide LCFS would substantially raise overall greenhouse gas emissions."

The study found that:

-- "A LCFS implemented in the U.S. results in a notable increase in
greenhouse gas emissions due to the displacement of Canadian crude
imports to the U.S. and re-routing of crude imports and exports to
accommodate this displacement. ... Nearby Canadian crude sources
would be diverted to regions not affected by LCFS and replaced with
supplies from distant parts of the world." (Page 2)
-- "While it is likely that LCFS would change the mix of crude imports to
the United States, LCFS implemented in the United States is not
expected to change overall trends in energy use and demand for crude
resources throughout the rest of the world. A shift in U.S.
crude-supply preferences will simply cause redirection of crude
supplies elsewhere." (Page 4-5)
-- "This analysis of the change in crude-transport-related emissions
accompanying implementation of a LCFS indicates that the net effect
will be a doubling of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions associated with
changes in crude-transport patterns. It indicates an increase in
global GHG emissions by 7.1 to 19.0 million metric tons per year,
depending on the extent of resulting Canadian crude displacement."
(Page 3)


Canada is currently the largest supplier of petroleum imported into the United States, but other nations are looking to the Canadian oil sands as a potential energy source. China alone has already invested more than $6 billion in Canadian oil sands projects as it continues to rapidly increase its presence in overseas energy production.

"By denying the American people access to oil from our friendly neighbor Canada, a low-carbon fuel standard would raise fuel costs and wipe out millions of American jobs," said NPRA President Charles T. Drevna. "Now this latest study shows that a nationwide LCFS won't reduce overall global greenhouse gas emissions - it will actually raise them. These findings simply reinforce NPRA's long-held belief that a federal low-carbon fuel standard is a policy of all pain and no gain."

Additional concerns regarding American access to Canadian oil sands resources have surfaced following a recent U.S. State Department decision regarding a proposed pipeline to transport Canadian crude to refineries in the Gulf Coast region. The decision will allow federal agencies an additional 90 days to comment on TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL project, pending the State Department's release of a final environmental impact statement. The proposed pipeline expansion would more than double the amount of Canadian crude imported to the United States.

Several regional and state LCFS initiatives are currently underway, including a statewide LCFS program in California established as part of the state's AB 32 climate law, and proponents of a federal LCFS continue to seek its enactment.

A federal LCFS provision was included in the 2008 Lieberman-Warner climate change bill that was defeated in the Senate. The 2009 Waxman-Markey climate change bill also contained an LCFS provision, although it was removed before the bill was passed by the House.

Two other recent studies cast additional doubt on the efficacy of low-carbon fuel standards:

-- A June 2010 report by Charles River Associates found that a nationwide
LCFS implemented in 2015 would result by 2025 in: the loss of between
2.3 million and 4.5 million American jobs; an increase of up to 170
percent in the price of gasoline and diesel fuel; and a 2 to 3 percent
decrease in the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (totaling between $410
billion and $750 billion).
-- A report by the Canadian Energy Research Institute issued in October
2009 examined the impacts of developing Canadian oil sands on the U.S.
economy. It found that such development - which would be threatened by
the implementation of a nationwide LCFS in the United States - would
result in an estimated 343,000 new U.S. jobs between 2011 and 2015,
and that U.S. output of goods and services would increase by an
average of $62 billion per year from 2009 through 2025.

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