The Dernogalizer

July 26, 2010

Algae as a Biofuel

Filed under: energy — Matt Dernoga @ 10:25 pm
Tags: , ,

Algae strikes me as having incredible potential to displace oil and an environmentally friendly way, but first we need to bring our science and technology up to speed enough to produce a fuel from algae at an affordable price.  Check out this article in the NY Times Business section about research efforts to harvest algae for our fuel use.  Below is an excerpt from the article

“The goal is nothing less than to create superalgae, highly efficient at converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into lipids and oils that can be sent to a refinery and made into diesel or jet fuel.

“We’ve probably engineered over 4,000 strains,” said Mike Mendez, a co-founder and vice president for technology at Sapphire Energy, the owner of the laboratory. “My whole goal here at Sapphire is to domesticate algae, to make it a crop.”

Dozens of companies, as well as many academic laboratories, are pursuing the same goal — to produce algae as a source of, literally, green energy. And many of them are using genetic engineering or other biological techniques, like chemically induced mutations, to improve how algae functions.

“There are probably well over 100 academic efforts to use genetic engineering to optimize biofuel production from algae,” said Matthew C. Posewitz, an assistant professor of chemistry at the Colorado School of Mines, who has written a review of the field. “There’s just intense interest globally.”

Algae are attracting attention because the strains can potentially produce 10 or more times more fuel per acre than the corn used to make ethanol or the soybeans used to make biodiesel. Moreover, algae might be grown on arid land and brackish water, so that fuel production would not compete with food production. And algae are voracious consumers of carbon dioxide, potentially helping to keep some of this greenhouse gas from contributing to global warming.”

June 30, 2010

Punching Back Against Ethanol

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 10:29 pm
Tags: , ,

I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of commercials on television promoting corn ethanol to take advantage of the BP oil spill.  Friends of the Earth punches back in this video.

April 6, 2010

Congressman Collin Peterson is Biofool of the Year

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 4:53 pm
Tags: , ,

This was done by Friends of the Earth!

press release

Congressman recognized for to giving billions in subsidies to dirty and inefficient biofuel companies

Washington, D.C. Congressman Collin Peterson, chairman of the powerful House Agriculture Committee, prevailed against tough competition to receive Friends of the Earth’s annual Biofool of the Year award, which was delivered to his office on Monday.

With almost 2,300 votes, Chairman Peterson was the clear winner amongst the five nominees. His past Biofoolery includes: demanding that the EPA stop factoring deforestation into environmental impact assessments of biofuels, trying to exempt dirty biofuels from key global warming standards, and trying to open forests and natural areas for biofuels exploitation.

Friends of the Earth Energy Policy Campaigner Kate McMahon had the following comment:

“It is no surprise that Rep. Peterson won the Biofool of the Year award.Over the past year, he has consistently attacked safeguards against pollution from biofuels despite overwhelming evidence that today’s biofuels are bad for the environment and contribute to food insecurity.”

Peterson is currently co-sponsoring H.R. 4940, which extends billions of dollars in tax credits to oil companies for conventional corn ethanol production, despite scientific analysis indicating that corn ethanol creates more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. Corn ethanol also contributes to water pollution, habitat destruction, soil erosion and health issues from pesticide and herbicide use.

Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica joined McMahon to present Congressman Peterson with a certificate, a congratulatory petition signed by over 700 people, and a celebratory can of corn. A video of the presentation is available at:

Friends of the Earth’s annual Biofool of the Year Award was established to recognize leaders that promote dirty biofuels. The 2009 winner was Hugh Grant of Monsanto.

February 17, 2010

Economics Improve for First Commercial Cellulosic Ethanol Plants

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:29 pm
Tags: ,

This struck me as a noteworthy development in the ethanol arena.  From Jessica Leber of ClimateWire, which can be found here.  Excerpts below.

“Many cellulosic fuel producers are working with enzymes to break down tough, inedible plant parts, such as corncobs or switch grass, into simpler sugars that can be fermented to ethanol. Now enzyme companies say they are near to breaking down another tough obstacle: the cost of enzymes that will make the next generation of low-carbon fuels.”

“Novozymes, the world’s largest industrial enzyme producer, today launched a new line it says will yield ethanol from plant wastes at an enzyme price of about 50 cents a gallon. The latest product of a decade of research, this marks an 80 percent price drop from two years ago, according to Global Marketing Director Poul Ruben Andersen.

The advances, Andersen said, will help bring cellulosic ethanol production prices to under $2 a gallon by 2011, a cost on par with both corn-based ethanol and gasoline at current U.S. market prices.”

“That capacity, though nearer than ever, has long been a future prospect. Next year, the nation’s first commercial-sized plants are expected to open their doors. Among the climate benefits experts see are that the use of corn stover and other waste products rather than corn will cut the need for fertilizer, plowing and other greenhouse gas-producing steps currently used to make ethanol.”

“Genencor’s Lavielle cautioned that the 50-cent-per-gallon estimate for the cost of cellulosic ethanol is closely tied to the particulars and efficiencies of the production process. He said that, over the next several years, the company hopes to halve the enzyme costs again, to 20 or 30 cents a gallon of fuel.

Doing that, said Lavielle, will require larger production scales. Both Novozymes and Genencor have plans to ramp up their enzyme production in the next several years as cellulosic producers grow their demand. “I can assure you that the enzymes will not cost the same from one plant to another for quite a long time, until all these processes have shaken out,” Lavielle said.”

April 8, 2009

Airlines Demand to be Regulated?!?!

Filed under: Climate Change — Matt Dernoga @ 10:40 pm
Tags: , , ,

I mean I’m real glad to read this.  It’s kind of like “well if it’s good enough for them….I don’t want to hear anyone else complaining”.  So four of the largest airlines in the world have asked for a global cap and trade scheme that would regulate and put a price on their carbon emissions.  HERE is the link.  Story is also posted below.

Airlines want governments to be stricter on emissions

They may be an unlikely green lobby, but four of the world’s largest airline companies have called on governments to be stricter with them.

British Airways, Air France-KLM, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic have joined forces with the British Airports Authority and The Climate Group, a policy consultancy, in a proposal for a global cap-and-trade scheme that would regulate airline emissions.

The airlines want their proposal to be included in the next global emissions agreement, scheduled to be signed in December. The move was announced at the close of 10 days of climate negotiations held in Bonn, Germany, this week.

The UN estimates air transport is responsible for roughly 3 per cent of human greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Without action, its share could rise to 15 per cent by 2050. Yet the industry is not yet required to reduce its emissions – even under the Kyoto protocol.

The European Union and the US have each discussed independently regulating aviation emissions. But Paul Steele, executive director of the Air Transport Action Group says the industry would rather governments “take a global approach for aviation rather than the current patchwork of national and regional emissions management schemes”.

A spokesperson for Greenpeace told New Scientist the organisation felt the first priority for the transport industry should be to stop expanding. The airlines hope stricter regulations could stimulate the adoption of greener aviation fuels, such as biofuels.

March 27, 2009

Algae to Biofuels for a Healthier Bay

Filed under: energy — Matt Dernoga @ 9:36 pm
Tags: , ,

There’s a very in depth and interesting article in Chesapeake Quarterly about a way of using algae to help clean the Chesapeake while at the same time being used to make biofuels.  Definitely worth the read!

Some excerpts are below:

“Walter Adey sees this pollution chokepoint at the Susquehanna River in a unique light. For him, the neck of the funnel represents a golden opportunity to set things right for the Chesapeake. This veteran ecologist from the Smithsonian Institution has a bold idea, one more than 30 years in the making. His concept could rid Susquehanna River water of excess phosphorus and nitrogen before it enters the Bay and inject oxygen into bottom waters at the same time. He’s calculated that his approach would cost a lot less than current estimates for cleaning up nutrients in the watershed”

“the goal of their project is ambitious: Harness the power of fast-growing, photosynthesizing algae to take up nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from polluted water. In turn, let the algae pump the water full of oxygen. Then vacuum up the algae and feed it to a reactor for making a biofuel — in this case, butanol. Clean the Bay, tap into an emerging market for alternative energy, and create a revenue stream to drive the clean-up effort — all in one fell swoop.”

“They also remove or sequester carbon from the atmosphere and release oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis. Algae grow fast and are 5 to 10 times more efficient at photosynthesis than their more complex plant cousins. To keep photosynthetic rates high, the algae must be harvested every 6 to 12 days, which maintains their peak growth rate. These frequent harvests also mean that plenty of algae become available as raw material for producing a biofuel.”

“A Maryland-based company, Living Ecosystems, founded by Adey’s former graduate student Tim Goertemiller, has built its business constructing and selling Algal Turf Scrubber systems. Now they’re expanding the enterprise to become a “lawn service” for algae harvesting, beginning with the project on the Susquehanna River and another pilot project on the Eastern Shore. They don’t have many algae customers yet, but they’re hoping for business to grow.

“The notion of job creation is real. We’re trying to build an economy, not just an academic experiment,” says Kangas. Adey and Kangas hope that producing a biofuel will be the key driver that sets this new economy into motion.”

February 13, 2009

New Biofuels Policy Needed

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 11:02 pm
Tags: ,

A bunch of environmental groups have proposed a platform for how the country’s biofuels policy should be structured and changed. Biofuels have always been an interesting topic since our current experiences with them(ethanol anyone?) have been quite unfavorable. However, they possess enormous potential depending on their source and how they are created. Link is below, and I’m cross-posting the platform below as well.


Finding ways to reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions while producing enough energy to support economic development worldwide is this century’s preeminent challenge. We must meet this challenge while simultaneously reducing environmental degradation, poverty and hunger. The United States must make a sustained commitment to invest in and develop renewable energy sources that contribute to meeting these challenges.

Support for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and other biofuel subsidies has been based on the premise that biofuels will: decrease greenhouse gas emissions and thus the devastating effects of global warming; decrease our reliance on foreign oil; decrease the price of gasoline; and bolster US agriculture. US biofuels policy is not achieving these goals, nor is it rationally designed to so do. Instead, we are spending billions of dollars in tax credits and infrastructure development for biofuels that: increase greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbate other serious environmental and public health challenges; contribute to the global food crisis; insignificantly impact oil consumption and do little or nothing to lower transportation costs; and favor some parts of the farm sector at the direct expense of others.

New scientific evidence indicates that biofuel production and use results in a net increase of greenhouse gas emissions when compared to petroleum-based fuels. When full life-cycle effects are taken into account, such as the nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer used to grow corn and the massive amounts of carbon released as forest and grassland are directly or indirectly converted for biofuel feedstock production, biofuels (including corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass, and soy biodiesel) have been found to exacerbate global warming.

In addition, global stocks of food grains and edible oils are at historic lows, threatening the world’s most vulnerable people, including the poor and hungry in the United States. Conventional biofuel production also exacerbates soil degradation, water and air pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Also, conventional biofuels have a miniscule effect on fossil fuel use and practically no effect on the cost of driving. Meanwhile, US taxpayers pay billions of dollars annually in tax credits for biofuels, and our imports of foreign crude oil have remained nearly level at approximately 3.7 billion barrels annually. Although existing law requires biofuels comprise a rising percentage of the nation’s gasoline supply, there is little research demonstrating that some of these fuel mixes will not cause an unacceptable increase in operational problems, safety hazards and air pollution emissions from many on-road and non-road engines in use today.

Biofuel proponents claim that the next generation of “advanced biofuels” will eliminate the problems associated with conventional biofuels and create an economically feasible and environmentally sound solution to reducing dependence on fossil fuels for transportation. Realizing these aspirations will require solving intractable technical and infrastructure challenges, as these “advanced biofuels” can cause the same adverse environmental impacts as conventional ones while also presenting new dangers, such as those associated with synthetic biology. Mandating the use and production of these fuels without fully understanding their effect on the environment and food systems — as current US biofuel policy does — is irresponsible and dangerous.

In order to develop truly renewable fuels that accomplish our goals and do not have unintended adverse impacts, concrete steps must be taken.

1. Ensure that all policy incentives for renewable fuels, including mandates and subsidies, require attainment of minimum environmental performance standards for production and use, to ensure that publicly supported “renewable fuels” do not degrade our natural resources. Such standards would: certify net life-cycle greenhouse gas emission reductions through 2050, taking into account direct and indirect land use change; and do not cause or contribute to increased damage to soil quality, air quality, water quality, habitat protection, and biodiversity loss. Compliance with these standards must be verified regularly.

2. Restrict the RFS to fuel options that do not cause environmental harm, adverse human health impacts or economic disruption.

a. Cap the RFS at current levels and gradually phase out the mandate for biofuels, unless it is clearly demonstrated that such fuels can meet minimum environment, health, and consumer protection standards.
b. Establish feedstock- and technology-neutral fuel and environmental performance standards for all biofuels and let the market devise ways of reaching them.
c. Periodically reevaluate the sustainability and performance of renewable fuels.
d. Provide a mechanism and requirement to mitigate unintended adverse effects, including authority to adjust any mandate downward.

3. Tie the biofuels tax credits to the performance standards.

a. Phase out the biofuels tax credit to blenders while phasing in tax credits or subsidies for renewable fuels that are scaled in accordance to the fuels’ relative environmental, health, and consumer protection merits.

4. Rebalance the U.S. renewable energy and energy conservation portfolio to reflect the relative contribution these options can make to reducing fossil fuel use, enhancing the environment, spurring economic development, and increasing energy security.

a. Subsidies to renewable energy and conservation should be distributed more evenly between alternative energy sources, and should be allocated in a manner that is fuel – and feedstock -neutral; biofuels, particularly corn ethanol, must no longer receive the lion’s share of federal renewable energy subsidies.
b. New policy must:
i. Emphasize energy conservation; we cannot drill or grow our way out of the energy crisis.
ii. Create a level playing field among renewable energy options; set fuel-, feedstock- and technology-neutral standards, so as to reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, improve environmental quality and biodiversity, and reduce pressure on agricultural markets.

5. Support research to improve the analysis of net climate impacts, net non-climate environmental impacts, commodity price impacts, and other social factors that are substantially affected by policies that promote biofuels. All of the previous policy asks must be based on better research on the impacts from biofuels; understanding these impacts are crucial to developing sound policies.

January 5, 2009

747 Airline Flown on 50% Biofuels

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 6:43 pm
Tags: , ,

I want to share a neat article in the NY Times about an airline in New Zealand which test ran one of it’s 747’s on 50% biofuels from a plant called the jatropha plant. This plant seems to be one of the more ideal types of biofuels because of how easily it can be grown and how much fuel you can yield from it. I think airlines should be looking at how to reduce their dependency on oil as a top priority since oil prices will go back up. The airline which doesn’t feel that as badly in their bottom line will have a huge advantage in the industry. A lot of passengers would also prefer to fly on the greenest airline so long as the cost is reasonable.

Create a free website or blog at