Biofuels were envisioned to help to make the world a better place, but here comes a National Research Council report on Tuesday that casts doubt on the environmental and economic benefits of biofuels and the U.S.’s ability to meet its own production mandates.
Despite the lack of results, next-gen biofuel companies continue to receive a significant amount of both government and VC support. At what point will the funding transform into advanced biofuels being produced at scale?
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.
Despite the crumbling of the first generation of biofuel projects (corn-based ethanol), the U.S. government is in full support of the next generation of biofuels, particularly cellulosic ethanol and algae fuel. This morning Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $600 million in funding for advanced biorefinery projects.
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This morning’s Video Rights Roundtable was, as we hoped, a rare opportunity for online video industry players to talk about their conflicts and collaborations in the wild — not in a courtroom or conference room. In a (more than) two-hour discussion, the nearly 50 attendees shared their perspectives on the increasingly complex world of rights, responsibility and opportunities surrounding online video content. Complete liveblog coverage is available at GigaOM Pro (subscription required), and Ryan Lawler was on-site with some additional event coverage at NewTeeVee. More links below the fold (and full event video coming soon!). Read More about Online Video Rights: Why Technology Isn’t Enough to Bring About Change
Call it ethanol-on-the-cob. Corn ethanol giant Poet announced plans today to power its cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, with methane derived from corn cobs — rather than natural gas. Never before have corn cobs been used as a feedstock in this way, Poet CEO Jeff Broin said today at a press conference held at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo.
With the launch of a new division dubbed Poet Biomass, which Broin explained will manage the corn cob supply chain, Poet has also just kicked off a new effort to identify new feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol, and reiterated its plans to start commercial-scale production (25 million gallons per year) of the fuel in 2011. New feedstocks would be an interesting development for Poet, as the company has a long history of producing corn-based ethanol and has touted its corn connection as a competitive advantage.
Eventually, Broin said, the company aims to collect all the corn cobs needed to power the plant (as well as a grain-based ethanol factory) from within a 20-mile radius of the facility, thereby limiting emissions and costs associated with shipping. After the corn cobs — instead of corn starch — are used to make ethanol, liquid waste from the process will go into an anaerobic digester like the one Poet has just installed at its pilot plant in Scotland, S.D., according to a release from the company.
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If your core business is making corn ethanol, you’ve got to evolve. Companies producing ethanol made from corn are canceling plant plans and struggling to stay afloat. Poet is one of the larger corn ethanol makers, and it has been trying its hand at producing next-generation cellulosic ethanol; the company said yesterday it has made the leap into pilot production — 20,000 gallons per year — at an $8 million facility in Scotland, S.D.
Poet says it started up the pilot facility, which is located next to a 9-million-gallon-per-year cornethanol production facility, before the end of 2008. The cellulosic run is a test for a much larger $200 million commercial scale plant named Project Liberty that will produce 125 million gallons of ethanol per year, with just 25 million of that being cellulosic ethanol, in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Liberty is supposed to start construction this year and is projected to be in operation in 2011.
Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs today issued a letter that outlines why he is skipping the Macworld: He has a hormonal imbalance that caused him to drastically lose weight, and he needs to take care of it ASAP. His weight loss had led to rampant speculation that he is dying, and the news has acted as a 10-ton stone around Apple’s neck, pushing the company’s stock lower.
There are some who will point fingers at Apple (s AAPL) and Jobs for lying about the reason he was not going to present a keynote at Macworld 2009 in San Francisco. In the most technical sense, Jobs, by not coming clean, was lying to the community. But on a more emotional level, I totally understand why he didn’t tell us sooner. Read More about Steve’s Dilemma, Apple’s Quandary
Corn ethanol took a big hit with the fall of South Dakota’s VeraSun Energy (s VSUNQ), which filed for bankruptcy last month. But there’s at least one company out there that sees promise in those refineries. VeraSun announced late yesterday that it received interest from an unnamed third party for substantially all of its assets. The financial terms of the offer were not disclosed.
Although consolidation can be expected in any industry in these turbulent economic times, the ethanol market is particularly ripe for such activity. With the ongoing food vs. fuel debate, and a tough market for ethanol overall, it could be a difficult time for any biofuel company going forward. One Omaha investment banker predicts that the current roster of 16 bankrupt ethanol plants will grow to as many as 40 by early next year. According to the DesMoines Register, Mark Lakers, a principal at Ag & Food Associates, sees consolidation ahead, saying that the industry is being squeezed by falling prices and volatile markets.
Poet, the No. 1 ethanol producer in the U.S., said it sees opportunity in the industry, telling the Associated Press this week that it’s in buyout talks with a number of ethanol companies. Poet, a VeraSun competitor and South Dakota neighbor, did not mention VeraSun as a possible target, but CEO Jeff Broin was quoted as saying that he’s examining “entire company opportunities.”
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