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Forest Service grants help design biofuel energy projects

Trees cleared during wildfire fuel reduction projects can be turned into fuel pellets, Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Trees cleared during wildfire fuel reduction projects can be turned into fuel pellets, Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Grant program has helped pay for forest wildfire fuel reduction projects

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For all its dead lodgepole pines, Colorado was shut out of the latest round of grants awarded by the U.S. Forest Service for wood-to-energy projects, touted as a way to expand regional economies and create new jobs.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced the $2.5 million funding push last week. “These grants help grow new jobs, support clean energy production and improve our local environments, especially in reducing fire threats,” said Tidwell. “Communities from Massachusetts to Alaska will benefit from the program this year.” Continue reading

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Report outlines algae biofuel sustainability issues

A raceway pond used for the cultivation of microalgae. The water is kept in constant motion with a powered paddle wheel. Photo courtesy the Wikimedia Commons.

Water availability, nutrient use seen as key challenges

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Algae-based biofuels have been touted as the next big thing in renewable energy. But based on existing technologies, production on a significant scale — for example enough to supply 5 percent of U.S. transportation fuel needs — would put unsustainable demands on energy, water, and nutrients, according to a new report from the National Research Council.

But those concerns are not a definitive barrier for future production, the report concluded, emphasizing that technical innovations could change the equation.

Biofuels derived from algae and cyanobacteria could help the U.S. meet its energy security needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Potential advantages over biofuels made from land plants, including algae’s ability to grow on non-croplands in cultivation ponds of freshwater, salt water, or wastewater. Continue reading

Feds push next-generation biofuel

Innovative Energy underwrites coverage of energy issues.

In some countries, biodiesel is less expensive than regular diesel. Image via the Creative Commons.

Initiative could spur development of low-carbon fuel for commercial and military jets and ships

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The long-touted but still-nascent biofuels industry may get a boost from a $510 million initiative announced Aug. 16 by President Obama. With the funding, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy will partner with the private sector to produce advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation.

The initiative responds to a directive from President Obama issued in March as part of his Blueprint for A Secure Energy Future, the Administration’s framework for reducing dependence on foreign oil. The biofuels initiative is being steered by the White House Biofuels Interagency Work Group and Rural Council, both of which are enabling greater cross-agency collaboration to strengthen rural America.

“Biofuels are an important part of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and creating jobs here at home,” said President Obama. “But supporting biofuels cannot be the role of government alone. That’s why we’re partnering with the private sector to speed development of next-generation biofuels that will help us continue to take steps towards energy independence and strengthen communities across our country.” Continue reading

Summit County: Another crack at biofuel?

A gasification achematic from theU.S. Department of Energy.

Gasification of wood chips may provide clean, affordable power for community facilities

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —A Littleton-based company says it may have a partial solution to Summit County’s ever-growing piles of slash and woodchips.

Community Power Corporation (CPC) builds modular gasification units that convert wood chips and other biomass into fuel to generate electricity without a lot of emissions, and next week, the company will meet with Summit County officials to figure out if there are some community facilities that could benefit from the system. Continue reading

Biofuel researchers blast GMO regulations

An overhaul of GMO regs could speed development of biofuels. PHOTO VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

Restrictions hampering research and development, according to a new report from Oregon State University

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Regulations governing agricultural gene modification are hampering development of the biofuel industry, according to a forest biotechnology professor at Oregon State University.

“It’s extraordinary that gene modification technology, which has been adapted more rapidly than any other technology in the history of agriculture, and had some profound environmental and economic benefits, has been regulated virtually out of existence for perennial cellulosic biofuels crops,” said Steve Strauss, lead author of the paper published Oct. 1 in the journal BioScience.

Gene modification could help researchers create plants that are more stress tolerant. It could reduce the cost of conversion to liquid fuel, reduce the use of water and fertilizer in cultivation, and spur synthesis of new, renewable products such as industrial enzymes. Continue reading

Forest bill could boost biofuel efforts in Colorado

A forest insect emergency bill pending in the U.S. Senate could give companies more incentives to turn dead trees into biofuel.

State Sen. Dan Gibbs is in Washington, D.C. this week to testify in support of a measure that could speed up the pipeline for some local forest projects

By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — State Sen. Dan Gibbs is in Washington, D.C. this week to testify in support of a forest health bill that could speed Forest Service efforts to clear beetle-killed trees on national forest lands around Frisco, Breckenridge and Silverthorne.

The hearing is set for Tuesday afternoon before a U.S. Senate Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee.

The National Forest Insect and Emergency Disease Act is co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Republican Sen. James Risch of Idaho. It would enable the Forest Service to designate critical areas to clarify where the agency can streamline approvals for logging projects.

The measure could also help the Forest Service use provisions of the federal farm bill to offer incentives to companies seeking to convert dead trees into biofuel.

One of the most important provisions of the proposed law would help the Forest Service establish long-term stewardship contracts with logging companies to ensure a steady supply of wood in trade for the work they’re doing, a critical part of enticing loggers to tackle low-value beetle-killed lodgepole forests. Continue reading

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