ICIS News reporters were very busy in the past two weeks covering the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Florida (Feb. 15-17) and the 2010 National Biodiesel Conference in Grapevine, Texas (Feb. 7-10).
Let’s start with the ethanol conference where this year’s event drew even more delegates because of the perceived improved sentiment about the US ethanol industry, according to ICIS News. Attendance was estimated at around 1,300 delegates, 750 more than last year’s.
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) noted at the conference that the industry’s biggest challenge this year is getting the ethanol tax incentive program, which gives a tax credit of 45 cents/gal for ethanol blended in gasoline, extended.
Another challenge is persuading the government to lift the 10% limit (known as E10) on ethanol blending in gasoline and raising it to as much as 15%.
The RFA, meanwhile, is optimistic about cellulosic ethanol development this stating that the 28 cellulosic ethanol refineries under development in the US will likely undergo “massive” expansions once they start commercial production.
With regards to the ethanol blend issue, ICIS News reported that General Motors issued a cautious warning on not being too fast when it comes to raising the ethanol blend limit as “it can cause problems in ordinary vehicles such as corrosion and damage to cylinder heads.”
“The pain that could happen from a customer perspective could really cause a backlash,” said Tom Stephens, GM’s vice chairman for global product operations.
Still GM is supportive of ethanol use and announced at the conference that it will produce flex-fuel Chevrolet Volts in late 2011, combining technologies that will allow the vehicle to run on electricity and ethanol blends of up to 85%.
GM also claims that the US needs its service stations to add another 10,000 pumps capable of delivering the 85% ethanol blend known as E85 to gain public support for the biofuel.
A different scenario was reported by ICIS News at the recent biodiesel conference. This year’s attendance was reportedly down as the industry continues to try to recover from the fiscal calamities of 2009.
The biodiesel industry is also currently urging Congress to reinstate a crucial $1/gal blending tax credit extension as part of Obama’s job stimulus package, which, according to the National Biodiesel Board, the biodiesel producers need to compete with petroleum diesel pricing.
Like ethanol, the biodiesel industry is also advocating a standard fuel-pump blend of B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% traditional diesel), up from the current B5 standard. Biodiesel producers reiterate that the blend is safe for most engine types and better for the environment and their own bottom lines, although according to ICIS News report, some automakers such as Volkswagen and Daimler balk at the proposition.
Another issue reported by ICIS news are the benefits [or lack thereof] of algae development to the biodiesel industry. Some biodiesel producers are said to be worried that their industry as a whole well be left out of the technological know-how necessary to turn the green organisms into green fuel.
One good news that came out of the biodiesel conference is GM unveiling a new engine that will allow two of its heavy-duty trucks to run on biodiesel.
Below are reports from ICIS News covering both conferences (subscription only):
US ethanol event draws more delegates, sentiment improves