Monday, January 25, 2010

Vaclav Smil: 9 billion people + 1 Planet = ?

From the 'Quantum to Cosmos' festival held in Waterloo, Ontario, October 2009:

"Do we want 100 kilos of meat per year and Hummers or 40 kilos of meat per year and Hondas?"

Bill Gates blogs about 'alternative energy'

In addition to his significant philanthropic efforts, Bill Gates has been interested in 'alternative energy' for some time. Very glad to see he is now divested from ethanol investment and is on-board with algae.

On his recently launched 'Gates Notes' website he has a series of podcasts (in .wma and .mp3 formats) he talks about the need for 'carbon-free energy sources' and makes the call for increased government funding of 'basic research in energy':

Going to spend the morning listening!

Also glad to see he is giving Vaclav Smil page-space...

Okay, it's an hour and a half later...

Mentioned in the Gates podcast:

A couple recommendations from the 'Dummies' series -


And he mentions some online courseware that he's been studying on physics, but does not give many specifics on the podcast. Found this page for followup -

Not included there is a reference to Lewin, whom he mentions in the podcast -

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dan Rees (AZ Biodiesel) on the Biodiesel Tax Incentive

Dan Rees of AZ Biodiesel sent us the following note about the dire situation facing biodiesel producers due to the unexpected non-renewal of the biodiesel tax credit. While there are criticisms that can be levied against the credit program (e.g. at DBI we're unenthusiastic about the virgin soy-based biofuel that can benefit from the credit), the fact is that elimination of the credit will be devastating to local businesses like AZ Biodiesel, Amereco and AZ Green Dining Network that use waste vegetable oils (restaurant grease) to create clean-burning biodiesel. This local waste grease model precisely embodies our vision of sustainable regional biofuels, and a setback for a company like AZ Biodiesel would be a major blow to the development of a sustainable biofuels infrastructure in Arizona. Please give Dan's message careful consideration, and note his call to action near the bottom of his message.
Your Help Is Needed to Reinstate the Biodiesel Tax Incentive

Hi Everyone,

Az BioDiesel is still alive and producing for now without the $1 a gallon federal biodiesel tax credit.

It will hopefully be passed by Feb/March and be retroactive to Jan 1st but there are no guarantees.

For now, we (AZ BioDiesel) can afford to "weather the storm" and wait until the end of January to see if the tax credit will come back anytime soon.

Most plants around the country unfortunately, have closed or severely reduced production as they can't weather a long wait to get the tax credit dollars.

The word is that if congress doesn't get around to it before Feb, most of the industry will close and many may not be able to reopen. 29,000+ jobs will be lost very soon. Congress came back Jan 20th from their holiday break. Health care was still taking priority to anything else when they started.

Our industry is the victim of congress' focus on health care and not having time to pass the biodiesel tax credit extension which helps biodiesel to be competitively priced to the already subsidized petroleum fuels.

Several senators (Dem & Rep) have sent letters to President Obama to get the extension passed quickly but, no answer yet.

Some are saying that Big Oil is behind this. The EPA was going to pass (this Feb) it's new alt fuel standards which, for the first time, would include a national minimum requirement for 1 billion gallons of biodiesel to get the industry on its feet and growing. The EPA now is saying they may just give the 1 billion gallons to the ethanol industry to add to the minimum requirement they already have since they don't believe the biodiesel industry can now live up to the new requirement.

Another win for Big Oil and their support of ethanol! The alternative fuel (ethanol) that isn't a threat to the future of replacing petroleum oil.

It really concerns me that President Obama had the nerve recently to tout the $2.3 billion he gave out to create new forms of energy and add 17,000 jobs while he knows that the biodiesel industry is about to lose 29,000+ jobs and already can produce new energy but no one in congress or the white house seems to care. You'll notice very little press about the loss of the biodiesel tax credit and it's potential to bankrupt this industry even if they get around to passing an extension later in the year.

Please help save the biodiesel industry by going to this link and sending emails to our congressmen:

Your Help Is Needed to Reinstate the Biodiesel Tax Incentive

With your help, this industry can survive!!!

Dan Rees, AZ BioDiesel

Friday, January 15, 2010

Biodiesel Science Cafe TONIGHT

Apologies for the last minute post, but today at 5:30 I'll be joining Dr. Milt Sommerfeld and Dr. Mark Edwards for the January Science Cafe at the AZ Science Center. I'm also planning to ride and display my 150mpg biodiesel chopper. The event is free and open to the public. More info is available here:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Arizona: not on the algae biofuels map?

In December Biofuels Digest published an article "The Hottest 50 Companies in Bioenergy and the DOE Integrated Bioenergy Grants, in maps." They produced maps that represent:

1. Locations of the companies in their list of the "50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy."
2. Locations of pilot-scale projects of these companies.
3. Locations of demonstration-scale and commercial-scale projects for these companies.
4. Locations of pilot and demonstration-scale projects that received support in the $564 million Department of Energy IBR grants, announced in December 2009.

Observe Arizona's status in each of these maps (I realize that the keys aren't legible in these thumbnails, but here's all you need to know: blank = zero).

Granted, Biofuels Digest focused on bioenergy broadly, not just on algae. Nonetheless, in my view these maps demonstrate a problem: Arizona is not on the map (literally and figuratively) when it comes to algae biofuels -- and we absolutely should be!

Arizona should have owned solar: that is, we should be the leading region for solar in the way that Silicon Valley is the leader in information technology. For reasons I won't try to diagnose or analyze here, we aren't. We have a second chance, however, with "green solar" (to borrow Mark Edwards' term for algae). I believe that algae is a fundamentally transformational technology, akin to the semiconductor in its potential impact. Arizona has an extraordinary opportunity to lead in connection with algae biofuels and related products and services (nutraceuticals, bioplastics, wastewater remediation, carbon capture, etc.).

Consider the assets we have available to us:

1. Unbeatable natural assets: (a) sun, (b) heat, (c) abundant cheap, flat land, and (d) plentiful briny aquifers (not useful for much else given their salinity) and wastewater.

2. Incredible world-class research efforts, including the highly acclaimed [1] [2] work by Drs. Sommerfeld and Hu at ASU Polytechnic and the impressive work at ASU BioDesign. [4/23/10 update: the University of Arizona is also emerging as a research leader.]

3. Leading algae entrepreneurs, including XL Renewables (one of the few companies in the world to be currently producing algae for commercial sale, not just engaged in demo projects or research), Diversified Energy, Desert Sweet Biofuels, Energy Derived (.pdf), PetroSun (featured in the film Fuel), Heliae, Bye Energy and Algae Biosciences.

4. World-class policy analysts and thought-leaders, such as Mark Edwards (author of the award-winning and bestselling Green Algae Strategy), Colleen Crowninshield at the Tucson Clean Cities Coalition, Dave Conz and the team at ASU's Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO), and Sandy Askland and the team at ASU's Center for the Study of Law, Science and Innovation.

5. Increasingly strong support from trade groups and NGOs such as the Arizona Bioindustry Association, Science Foundation Arizona and the Flinn Foundation.

[4/23/10 addition: a commenter correctly noted that I neglected to mention two key pioneering efforts by APS: (1) the 2006 project at RedHawk, and (2) the $70M carbon sequestration project at Cholla Generation Station.]

To date, despite these strong assets, Arizona has lagged behind as other regions have taken the lead in connection with algae. I'm hopeful that this is beginning to change, for several reasons:

1. The establishment of ASU Lightworks under Gary Dirks can provide a focal point of leadership for the Arizona algae community.

2. The Algal Biomass Organization's Algal Biomass Summit, an important national conference, will be held in Phoenix in September. This provides a unique opportunity to showcase Arizona as a leading region for algae technology.

3. Government stakeholders are beginning to engage. Progressive government entities such as the City of Phoenix and the Town of Gilbert have provided demonstrable/tangible support, and other local and state government entities appear increasingly interested in engaging in the fashion we've seen in other states.

Algae presents an extraordinary opportunity for Arizona. I hope that we can capitalize on it.