Feds offer $105M loan guarantee for “Project Liberty” biofuel plant

Poet’s so-called “Project Liberty” biofuel plant, which will use corn waste instead of edible corn, is getting some support from the U.S. government. On Thursday, the Department of Energy announced it will offer Poet a $105 million loan guarantee to build out Project Liberty in Iowa.

Today in Cleantech

Green technology supporters who want to fight back against attacks on greentech government support might want to study up on the Washington Monthly magazine piece, “Get the Energy Sector off the Dole.” The article cites a raft of subsidies to the oil, natural gas and coal industries that cost U.S. taxpayers about $20 billion a year, including often-misused tax breaks for oil exploration and tax incentives for the problematic support of the U.S. corn-to-ethanol industry. About 70 percent of all federal energy subsidies go to fossil fuel industries, 15 percent go to ethanol, and 10 percent go to federal power entities like the Bonneville Power Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority, the article states, leaving only about 5 percent for all other clean energy subsidies put together. According to one study, subsidies to mature fossil fuel companies added up to $76 billion from 2002 to 2008 alone. Kinda helps put the $36 billion or so in Department of Energy stimulus-package backing for green energy projects in perspective, doesn’t it?

Sound Blaster for iTunes to Give Your Library a Boost

Today, Creative announced yet another addition to their venerable Sound Blaster line of products. The device had its debut not at Macworld, but at CES, which, I might remind some of those with Apple tunnel vision, is going on right now in Las Vegas. While desert grit isn’t normally great for electronics, CES is, and the new Sound Blaster for iTunes might have some Apple hi-fi fanatics excited.

Like the X-Fi (xtreme fidelity, in case you were wondering) external audio card whose technology it uses, the Sound Blaster for iTunes is an external, USB peripheral. It’s main purpose is to enhance the quality of your iTunes music library, and anything else you may use iTunes for, including internet radio streams and movie audio. Curiously, it also claims to improve the quality of things like Pandora, and basically any sound your computer makes, so I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between this and, say, the X-Fi Go.

Upon closer inspection, the Sound Blaster for iTunes does boast the somewhat ambiguous quality of “enabl[ing] you to use the iTunes interface.” Also, it works as a transmitter for Sound Blaster’s wireless stereo system components, including regular speakers connected to their Creative Wireless Receivers, and directly to the Creative T20W Series II speakers, which have a receiver built in. I actually have a pair of the Creative T20 Series II speakers (the non-wireless ones), and I’m more than happy with them, so the prospect of wireless ones is intriguing.

When it’s released later this year (target is Spring 2008), Sound Blaster for iTunes will retail for $99.99. Considering the Sound Blaster X-Fi Notebook is the only current option for laptops that comes with the wireless transmitter built in, and requires an ExpressCard slot, all for $89.99, it’s not too bad a price.

Bankruptcy Court Approves $197M VeraSun Financing Plan

After a year peppered with construction slowdowns, bio-refinery idlings, and more than a dozen bankruptcy filings in the corn ethanol industry, we have an early indicator of how it will shape up post-shakeout — with significantly less cozy alliances between grain growers and ethanol producers.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court handling ethanol giant VeraSun Energy’s (s vse) restructuring gave final approval this week for $196.6 million in loans (about $7 million more than the company said it needed to make payroll) that will allow it to continue operations. VeraSun also said the approved debtor-in-possession, or DIP, financing will come from lenders that made loans to the company before it filed for Chapter 11 in October — an arrangement that gives them priority over all other claims.
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Obama Doomed to Repeat Bush’s Ethanol Mistakes?

Cleantech types are optimistic that an Obama presidency will usher in a new era of hopeful politics and greener energy policies, but what would it mean for the floundering ethanol industry? Critics are already afraid that President-elect Obama will continue with Bush’s so-called failed ethanol policies, which many argue have led to higher food prices, an increasing number of bankrupt ethanol producers and more environmental ill than good.
Obama is in favor of maintaining the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) put in place by Bush’s Energy Independence and Security Act, which requires that biofuel production be increased to 15 billion gallons by 2015 from 6.5 billion last year, and to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Obama has proposed implementing a 60 billion-gallon requirement by 2030. States are already groaning under the current mandates and a consortium of governors had their call for relief from the RFS rejected by the EPA earlier this year.
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Dropbox Opens To the Public

img dropboxFile sync, storage and sharing site Dropbox launches to the public today ending the need for pesky beta codes or invites to this very cool service.

Mike gave us a glimpse of Dropbox back in March, and in my testing of services of this type I found Dropbox to be among the easiest to use and manage. Because there is no new interface to learn, it just works for me, and is easy to introduce to clients. A nice demo screencast does a great job of explaining how it all works.

Also announced today is the availability of a Linux client to add to their existing Windows and Mac options as well as information on new storage plan options. The 2GB free accounts are still around but if you need more space you will have the option to upgrade to a 50GB box for $9.99 / month or $99.99 / year.

Will you try Dropbox? With the myriad of sync and share options available, what do you use to keep files in sync?

Biofuel Lobbying: Split Between First-Gen and Next-Gen

U.S. biofuel policy will determine the fate of a very diverse group of companies in that space, from the first generation, which produces fuel from corn and soy beans, to the next generation, which is working on fuel made from feedstocks like waste and algae. Both generations know that the right policy could mean the difference between success and failure, and so are spending millions on lobbying, albeit for very different — almost opposing — purposes.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit, nonpartisan finance research firm, companies that make up the traditional corn ethanol and biodiesel industries spent $7.03 million on lobbying for all of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008. Of that, biodiesel producers spent the most ($3.2 million), followed by corn ethanol producers ($1.6 million) and corn farmers with ($1.6 million), and finally farmers that sell to biodiesel makers ($625,000).
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SBSH Facade walkthough: informative Today screen for smartphones


One thing I miss on my older Pocket PC Phone Edition device is the ability to get a ton of information from my Today screen on the T-Mobile Dash. The standard screens on the Smartphone or Windows Mobile 6 Standard edition just don’t give me enough info, so when Dave Zatz told me about Facade from SBSH, I decided to take a look. After just a few days into the trial, I’m pretty much sold that this is a useful plug-in for me. Here’s a five-minute walkthough to give you the basics so you can see if Facade is for you.

Play Ball: Baseball2Go, Treo and Pocket PC

opening day baseballEvery March it is pretty much the same story – India and Pakistan are durking it out on the cricketing greens, contests so evenly contested that I lie awake at night watching the games on a puny computer screen on a borrowed PC laptop. And then just as suddenly, Baseball, my other favorite waste of time, kicks in. Its only a week before the boys of summer do their thing. Sure many are marred by the steroid scandal, but I still love the game nonetheless. I cannot wait to see Red Sox and Yankees go at each other. The new-look Oakland Athletics are going to be worth following, and of course, I am personally rooting for Jason Giambi to make a successful comeback. In anticipation of Baseball season, I have put together some apps that can help you follow the games a little better. Most of these are actually Palm OS based apps, so you can carry your obsession with you on your Treo, or in case you are a laggard, on your Palm. Read More about Play Ball: Baseball2Go, Treo and Pocket PC