Written by H. Josef Hebert   AP 6/17/09

WASHINGTON — Legislation that would require greater use of renewable energy, make it easier to build power lines and allow oil and gas drilling near the Florida coastline advanced Wednesday in the Senate.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill by a 15-8 bipartisan vote. But both Democrats and Republicans expressed concerns about the bill and hoped to make major changes when it reaches the Senate floor, probably in the fall.

The measure’s primary thrust is to expand the use of renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and geothermal sources as well as deal with growing worries about the inadequacies of the nation’s high-voltage power grid.

But the bill also would remove the last congressional barrier to offshore oil and gas development, lifting a ban on drilling across a vast area in the eastern Gulf of Mexico that Congress put off limits three years ago. Drilling would be allowed within 45 miles of most of Florida’s coast and as close as 10 miles off the state’s Panhandle area.

The Senate bill for the first time would establish a national requirement for utilities to produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, a contentious issue that is likely to attract heated debate.

Twenty-eight states currently have some renewable energy requirement for utilities, but supporters of the measure argue a national mandate is needed to spur such energy development.

The legislation also would give much wider authority to federal regulators over the nation’s electricity grid.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would be given authority to approve the siting of high voltage power lines if states fail to act and would be given additional powers over cyber security on the grid.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he hopes to take up energy legislation after the August recess, although it’s uncertain whether it will be merged with separate legislation addressing climate change. The House is working on a climate bill that includes many of the same energy issues addressed by the Senate bill.

While the bill was approved by a safe margin in the committee its prospects in the full Senate are anything but certain. Several senators called it too weak in its support of renewable energy development, while others said it ignored nuclear energy and greater domestic oil and gas production.

“None of us got all we wanted,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., the committee’s chairman, who was forced to agree to a variety of compromises to give the bill a chance of advancing. Nevertheless, he said the bill would help shift to cleaner, more secure sources of energy.

Bingaman and many of the panel’s other Democrats had wanted at least a 20 percent renewable energy requirement. The bill requires 15 percent renewable use by 2021, but also would allow utilities to avoid a fourth of that mandate by showing improvements in efficiency. Renewable energy use could be cut further for utilities that increase their use of nuclear energy either from a new reactor or increased reactor output.

“This is an extraordinary weak bill,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

But Sanders voted to advance the bill, as did Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. Both senators said they hoped the bill will be strengthened.

“I suspect their definition of strengthening might be somewhat different,” quipped Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., whose own support of the bill came despite strong opposition to the federal renewable energy requirements on utilities.

Sanders wants the renewable energy requirement to be much higher, at 25 percent. Corker said the bill needs more to promote nuclear energy and domestic oil and gas production.

“We simply must do more to increase our domestic (oil and gas) production and use of nuclear energy,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the committee’s ranking Republican. Still, she voted for the bill which includes a commitment to increase loan guarantees for a natural gas pipeline in her state from $18 billion to $30 billion.

The bill also calls for establishing a new office to steer grants and loan guarantees to clean energy projects, including nuclear and those using technology to capture carbon dioxide; creating an oil products reserve to be used if there are supply problems; and creating federal standards for efficiency standards for new building.

The Chamber of Commerce said the bill shows progress toward crafting a comprehensive energy policy, but some environmentalists said it falls short of shifting the country away from fossil fuels. With its new offshore drilling, support for coal and nuclear energy “this bill fails to live up to the vision of a clean energy future,” complained Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth.

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H. JOSEF HEBERT | June 19, 2009 05:16 AM EST 

 


WASHINGTON — Finding an economical way to capture carbon dioxide from existing coal burning power plants is key to getting China to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as well as for U.S. efforts to combat global warming, says a study being released Friday.

The report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concludes that the United States cannot meet its targets for stabilizing greenhouse gases unless it finds a way to economically capture carbon dioxide emissions coming from existing coal-burning power plants.

coal plants generate about half of the country’s electricity and 80 percent of the nearly 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide released annually into the atmosphere from power production. China also relies heavily on coal for electricity production and in the last five years has been on a rush to build new coal plants _ none of them designed to capture carbon dioxide.

“There is no credible pathway towards stringent greenhouse gas stabilization targets without CO2 emission reductions from existing coal power plants,” says the report. Members of Congress, where a bill to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions could come up for a House vote as early as next week, were being briefed on the MIT report.

Carbon dioxide has been captured and put into the ground in relatively small scale projects _ mostly in connection with enhanced oil recovery, for years, but never in the huge volumes that would be needed to capture emissions from a large coal plant.

The MIT report says there are multiple technologies being explored for carbon capture, but the government still has not adequately supported carbon capture research and is moving too slowly to develop large demonstration projects to show that capturing carbon dioxide and injecting it into the ground will work at the scale needed.

The report, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press in advance of a press conference Friday, says the federal government and industry need to “dramatically expand” its support for carbon capture research and development to the tune of $12 billion to $15 billion over the next decade. 

Such technology, if shown to work in U.S. plants, could get China to reduce greenhouse gases from its rapidly growing network of coal burning power plants, the report says.

“We’ve got to address the carbon emissions from our current fleet (of coal plants) and also have to think how the technology we develop can be applied in China,” Ernest Moniz, director of the MIT Energy Initiative and co-author of the report, said in an interview.

Together, the U.S. and China account for 20 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide from coal burning power plants, said Moniz. If China doesn’t address emissions from its coal plants “we really can’t address the climate issue in a serious way.”

The MIT report summarizes a consensus view of participants in a symposium sponsored by MIT’s Energy Initiative on the feasibility of retrofitting existing coal plants with carbon capture technology. Participants included 54 representatives utilities, academia, government, public interest groups and industry.

The report said about half of the U.S. coal plants _ most of those producing 300 megawatts or more of power _ may be suitable for carbon capture technology. Many of the smaller plants, accounting for about 30 percent of electricity production, can achieve emission reductions through increased efficiency, use of a mix of coal and biomass as fuel and other measures. Other plants, especially the oldest, may have to be replaced, said Moniz.

Wayne Leonard, chief executive of Entergy Corp., who was a co-chairman of the symposium, said the symposium’s conclusions should be viewed “in an international context” especially as carbon capture technology development relates to China.

“In the U.S. coal is the reality. But in China and India it is the future” and they won’t abandon it because of climate change, said Leonard. “But offering them a technological solution, a solution that we are actively developing and deploying ourselves on our own coal plants, would be something that has a far better chance of success in getting them to act.”

While Entergy, the New Orleans-based utility, relies on coal for less than 10 percent of its electricity production, it was a co-sponsor with MIT of the carbon capture symposium on which Friday’s report is based.

By Andrew C. BurrJune 17, 2009

Panel Examines Greening the Built Sector

CoStar’s green building panelists, from left: Marc Heisterkamp of USGBC; Laurie McMahon of Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers; Steve Teitelbaum of Jones Day; and Thomas Olson of Environmental Defense Fund.
CoStar's green building panelists, from left: Marc Heisterkamp of USGBC; Laurie McMahon of Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers; Steve Teitelbaum of Jones Day; and Thomas Olson of Environmental Defense Fund.

If the energy consumption of commercial buildings was likened to the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks, it would look something like this: one quarter of Americans currently work in buildings that are the equivalent of a Toyota Prius or other type of fuel-efficient hybrid while the remaining three-quarters work in buildings comparable to gas-guzzling Hummers, Winnebagos and Mack tractor trailers.

But while it’s fairly obvious which vehicles are more efficient and environmentally friendly, it’s very difficult to tell from observation which buildings are designed and are being operated in the most environmentally efficient and responsible way.

That is one of the challenges currently facing tenants and landlords who favor green workplaces and stores, according to a CoStar Group-sponsored roundtable discussion on green buildings that convened Wednesday.

Hosted by CoStar Group President and CEO Andrew C. Florance, the panel included Marc Heisterkamp, director of commercial real estate at the U.S. Green Building Council; Laurie McMahon, managing director and principal of Washington-based Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers; Thomas Olson, a consulting attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund’s National Climate Campaign; and Steve Teitelbaum, principal of the law firm Jones Day.

The issue of tenants, real estate brokers and landlords all having access to more transparent and readily available information to enable them to make better informed decisions remains one of the biggest challenges facing the industry today, noted the panelists. At the same time, they credited the growing awareness of sustainability and energy efficiency issues associated with commercial property largely to the success of the U.S. Government’s Energy Star label for energy efficiency and USGBC’s LEED green building certification.

Before LEED, which was created about a decade ago, sustainable building design and operation lacked a “common framework” for the industry to coalesce around, Heisterkamp said.

Today, the LEED program touches more than 5.6 billion square feet of commercial space and has transformed the once-boutique USGBC into an industry giant. According to McMahon, LEED has become “the glossary on how to be green” for many building stakeholders.

Energy Star, which has enjoyed a similar swell in popularity, has been used to benchmark the energy usage of about 12 billion square feet of real estate, which includes roughly 40% of all U.S. office buildings, according to recent data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Buildings with either label have been tied to financial benefits for owners, health and productivity gains for tenants, and lower building operations and maintenance costs. Several academic studies, including one by CoStar, have published compelling evidence that sustainable and energy-efficient buildings command higher sales prices, rental rates and occupancy than their non-green peer buildings.

Even during the recession, CoStar Group data shows that occupancy levels in LEED buildings continue to climb, while occupancy in comparable non-LEED buildings has eroded. “LEED buildings are dramatically outperforming the non-LEED buildings,” Florance said.

According to Teitelbaum, the benefits for those who occupy green buildings go far beyond lower operating expenses. Employers are increasingly correlating their sustainable offices with increased work productivity, lower absenteeism and higher employee retention — significant advantages for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

“We focus a lot, because we’re real estate people, on the operating expenses. It’s an easy one,” he said. “But the benefits go beyond just operating expenses. There are studies that show in many cases, you get productivity benefits out of green buildings that far outweigh any expenses.”

Forces from outside the industry are also driving real estate sustainability. Policymakers are moving briskly to enact sustainability and energy efficiency mandates for commercial structures, which can account for up to 80% of greenhouse gas emissions in large cities.

In April, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a sweeping package of energy efficiency mandates that would require commercial building owners to audit and disclose the energy use of their buildings, and in some cases, demonstrate energy efficiency improvements. Mandates for sustainable development are common now in many cities, and in Washington, DC, and the state of California, energy disclosure laws for privately owned buildings are also on the books.

Those provisions, coupled with a national building energy label that is proposed at the federal level, would help the building industry become more energy-transparent Florance said. “You know if your neighbor drives a Hummer to work every day. You don’t know if they work in a “Hummer” building,” he said.

But the green building movement remains a work in progress, the panelists said, with obstacles and misperceptions about sustainability still prevalent in parts of the market.

For instance, cost premiums for LEED certification are still greatly exaggerated in many circles, and divergent definitions and expectations about what is “green” often put building stakeholders at odds with each other, the panelists said.

And though landlords are often criticized for not being sustainable enough, tenants are known to hedge on rent increases in green buildings, public transit requirements and the cost of green cleaning programs, Teitelbaum said. “You see resistance on the tenant side as much as on the landlord side. It’s not a one-way street.”

The industry is also coming to terms with how to best address the existing building stock, which remains a mostly untouched wilderness of inefficient and unsustainable buildings. Just 1% of all U.S. properties have achieved the Energy Star label or LEED certification, according to CoStar information, and a lion’s share of those have been constructed recently.

To make a real impact on climate change, retrofitting existing buildings is an essential part of the equation, Olson said.

“In the past few years, the amount of carbon dioxide the world has been emitting has actually been more than people thought was the worst that could possibly happen,” Olson said. “We are already seeing the effect of the carbon dioxide we’re putting into the atmosphere.”

But if the commercial real estate industry remains committed to energy efficiency and sustainability, “you can be heroes in terms of climate change, make money, and you can go home and tell your kids that you’re green,” he said.

Our Perspective:

I find the statistics of abuse staggering. When most of the commercial building were developed, the last thing they thought about was energy efficiency.

For companies located in New Jersey, they have developed the Energy Star Program. the state will help to underwrite an energy efficiency audit done by an approved contractor and will also  help to underwrite upto 50% of the investment to make the building more efficient.

New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program – recognized as a national model – is a statewide program that:

  • Promotes increased energy efficiency
  • Supports installation of clean, renewable sources of energy
  • Provides information to help reduce energy use
  • Endorses climate change solutions, and
  • Offers financial incentives, programs, and services for residential, commercial, and municipal customers to save energy, money, and the environment. 

Would you like to know more? Feel free to contact us george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230. We can help walk you thru the process.

PA Poised for Solar

June 17, 2009

By Jane M. Von Bergen

Inquirer Staff Writer

Gov. Rendell stood on the deck of a Roxborough home last month talking about how the $100 million in the Pennsylvania Sunshine rebate program would make it possible for homeowners to afford an energy-saving solar system.

In Malvern, the $800,000 solar system that Siemens Medical Solutions installed in 2006 is yielding $18,000 a year in savings. With a state grant reducing the cost to $400,000, building manager Kevin Matthews expects the system to pay for itself by 2013.

To the 80 or so electrical contractors, suppliers, and electricians’ union officials at a seminar hosted by the National Electrical Contractors Association’s Penn-Del Jersey chapter yesterday, these examples prove that the solar-energy market is ready to yield its financial promise.

That is why the contractors want everyone to understand that, fundamentally, it is electrical work and that their employees, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, are already trained to handle the jobs.

“There is a green workforce prepared to install these sustainable-energy projects,” said Kenneth MacDougall, business-development director for the contractors’ association.

Regardless of whether power originates from the sun or a dam, it is electricity and it moves through wires, he said.

MacDougall works closely with IBEW Local 380 in Collegeville, which has added green-energy training to its five-year electrical-apprenticeship program. Its facilities include a solar structure that apprentices use to practice installing solar panels and connecting them to the structure’s electrical system.

Union and management work together to develop and fund the training.

Green-energy work “all seems so new and fascinating, but we’ve been doing it,” said David Schaaf, business manager of Local 380.

But there are hitches in the pitch. Pennsylvania’s Department of Energy, for example, wants solar contractors used in the Sunshine rebate program to be certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

The national electrical contractors’ association and the union are close to convincing the board that its training meets board standards, a national apprentice-training director told the group.

But there is another problem. The board requires contractors to have a certified practitioner on staff when they bid for the work.

That is not an issue for Union Electrical Contracting Co., the Fort Washington company that handled the Siemens job. It employs 100 electricians, including a dozen who work on solar projects.

But smaller contractors bidding on residential projects probably will not have that kind of person on staff. Instead, they would call the union for a journeyman trained in solar. MacDougall said that his organization and union officials were trying to persuade the state to amend regulations to accommodate this common type of building-trade business model.

Our Perspective:

Pennsylvania is open for the solar business!

Rebates are available for under 50KW systems, which is mostly geared toward residential and small business.

Should you be a small business and intersted in how the state and federal incentives will accelerate  the payback on your solar investment, email george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230

Come to think of it

June 16, 2009

Has the recent turndown in the economy had an effect on your business?

What steps have you taken to tighten the belt?

Did you reduce the workforce? 

Did you reduce or drop employee benefits? 

In difficult times you may find you have to think outside the box. Reducing the workforce and employee benefits are obvious choices. 

There are diamonds in the rough out there! 

Where you ask? If you only knew!

 Most companies budget for expenses and never really drill down to see if there are opportunities for savings.

 Deregulated Energy: Natural Gas and Electric

 Is your company paying more than $5000 a month on natural gas or electric for your building! 

The deregulated Gas and electric market is the lowest it has been in the last 3 to 4 years. 

Our clients are saving from 15% to 30% on natural gas. 

 

Just in the last week, we saved a client over $45,000 by locking in their Natural gas for the next 12 months.

 

Our electric clients are saving from 6% to 15%

 

Just last week, a client saved over $94,000 by locking in their electric for the next 12 months.

 

How much do you think your company may qualify to save?

The local provider buys gas and electric in the wholesale marker and sells it to you retail.

We put our clients in the wholesale position.

 The savings is yours and falls to the bottom line!

 Voice and Data:

Here is the real sleeper. Many companies feel they wear a safety blanket for they have Verizon or ATT as their provider.

You are paying a premium for that blanket!

Deregulation allows third party providers to use the Verizon / ATT platform and deliver voice to their clients at a discount.

 Our clients are saving from 15% to 40% on their monthly Voice and Data Billing. 

What is 25% of your bill?

 Come to think of it, we haven’t looked at these costs recently?

 Call Hutchinson Business Solutions 856-857-1230. There is no fee for our services!

 Or you can email george@hbsadvantage.com

 

Let the savings begin!!!!!

H. JOSEF HEBERT | June 6, 2009 10:30 PM EST | AP

WASHINGTON — Thomas Alva Edison, meet the Internet. More than a century after Edison invented a reliable light bulb, the nation’s electricity distribution system, an aging spider web of power lines, is poised to move into the digital age.

The “smart grid” has become the buzz of the electric power industry, at the White House and among members of Congress. President Barack Obama says it’s essential to boost development of wind and solar power, get people to use less energy and to tackle climate change.

What smart grid visionaries see coming are home thermostats and appliances that adjust automatically depending on the cost of power; where a water heater may get juice from a neighbor’s rooftop solar panel; and where on a scorching hot day a plug-in hybrid electric car charges one minute and the next sends electricity back to the grid to help head off a brownout

It is where utilities get instant feedback on a transformer outage, shift easily among energy sources, integrating wind and solar energy with electricity from coal-burning power plants, and go into homes and businesses to automatically adjust power use based on prearranged agreements.

“It’s the marriage of information technology and automation technology with the existing electricity network. This is the energy Internet,” said Bob Gilligan, vice president for transmission at GE Energy, which is aggressively pursuing smart grid development. “There are going to be applications 10 years from now that you and I have no idea that we’re going to want or need or think are essential to our lives.”

Hundreds of technology companies and almost every major electric utility company see smart grid as the future. That interest got a boost with the availability of $4.5 billion in federal economic recovery money for smart grid technology.

But smart grid won’t be cheap; cost estimates run as high as $75 billion. Who’s going to pay the bill? Will consumers get the payback they are promised? Might “smart meters” be too intrusive? Could an end-to-end computerization of the grid increase the risk of cyberattacks?

Today’s grid is seen by many as little different from one envisioned by Edison 127 years ago.

The hundreds of thousands of miles of power lines that crisscross the country have been compared to a river flowing down a hill: an inefficient one-way movement of electrons from power plant to consumer. There is little way to provide any feedback of information to the power company running the system or those buying the electricity.

“The heart of a smart grid is to make the grid more flexible, to more easily control the flow of electrons, and make it more efficient and reliable,” said Greg Scheu, head of the power production division at ABB North America, a leading grid technology provider.

“The meter is only the beginning,” said Alex Huang, director of a grid technology center at North Carolina State University. He said that instead of power flowing from a small number of power plants, the smart grid can usher in a system of distributed energy so electricity “will flow from homes and businesses into the grid, neighborhoods will use local power and not just power flowing from a single source.”

There are glimpses of what the future grid might look like.

On the University of Colorado campus in Boulder, the chancellor’s home has been turned into a smart grid showhouse as part of a citywide $100 million demonstration project spearheaded by Xcel Energy. The home has a laptop-controlled electricity management system that integrates a rooftop solar panel with grid-supplied power and tracks energy use as well as equipment to charge a plug-in hybrid electric car.

Florida Power & Light is planning to provide smart meters covering 1 million homes and businesses in the Miami area over the next two years in a $200 million project. Smart meters are being distributed by utilities from California to Delaware’s Delmarva Peninsula.

“We’ve got about 70 (smart grid) pilots all over the country right now,” said Mike Oldak, an expert on smart grid at the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned power companies.

Center Point Energy, which serves 2.2 million customers in the metropolitan Houston area, expects to spend $1 billion over the next five years on smart grid. Residential customers are seeing an additional $3.24 a month on their electric bills, but Center Point says that should be more than offset by energy savings.

An Energy Department study projects energy savings of 5 percent to 15 percent from smart grid.

“This pays for itself through efficiency and demand reduction and if you don’t look at it from that perspective you won’t get your money back,” said Thomas Standish, group president for regulated operations at Center Power Energy.

The cost and payback have some state regulators worried.

“We need to demonstrate to folks that there’s a benefit here before we ask them to pay for this stuff,” says Frederick Butler, chairman of New Jersey’s utility commission and president of NARUC, the national group that represents these state agencies.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, said the current grid stands in the way of increasing the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar that “will need a system that can dispatch power here, there and everywhere on a very quick basis.”

But Chu and others also worry about security. “If you want to create mischief one very good way to create a great deal of mischief is to actually bring down a smart grid system. This system has to be incredibly secure.”

And there is the issue of intrusion.

“Is the average consumer willing to pay the upfront costs of a new system and then respond appropriately to price signals? Or will people view a utility’s ability to reach inside a home to turn down a thermostat as Orwellian?” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said at a recent hearing on smart grid.

The following is a guest post by Chelsea Green‘s Makenna Goodman:

I remember a time when defenseless kids with hippie moms got made fun of for using wax sandwich bags (ehem). I remember a time when it was considered uncool to be packing carrot sticks in your tote bag. When yoga was what the weird naked guys did at the hot springs in Ouray, Colorado; you know downward-facing dogs splayed out by the pool. I remember a time, in other words, when trendy things used to be not-trendy. Like BIODIESEL. The wave of the future.

You’ve seen it station wagons clanking around town with a sign on the back window that says, “This Vehicle Runs on Veggie Oil I’m Awesome.” You probably drive by and think: Damn. Those hippies are self-important, but I’m repressing the fact that I want to be just like them. What is wrong with me? But here’s the first thing you should know about biodiesel: It’s not just white people with dreads who use vegetable oil to run their cars. It’s a movement. Dude, my boss does it.

Know this:
*Biodiesel can be made from virtually any vegetable oil
*It can be used in any modern diesel engine
*It’s America’s fastest growing alternative fuel

But really, biodiesel is a tricky thing to understand, which is why many people just plain don’t. Consider it worth your while to get versed on biodiesel, from the experts. And everything you need to know, Greg Pahl will tell you. He’s the author of Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy and The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook: Community Solutions to a Global Crisis and knows the deal.

The following is an excerpt from The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook: Community Solutions to a Global Crisis by Greg Pahl. It has been adapted for the Web.

Biodiesel 101

Biodiesel, a diverse group of diesel-like fuels, can be easily made through a simple chemical process known as transesterification from virtually any vegetable oil, including (but not limited to) soy, corn, rapeseed (canola), cottonseed, peanut, sunflower, mustard seed, and hemp. But biodiesel can also be made from recycled cooking oil (referred to as “yellow grease” in the rendering industry) or animal fats. One Vietnamese catfish processor is even using fish fat as a biofuel feedstock.30 There have even been some promising experiments with the use of algae as a biodiesel feedstock. As long as the resulting fuel meets the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) biodiesel standard (D-6751), it’s considered biodiesel in the United States, regardless of the feedstock used in its manufacture (in Europe, the standard is EN 14214). And the process is so simple that biodiesel can be made by virtually anyone, although the chemicals required (usually lye and methanol) are hazardous, and need to be handled with extreme caution.

Simply stated, here is how biodiesel is made. The transesterification process is initiated by adding carefully measured amounts of alcohol (methanol) mixed with a catalyst (sodium hydroxide lye the same chemical used to unclog kitchen or bathroom drains) to the vegetable oil. The mixture is stirred or agitated (and sometimes heated) for a specific length of time. If used cooking oil is the feedstock, the process requires a bit more testing, lye, and filtration, but is otherwise essentially the same. During the mixing, the oil molecules are split or “cracked” and the methyl esters (biodiesel) rise to the top of the settling/mixing tank, while the glycerin and catalyst settle to the bottom. After about eight hours, the glycerin and catalyst are drawn off the bottom, leaving biodiesel in the tank. The whole idea of the process is to remove the thick, sticky glycerin from the vegetable oil, so the remaining biodiesel will flow easily and combust properly in a modern diesel engine without leaving damaging deposits inside the engine.

In most cases the biodiesel needs to be washed with water to remove any remaining traces of alcohol, catalyst, and glycerin. In this procedure, water is mixed with the biodiesel, allowed to settle out for several days, and then removed. The wash process can be repeated if needed, but it is time-consuming. Not everyone agrees on whether the water wash is necessary. A few smaller producers who are making biodiesel for themselves skip the process, while commercial producers usually must do it to meet industry standards. In the case of some larger, more sophisticated manufacturing facilities, the transesterification process itself is so carefully controlled and refined that the water wash is not needed. There are, of course, quite a few technical variations on this entire process for large-scale industrial operations, but the general transesterification procedure is similar.31

As the amount of biodiesel being produced grows exponentially, the quantities of glycerin by-product grows apace. Glycerin has always been a niche market that is highly sensitive to oversupply, and the recent exponential growth of this commodity as a result of biodiesel production has caused the world glycerin market to collapse. As a result, traditional glycerin manufacturing plants around the world have been closing, while new ones that use glycerin as feedstocks for epoxy resins, propylene glycol, and other products have been opening. Recently, glycerin has even been used by one California company, InnovaTek Inc., as a source for the production of hydrogen.32 Trying to develop new uses for glycerin has been keeping a lot of people awake at night.

Our perspective:

Biofuels is the wave of the future. The federal and many state governments have provides great incentives to help start this process.  Biodiesel adds the needed lubrication to low sulpher diesel, that extends the life of the engine and help it to run more efficiently.

let us know your toughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com with any questions you may have.

Vivi Gorman, GREENandSAVE.com

Governor Ed Rendell announced June 1 that the state is seeking $15 million in federal funding to expand the state’s use of biodiesel and alternative fuel vehicles by applying to the U.S. Department of Energy under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

The governor explained that Pennsylvania’s Energy Independence Strategy includes an initiative mandating the production and use of renewable fuels to develop the state’s economy and reduce dependence on foreign fuels. The state initiative has set a goal to produce and use one billion gallons of domestically produced biofuels in Pennsylvania by 2017.

Under the plan, the Department of Environmental Protection will partner with the Pittsburgh Regional and the Greater Philadelphia Clean Cities programs, the National Biodiesel Board and eight other industry partners to install fueling infrastructure, retail sites, procure vehicles, promote the use of alternative fuels and educate the public. The eight industry partners included in the project are: Buckeye Partners LP, Centre Area Transportation Authority, Gulf Oil LP, Guttman Oil Co., Lower Merion School District, Lycoming County Resource Management Services, Pennsylvania Energy Co., and Sunoco Logistics Partners LP.

Governor Rendell remarked that Pennsylvania occupies one of the largest natural gas supplies in that country in the Marcellus Shale reserve. The project proposes to install 23 biofuel terminals and four retail stations throughout the state; l natural gas refueling facilities at two locations; and compressed natural gas equipment on 36 existing vehicles and purchasing 57 new natural gas vehicles for public transit agencies.

The project will allow for the displacement of 263 million gallons of petroleum-based fuel over four years, create at least 9,000 jobs, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 7.2 million pounds.

Written by Arthur Delaney HuffingtonPost

On Friday, the Labor Department announced terrible, terrible news: more than a quarter million people lost their jobs in May. But in a sign of how bad things are, commentators from all quarters are heralding the news as good.

The U.S. unemployment rate hit 9.4 percent in May as employers shed 345,000 jobs — the highest since the recession of 1983, the Labor Department announced. The “silver living” is that the losses announced today are about half the monthly average for the past six months.

Friday’s unemployment numbers came as a surprise. Private payroll firm ADP estimated that U.S. companies lost 532,000 jobs in its National Employment Report on Wednesday. Economists had made similar predictions.

“Job losses continued to be widespread in May, but the rate of decline moderated in construction and several service-providing industries,” said Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a statement.

“The loss of 345,000 jobs in May — 0.3% of employment — makes this jobs report the second worst in a quarter century not including the current recession, but in today’s economy a loss of only 345,000 jobs is welcome news,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

Of course, in a Wednesday conference call to help reporters throw cold water on overly cheery reactions to bad numbers, Shierholz stressed that regular folks wouldn’t be seeing any economic benefit for a long time.

“After the 1990 recession unemployment rose for another 15 months, and after the 2001 recession, unemployment rose for another 19 months,” Shierholz said. “If last two recessions any indication, unemployment will rise for at least another year.”

A lot of people are unemployed now.

“The number of unemployed rose by 787,000 to 14.5 million,” said Commissioner Hall. “Since the recession began, the jobless rate has increased by 4.5 percentage points, and the number of unemployed persons has grown by 7.0 million.”

The number of long-term unemployed is also discouraging: “Among the unemployed, the number who have been out of work 27 weeks or more increased by 268,000 in May to 3.9 million. These long-term unemployed represented 2.5 percent of the laborforce, the highest proportion since 1983.”

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YURI KAGEYAMA | June 3, 2009 06:41 AM EST | AP

TOKYO — Toyota said Wednesday it will start leasing plug-in hybrid cars, that are even greener than its hit Prius, by the end of this year in the U.S., Japan and Europe.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s top automaker, will start leasing 200 plug-ins in Japan, 150 in the U.S. and 150 in Europe, mostly for rental, such as through special government-backed programs, it said in a release.

Toyota will for the first time use lithium-ion batteries in the plug-ins. The batteries are already used in some cars but more common in laptops and other gadgets.

Toyota hybrids now use nickel-metal hydride batteries. Using a lithium-ion battery will produce more energy, allowing the car to run more as an electric vehicle, but there have been some technological hurdles.

A plug-in recharges from a regular household socket. When the battery runs low, it will start running as a regular hybrid so drivers don’t have to worry about running out of juice on the road.

Automakers around the world are working on plug-in models. Recharging stations are expected to proliferate in the cities of the future, much like gasoline stands, for recharging.

The booming sales of the revamped Prius, which went on sale last month, have been a rare bright spot for Toyota.

Battered by the global slump and the strong yen, the maker of the Camry sedan and Lexus luxury models recorded its worst loss in its seven-decade history for the fiscal year ended March.

Toyota dealers have received 110,000 orders for the Prius in Japan. Toyota acknowledged this week an order placed this month won’t get delivered until November or later.

Toyota leads the world in cumulative hybrid sales because of the popularity of the Prius, now in its third generation. The first-generation Prius went on sale in 1997.