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New Search Tool Identifies Farm Energy Resources
Responding to an explosion of interest in biofuels and other energy opportunities for agriculture, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has created a handy “one-stop shopping” search tool for farms and ranches interested in funding and building renewable energy projects, reducing energy costs, and becoming more energy self-sufficient. The online tool can be found at www.attra.ncat.org/farmenergysearchtool.

NCAT created this tool with the practical needs of agricultural producers in mind. Partnering with about a dozen leading renewable energy trade organizations and agencies, NCAT has gathered in one location up-to-date listings in all major energy-related topic areas. Using clickable maps and a few simple drop-down menus, growers can quickly find technical assistance, financial assistance, and sources of equipment in their own state for making energy saving improvements and building anaerobic digesters, biodiesel, ethanol, wind, and solar energy projects. Read the full press release.

Updated Tribal Energy Website Includes Project Development Guide
DOE has updated the Web site for its Tribal Energy Program, which promotes tribal energy sufficiency and fosters employment and economic development on tribal lands throughout the United States. The program, a part of DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), provides financial and technical assistance to tribes for feasibility studies of renewable energy development on tribal lands. It also offers assistance to tribes for the initial steps toward renewable energy and energy efficiency development. The updated Tribal Energy Program Web site reflects the look of the EERE Web site and provides easier access to information about DOE-funded projects on tribal lands. See the Tribal Energy Program website and the Projects on Tribal Lands web page.

The updated Web site also incorporates the Guide to Tribal Energy Development, a subsite designed to help tribes develop clean energy projects on their lands. The online guide is full of information that could benefit anyone pursuing a renewable energy project.

Article Features Geothermal Heat Pump System in Livingston
The Montana Standard recently ran an article on a geothermal heat pump system installed on the Livingston home of Eric Schneider. These systems provide heat through buried piping filled with water and antifreeze, which is then circulated with an electric pump. The systems can also provide cooling. According to the article, Schneider’s energy bills are only about $70 each month, although he does use a wood stove as a supplement for very cold periods. More….

Learn more about geothermal and ground-source heat pumps.

EIA: Summer to Bring Higher Fuel Prices
Crude oil prices are expected to average $65 per barrel this summer, and that, along with demand growth and supply constraints, will keep prices for gasoline and natural gas elevated, according to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook notes that U.S. retail gasoline prices increased by more than 60 cents per gallon over the past two months due to higher crude oil prices, unplanned refinery outages, increased demand for gasoline, and low levels of gasoline imports from Europe. The average monthly gasoline pump price is projected to peak at an average of $2.87 per gallon in May while averaging $2.81 per gallon over the course of the summer. Average retail prices for diesel fuel are expected to average $2.82 per gallon over the summer, up from a winter low but down 6 cents compared to last summer. More…

Interested in alternative fuels to reduce your gasoline consumption? Check out our Biofuels section.

Corn Plantings Increase 15 Percent Due to Ethanol Demand
High corn prices spurred by a surge in demand for ethanol production have led to a 15 percent increase in planned plantings of corn in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Prospective Plantings report, issued by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), says farmers intend to plant 90.5 million acres of corn this year—an increase of 12.1 million acres—resulting in the largest area planted for corn since 1944. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, that acreage should yield more than 13 billion bushels of corn, which will provide "ample corn supplies to economically meet the needs of all the sectors that rely on it." Farmers will have some catching up to do, though. The
Grain Stocks report notes that corn stocks are down by 13 percent—more than 900 million bushels—from this time last year. More...

USDA Offers Clean Energy Grants and Loan Guarantees
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering $176.5 million in loan guarantees and $11.4 million in grants to support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements by agricultural producers and small businesses. Loan guarantees cover up to 50 percent of a project's cost and will not exceed $10 million. Grants are available for up to 25 percent of a project's cost, with a limit of $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements and $500,000 for renewable energy systems. Grant applications must by postmarked no later than May 18, 2007, while the deadline for loan applications or grant and loan combinations is July 2, 2007. See the USDA press release, and for the complete details, see the announcement from the March 22 edition of the Federal Register.

DOE Awards $23 Million for Cellulosic Ethanol Conversion Projects
DOE has announced that five projects will receive $23 million over the next four years to develop highly efficient fermentative organisms that convert cellulosic biomass into ethanol. Cellulosic biomass includes a variety of non-food plant materials, such as agricultural wastes, saw dust, paper pulp, and switchgrass. Organisms that can ferment these cellulosic biomass materials into ethanol are crucial to the success of commercial-scale integrated biorefineries and cellulosic ethanol refining. Such organisms must be able to survive a wide range of environmental conditions while resisting mutations that would hinder their effectiveness.

DOE selected Cargill Incorporated, Celunol Corporation, DuPont, Mascoma Corporation, and Purdue University for the five projects. The total investment in the five projects could be more than $37 million, with DOE's Biofuels Initiative providing the federal government's share. The research will further President Bush's goals of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive by 2012 and reducing U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years. See the DOE press release and the Biofuels Initiative Web page.

NCDC Seeks Participants for Biofuels Survey
The Northwest Cooperative Development Center is looking for farmers, consumers and businesses who have sought to create a biofuel or biopower cooperative business in the Pacific Northwest. If you are exploring a cooperative approach to purchasing biofuels, supplying or processing feedstock into biodiesel or ethanol, or producing power through anaerobic digestion or cogeneration, please take a few minutes to complete NCDC’s online survey. By contributing information about your project, you will be conserving a place for the cooperative business model in the emerging bioenergy industry.

All project-specific information will be kept strictly confidential, though aggregate results will be published to help ensure that communities, farmers and consumers seeking to create cooperative businesses will have the best information available.

Opinion Column Calls for Fuel Conservation First
Tom DeLuca believes firmly that we need to displace fossil fuels with alternative fuels. In this opinion column on New West Bozeman, Deluca calls for us first to conserve fuel and second, to “thoroughly evaluate the sustainability of any proposed alternatives.” Deluca offers a number of reasons why both Americans and Montanans should “look before we leap” into massive ethanol production. Read the column.

Nissan Begins Selling the Altima Hybrid in Eight States
Nissan began selling its first hybrid vehicle, the 2007 Altima Hybrid, in late January. The vehicle is assembled in Tennessee and is available in the eight states that have adopted California emissions regulations: California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price for the Altima Hybrid is $24,400, and it also qualifies for a federal tax credit of $2,350. The hybrid vehicle is estimated to achieve 42 miles per gallon (mpg) in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway, for a combined fuel economy rating of 39 mpg. The vehicle mates a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine to an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for a total power rating of 198 horsepower, giving it slightly better performance than the standard 4-cylinder Altima. Nissan offers a 4-cylinder Altima with a CVT for $20,300—$4,100 less than the hybrid—but its combined fuel economy of 25 mpg is less than two-thirds of the fuel economy achieved by the hybrid version. More...

Alternative Fuel Challenge in State of the Union Address Draws Mixed Reviews
President Bush said in his State of the Union address that within 10 years, the United States should use five times as much alternative fuel as it does now. That step, coupled with tougher mileage standards on cars, would reduce gasoline usage by 20 percent, he said. The challenge and deadline has drawn mixed reactions from energy experts across the political spectrum. David R. Baker, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, notes that corn ethanol is the only alternative fuel that can be produced in large enough quantities to meet this mandate. The federal government, Baker writes, estimates that ethanol offers about 1.6 units of energy for every unit that goes in. About 5 billion gallons of ethanol were produced in the U.S. last year, which consumed about 12 to 15 percent of the nation's corn crop. Many in the world of alternative fuels worry that Bush's initiative could boost corn ethanol and stifle other, potentially better sources of power. "You're locking in corn ethanol," said Daniel Kammen, an energy specialist and co-director of the Berkeley Institute of the Environment at UC Berkeley. "This is how not to make policy." Meanwhile, market stocks for major ethanol producers were mostly down following the president's speech. According to MarketWatch, the Dow-Jones online report, most markets anticipated Bush's proposal with rallied prices in the days ahead of the speech. Prices for major ethanol producers such as Archers, Daniel, Midland and U.S. Bioenergy closed down the day following the president's speech. More...

New Protocol Will Help Standardize Manure Digester Evaluations
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new protocol last week that intends to help standardize the process used to evaluate the performance of anaerobic digestion systems. Anaerobic digestion is a controlled process to produce methane from livestock manure. The methane can then be burned as a heat source or used to generate electricity. The new EPA protocol describes proper data collection to assess the performance of anaerobic digesters and establishes a uniform method of evaluating a project's operational reliability and economic viability. Meant for use by livestock producers, state agencies, project developers, and other involved parties, the protocol is intended to provide reliable, standardized information to system developers, the investment community, and farmers and ranchers. The protocol was developed jointly by the EPA's AgSTAR program, the Association of State Energy Research and Technology Transfer Institutions, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More...

Bush Administration to Accelerate Ethanol Production
In his State Of The Union Address on January 23, President Bush set a national goal of replacing more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. He called for a 20-percent reduction in gasoline consumption through increased fuel economy standards and the production of 35 billion gallons of biofuels by 2017. The new Advanced Energy Initiative will, among other things, accelerate research in cutting-edge methods of producing cellulosic ethanol with the goal of making the use of such ethanol practical and competitive within six years. The President's 2007 budget will include $150 million – a $59 million increase over FY06 – to help develop bio-based transportation fuels from agricultural waste products, such as wood chips, stalks, or switch grass. Research scientists say that accelerating research into cellulosic ethanol can make it cost-competitive by 2012, offering the potential to displace up to 30 percent of the nation's current fuel use. More...

House Passes CLEAN Act
The House of Representatives passed the Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation (CLEAN) Act on January 18, reports RenewableEnergyAccess.com. The bill will repeal nearly $14 billion in tax breaks for oil and natural gas companies and instead direct those funds toward renewable fuels and energy efficiency programs. The CLEAN Act was passed by a vote of 264-163. More…

Five Billion Gallons of Ethanol Produced Last Year
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) estimates that U.S. production of ethanol fuel reached 5 billion gallons in 2006, an increase of about 28 percent over 2005, when about 3.9 billion gallons were produced. RFA attributes the industry growth to the phase-out of MTBE as a fuel additive (with ethanol providing the best replacement option), federal renewable fuels production requirements, and growing demand for clean fuels. At year's end, the industry had 110 ethanol biorefineries with enough combined capacity to produce more than 5.3 billion gallons of ethanol per year, plus enough projects set to go online in the next 18 months to more than double that capacity. Ethanol is also finding new outlets to the consumer, as 1,000 fuel pumps in the United States are selling E85, a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. More...

A new report from the Earth Policy Institute (EPI) says that RFA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are actually underestimating the growth of the ethanol fuel industry. According to EPI, the USDA expects ethanol fuel distilleries to require 60 million tons of corn from the 2008 harvest, while EPI estimates are more than twice that, at 139 million tons. Actually, the EPI data is close to what the RFA is anticipating in the near term, but its long-term projections include 200 planned ethanol distilleries that may or may not come to fruition. The EPI press release expresses concerns about the impact of the ethanol fuels market on corn prices.

Detroit Auto Show Features Hybrid, Flex-Fuel, and Efficient Vehicles
The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), now underway in Detroit , Michigan, features a number of concept vehicles that include hybrid systems, flex-fuel capabilities, or efficient gasoline engines. Among the most appealing entries in terms of design is the Toyota FT-HS, a hybrid sports car concept that combines carbon fiber and titanium components in an aggressive, aerodynamic design. The concept vehicle features a V6 engine coupled with a hybrid system for a target power output of about 400 horsepower. Toyota estimates that the vehicle could accelerate to 60 miles per hour in about 4 seconds, but the company didn't attempt to estimate its fuel economy. Mazda is also shooting for high-end sports car design with its Ryuga concept vehicle, a sleek, grinning sports car that, according to the company, could potentially feature a flex-fuel engine capable of running on E85 (a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline). See the press releases from Toyota and Ford Motor Company, Mazda's parent company.

Ford is displaying the Lincoln MKR concept, a four-door sedan that's meant to signal Lincoln 's future design strategy, but the car's real innovation is under its hood. The MKR features Ford's new TwinForce engine, an all-aluminum turbocharged V-6 engine in which the gasoline is injected directly into the engine's cylinders at high pressures. Compared to standard fuel-injection systems, which inject the fuel into the cylinder head, the TwinForce design allows for a more efficient and controlled burning of the fuel. The result is the performance of a V-8 engine with a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy. The engine is also capable of running on E85, which allows it to deliver 415 horsepower. See the Ford press releases on the Lincoln MKR concept and its engine.

Bill Extends Federal Energy Tax Credits
President Bush has approved the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, extending the production tax credit through 2008 for electricity produced from wind power, geothermal power, biomass, landfill gas, small irrigation power, and trash combustion facilities. The act provides a similar one-year tax credit extension for new properties that produce geothermal power or make use of solar energy; for homeowners that purchase solar water heating, solar photovoltaic, or fuel cell systems; for businesses that purchase fiber-optic lighting systems, solar energy systems, or fuel cell power plants; for new energy-efficient homes; and for energy-efficiency improvements to commercial buildings.

The act extends the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program through 2008, and increases the total annual amount of tax-credit bonds to $1.2 billion. It extends special tax allowances for cellulosic ethanol facilities to include plants placed in service by 2012. It also extends the research and development tax credit, which encourages businesses to invest in new innovations. More…

Cellulosic Ethanol Demonstration Plant Slated for New York
Mascoma Corporation has been awarded a $14.8 million grant for a cellulosic biomass-to-ethanol demonstration plant in Rochester, New York. The project will demonstrate cellulose-to-ethanol technology and industrial processes, using agricultural and forest products as biomass, including paper sludge, wood chips, Grant funds are from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Also supporting the project are International Paper Co., Cornell University, Clarkson University and the Natural Resources Defense Council. More…

Funding Alert! Conservation Innovation Grants
The U.S. Department of Agriculture requests proposals for the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) Program. The purpose of CIG is to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies for environmental enhancement and protection, in conjunction with agricultural production. Categories of interest include: 1) National Natural Resource Concerns (atmosphere, water, soil grazing land and forest health; and 2) National Technology (improved on-farm energy efficiency including but not limited to renewable energy resources, methane recovery, and water management). Some $2 million is expected to be available, with up to 60 awards anticipated.  Responses are due February 2, 2007. For more information, contact Tessa Chadwick at [email protected] or go to: www.grants.gov/search/search.do?mode=VIEW&oppId=11733. Refer to Sol# USDA-NRCS-NHQ0701

PSC Approves New Rates for Renewable Energy Producers
Montana 's Public Service Commission has approved new prices for small renewable energy projects that sell the power to NorthWestern Energy, reports the Missoulian. Under the new rule, small projects—those up to 10 MW in size—could choose a price of either $49.90 per megawatt-hour (mwh) or a price tied to the highest hourly price that NorthWestern pays for power from other sources, with contracts ranging from seven to 20 years. NorthWestern Energy currently sells power to its Montana customers for about $48 per mwh. More…

Advanced Cars Focus of Nissan's New Environmental Action Plan
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., has announced its new environmental action plan, which focuses on reducing both exhaust and CO2 emission, and increasing recycling efforts. Nissan Green Program 2010 includes plans to introduce a variety of fuel-efficient vehicles by 2010, including an expanded number of flex-fuel vehicles and a new hybrid vehicle. Nissan also will commercialize a battery-powered electric vehicle and a fuel cell vehicle. The plan includes a commitment to accelerate Nissan's development of plug-in hybrid vehicles and an effort to develop a car by 2010 that can run 100 kilometers on three liters of gasoline using advanced engine technologies and a continuously variable transmission. The company also will reduce its energy use in manufacturing, cutting carbon dioxide emissions of its auto plants by 7 percent by 2010. More…

Report: Geothermal Development Can Create Jobs, Investments, and Other Benefits
At a time when the U.S. geothermal industry is seeing a resurgence of new investment, the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) has released a new publication on the socioeconomics of geothermal energy. A Handbook on the Externalities, Employment, and Economics of Geothermal Energy provides critical information about the costs, benefits, and other effects of geothermal development on people and communities around the country.

“Representing over a year of work and having undergone extensive reviews, this report solidly documents the many benefits of expanding geothermal energy use,” stated Karl Gawell, Executive Director of GEA. “We hope the Administration and OMB read this report,” he added, referring to recent proposals by the Administration to close down federal geothermal research efforts. The document can be downloaded from the GEA website at www.geo-energy.org/publications/reports.asp.

337 Fuel Cell Projects Identified in New Database
A new database created by Fuel Cells 2000 and DOE's Hydrogen Program identifies some 337 stationary fuel cell projects that have been built in the United States . The database includes both both active and retired projects in 43 states. California leads with 59 projects, followed by New York with 53. The largest projects are a now-defunct 2-megawatt molten carbonate fuel cell built in Santa Clara, California, in the 1990s; a 1.2-megawatt phosphoric acid fuel cell system built in Middletown, Connecticut, in 2001; a 2-megawatt molten carbonate fuel cell built in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 2003; and a 1.4-megawatt phosphoric acid fuel cell system built in Garden City, New York, in 2005. While the majority of the fuel cells are fueled with natural gas, the database also includes fuel cells powered by anaerobic digester gas, coalmine methane, diesel fuel, ethanol, hydrogen, landfill gas, liquefied petroleum gas, methanol, and propane. More…

Reports Analyze 25x'25 Renewable Energy Vision
The 25x'25 Initiative has released two reports that analyze its renewable energy vision for America . The reports, one by the RAND Corporation and one by the University of Tennessee, studied the ability of renewable energy from America's farms, forests and ranches to provide 25 percent of U.S. total energy needs in 2025 while continuing to provide safe, abundant and affordable food, feed and fiber, as well as the economic and other effects of achieving this goal. The reports conclude that the 25x'25 vision is achievable and that rapidly increasing the use of renewable energy will have an immediate payoff for the U.S. economy. The reports also conclude that 25x'25 will improve our energy security and could provide significant environmental and other benefits at virtually no additional cost to the economy. See the full reports.

Geothermal Enjoying Considerable Growth During 2006
Fifty-eight new geothermal energy projects are currently under development in the United States, compared to only 46 in March 2006, according to a new survey from the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). The survey identifies power projects under development in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah. More...

2007 Fuel Economy Guide Released
DOE and EPA have released the 2007 Fuel Economy Guide, which identifies fuel-efficient autos for the 2007 model year. Hybrid vehicles lead the way for overall fuel economy with the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, and the front-wheel-drive version of the Ford Escape Hybrid topping the list, and the four-wheel-drive version of the Ford Escape Hybrid tying with the new Mercury Mariner Hybrid in tenth place. More...

DOE Announces Funding for Renewable Energy Projects on Tribal Lands
The U.S. Department of Energy requests proposals from Federally-recognized Tribes to conduct feasibility studies to determine the viability of economically sustainable renewable energy installations on Tribal lands. Some $4 million is expected to be available, up to 15 awards anticipated. Responses are due February 6, 2007. More...

American Energy Initiative Produces New Renewable Energy Report
The American Energy Initiative, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the Center for American Progress, has produced a new report titled American Energy: The Renewable Path to Energy Security. The report demonstrates the potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency and presents a practical policy agenda for achieving them. The full report can be downloaded at the project's website www.americanenergynow.org.

October Marks Beginning of Phase-out of Tax Credits for Toyota Hybrids
Beginning October 1, 2006, buyers of Lexus or Toyota hybrid vehicles will be entitled to a lower tax credit. According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), more than 60,000 hybrid vehicles built by Toyota Motor Corporation had been purchased as of the second quarter of 2006. As required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the IRS is cutting the tax credit by 50 percent for the fourth quarter of 2006, which starts October 1, through the first quarter of 2007. From April 1 through September 30, 2007, the tax credit will again be halved, and a year from now the tax credit will disappear. For instance, buyers of the popular Prius can earn a tax credit of at most $1,575 as of October 1, and on April 1, 2007, that figure will drop to just $787. Meanwhile, tax credits remain in full force for other automakers producing hybrids. More...

USDA Awards $5.5 Million for Biofuels, Biomass, Wind Projects
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that 44 projects in 21 states collectively will receive nearly $5.5 million in grants for the production and marketing of ethanol, ethanol by-products, and biodiesel and for feasibility studies of energy production from biomass and wind power. The funds are part of a larger package of Value-Added Producer Grants, which generally go toward marketing agricultural products, but can also go toward farm- based renewable energy projects. While most of the funds will go toward ethanol-related projects, the projects also include efforts to market heating fuels derived from wood pellets, wood chips, sugarcane biomass, and corn and from methane produced from an anaerobic digester on a dairy farm. The on-farm renewable energy projects are all wind power projects, but two grant recipients plan to supplement their wind power with biomass power, one using corn and the other fueling a microturbine with wood chips. The projects will be located in the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. More...

Funding Alert: Clean School Bus USA
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requests proposals for Clean School Bus USA, for retrofit and/or replacement projects that reduce pollution from school buses within the Region 8 states which includes Montana. Some $415K is expected to be available, with up to 10 awards anticipated. Responses are due November 3, 2006. More...

Yellowstone Park Marks a Decade of Biodiesel Use
Biodiesel Magazine reports that Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks recently celebrated ten successful years of biodiesel use in daily operations. A workshop at Moran Junction on Tuesday was sponsored by the United Soybean Board and featured several panelists, including the board's director, Chuck Myers. He told attendees that Yellowstone "confirmed that biodiesel can be used successfully in one of the harshest, all-weather climates in the United States.” The Yellowstone area currently has five public biodiesel pumps. More...

EPA Proposes Rules for Renewable Fuel Requirements
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed rules for a national program requiring increasing levels of renewable fuels production over the next six years. The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) Program, authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, requires 4.7 billion gallons of biofuels production in 2007, increasing gradually to 7.5 billion gallons in 2012. To meet that requirement, the new regulation proposes that 3.71 percent of all the gasoline sold or dispensed to U.S. motorists in 2007 be renewable fuel. The rule contains compliance tools and a credit and trading system that is integral to the overall program. The system allows renewable fuels to be used where they are most economical, while providing a flexible means for industry to comply with the standard. More...

Researchers Studying Straw Conversion to Liquid Fuels
A major byproduct of the Pacific Northwest's grass seed industry is straw. Illegal to burn and expensive to move, straw in this region is almost unmarketable. But researchers from the Western Research Institute in Laramie, Wyoming, are working to develop a small-scale gasification reactor that can use straw as a feedstock, according to The Soy Daily, an online trade journal. Two Agricultural Research Service (ARS) labs have collaborated with the Laramie research institute to develop technologies to convert straw into liquid fuels. A prototype reactor reduces straw into char—small particles of carbon and residue. The vaporized gases can be converted into liquid, synthetic gas. Researchers estimate that up to 60 gallons of liquid fuel can be derived from a ton of straw. The grass seed region of the Pacific Northwest produces about 7 million tons of excess straw per year, which has the potential for 420 million gallons of liquid fuel. More...

Company to Invest $400 Million in Renewable Fuels by 2009
The Virgin Group—a company that started in music and has expanded to airlines and a whole lot more—announced Sunday that its latest venture will be in renewable fuels. Virgin Fuels will invest up to $400 million in renewable fuels over the next three years, starting with an investment in California-based Cilion, Inc. Cilion was formed in June to build and operate ethanol plants that will be cheaper and greener than standard corn-to-ethanol plants, as they substantially reduce the need for fossil fuels in ethanol production. By 2009, Cilion plans to build seven ethanol plants that will have a total capacity of 440 million gallons per year. The first three plants are expected to be located in California. More...

Cattle Manure to Power New Texas Ethanol Plant
Panda Ethanol has announced plans to build a fuel-efficient ethanol plant in Sherman County, Texas, that will have a production capacity of 100 million gallons annually. The new plant will refine about 40 million bushels of corn and sorghum each year into ethanol. As well, the plant will use one billion pounds of cattle manure each year to generate steam for production of the ethanol. The plant will be equal in size to Panda's Hereford plant, which will be the largest biomass-fueled ethanol plant in the United States when it goes online in 2007. More...

Ethanol Industry Experiencing Rapid Growth
The ethanol fuel industry is growing so rapidly that a national Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), passed as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, is already moot, says EERE Network News. The RFS requires 4 billion gallons of biofuels production in 2006 and 4.7 billion gallons in 2007, increasing gradually to 7.5 billion gallons in 2012. But according to the latest press release from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), there are currently 101 ethanol facilities nationwide with the capacity to produce more than 4.8 billion gallons of ethanol per year, an amount that already exceeds the requirement for next year. With an additional 41 ethanol facilities under construction and 7 expansions underway, the industry is in the process of adding nearly 2.8 billion gallons of new capacity. That will provide enough capacity for the industry to produce 7.6 billion gallons of ethanol per year, which already exceeds the goal for 2012. Unless the industry experiences a downturn and some production capacity goes uncompleted or unused, the ethanol fuel industry should easily exceed the RFS requirements. More...

DOE Announces Solicitation for Bioenergy Research Centers
DOE has announced that it will award $250 million to establish and operate two new Bioenergy Research Centers. The centers will work to accelerate basic research in cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels, with a goal of meeting the requirements set by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms are eligible to apply. Proposals are due February 1, 2007. The centers are expected to begin work in 2008 and be fully operational by 2009. More...

Oregon Renewable Energy Ballot Measure Proposed
Renewable energy technology proponents in Oregon hope to pass a public initiative this fall that would turn the state into a center for renewable energy research, reports Newwest.net. Backers refer to the ballot initiative as the “Oregon Apollo Initiative,” evoking the massive NASA program of the 1960s that put men on the moon. The initiative would fund the creation of seven "centers of excellence"' that in turn would encourage research and development efforts and training programs in the renewable energy industry. The initiative would also create tax breaks for companies working in biofuel production. Backers for the initiative come from both sides of the aisle: former Democratic governor John Kitzhaber and Republican state senator Ben Westlund are the ballot measure's chief proponents. More...

Washington State Legislature Passes Biofuel Plant Construction
The Washington State legislature is currently debating a bill that would establish a $9 million fund that would subsidize the construction of four oilseed crushing facilities across the state. The crushing plants would allow canola and other oilseed crops to be converted into oil, which could then be blended with diesel fuel to create biodiesel. The bill recently passed the House and is now heading to the state Senate. The Spokane Conservation District, the Odessa Public Development Authority and the Port of Columbia County each would get $2.75 million under the proposal. The Port of Sunnyside would get $750,000. More...

Geothermal Firm Donates $20K to Idaho County
The geothermal energy company ORMAT recently donated $20,000 to Churchill County , Idaho , where it has based its geothermal business for more than twenty years. ORMAT also announced plans to build a 30-megawatt geothermal power plant at a U.S. Naval site in the county. The company plans to recoup the $80 million plant cost within a decade of operation, and intends to hire 10-12 people to operate the facility. Once constructed, the plant could theoretically produce power indefinitely, so long as there is geothermal heat inside the earth's crust. ORMAT has signed a 50-year contract with the Navy for operating the plant. More...

Biodiesel Bill Passes Colorado Senate
The Colorado Senate Transportation Committee recently passed a new bill aimed at boosting the production and sale of Colorado biodiesel, reports The Durango Herald . The bill would mandate that state vehicles be fueled with a 20-percent blend of biodiesel so long as biodiesel price is no more than 10 cents more than traditional diesel fuel. Backers cited two motives behind the bill: achieving greater energy independence from foreign petroleum and invigorating Colorado's rural economy. The bill now goes before the full Senate for deliberation. More...

Butte-Silver Bow County to Test Montana Inventor's Fuel Additive
Butte-Silver Bow County officials have agreed to test a new fuel additive in the county vehicle fleet this winter, reports The Missoulian. Officials hope that the additive, called CA-40, can increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. The additive will be used on a six-month test basis while officials monitors its effects on gas mileage and emissions. Bozemen resident Clyde Ritter, a retired pilot and aviation industry worker, invented CA-40. He has worked on the fuel addition for more than a decade and approached Butte for a fleet test this last fall. More...

Colorado Biodiesel Company Announces Facility Expansion
Colorado-based biodiesel company BioEnergy recently announced plans to expand the size of their production facility by 50 percent, reports The Rocky Mountain News. While the company currently runs a year-old facility capable of producing 10 million gallons of biodiesel annually, plant officials are betting on the future economic draw of biofuels by building a second plant capable of producing 5 million gallons annually. Company officials acknowledged that the biodiesel industry is still inhibited by its low public profile and problems with using the fuel in cold weather. More...

New Mexico State Agencies Predict Global Warming Will Impact Poor Most Severely
A recently issued report authored by staff of seven New Mexico state agencies predicts that global warming will have a significant impact on the environment in the Rocky Mountain West and will affect the poor most significantly. The report indicates that communicable diseases such as hantavirus and plague will spread more rapidly, farming and ranching will become more expensive due to drought, fire and windstorms and trout habitat could decline by as much as 78 percent. According to the authors, the poor will be least able to deal with the rising costs of food and energy and be more vulnerable to health-related problems. More...

Guest Editorial on Montana 's Renewable Energy Potential
This Billings Gazette editorial written by Helen Waller advocates a concentrated push for renewable energy development in Montana. Waller notes that Montana is ranked fifth in the nation for wind energy potential, and refers to the pending Judith Gap wind energy project as exemplary for Montana's energy future; energy generated by the wind farm will cost less than that of NorthWestern Energy. Waller also discusses the potential for biodiesel production and energy efficiency measures as immediate, economically viable ways for Montanans to save money on energy costs. More...

Biodiesel Truck Stop Attracts Interest of Texas Entertainers
Carl Cornelius, owner of Carl's Corner truck stop and founder of the Texas town incorporated with the same name, is attracting the interest of high-profile actors, musicians and authors with his push for biodiesel fuel production. Country singer Willie Nelson, Chicken Soup for the Soul author Mark Victor Hansen, and actor Dennis Weaver are Cornelius' committed business partners. Nelson and Cornelius began selling biodiesel earlier this year when they installed BioWillie, Nelson's biodiesel fuel pump, at the truck stop. Since then, Cornelius' business has become a meeting place for biodiesel entrepreneurs. Most recently, a group of investors announced plans to build a biodiesel manufacturing plant near the truck stop. Other figures in the entertainment industry—Bonnie Raitt, Neil Young, Daryl Hannah, and Morgan Freeman, for example—also are getting involved in the biodiesel industry. More...

Opinion Piece: Utah Needs A Renewable Energy Policy
The state of Utah currently relies on coal-fired plants for 95 percent of its electricity, compared to 52 percent nationwide. This editorial by Jackie Biskupski, a Salt Lake City legislator, recommends that Utah 's political leadership consider adding renewable energy to the state's energy portfolio. One means for promoting renewable energy, according to Biskupski, would be enacting a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), by which a portion of the state's energy would be required to come from renewable energy sources. Passing a RPS wou study this year by the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that a 10 percent RPS could, by 2020, provide the state $888 million in new capital investment, $63 million in new property tax revenues for local communities, and $16 million in income to ranchers and rural landowners resulting from bioenergy development and wind power land leases. More...

Idaho and Utah Announce Plans for Geothermal Plants
Two new contracts will likely result in a new 10-megawatt geothermal plant located in south-central Idaho and a new 42-megawatt plant in southwest Utah. In Idaho, U.S. Geothermal has entered into a contract with Ormat Nevada, Inc. for the engineering, procurement, and construction of its first 10-megawatt geothermal power plant at Raft River. U.S. Geothermal has signed power purchase contracts with the Idaho Power Company for three 10-megawatt geothermal power plants. More...

In Utah, PacifiCorp signed a 20-year power purchase agreement for all the power produced by a 42-megawatt geothermal power plant that will be located near Cove Fort, Utah. Owner Amp Resources LLC expects the project to be online in 2007. The project was selected as part of a PacifiCorp request for proposals, issued in February 2004 with the aim of acquiring up to 1,100 megawatts of cost-effective renewable resources. More...

Darby School Receives Biomass Fuel from Forest Service
Thanks to its biomass boiler and discounted fuel provided by the Forest Service, the Darby School District can expect to pay much less in heating costs this year. The District replaced its fuel oil furnace with a biomass boiler two years ago with funds from the Forest Service's Fuels for Schools Program. The school district will receive 500 tons of slash that resulted from Forest Service's fuel-reduction efforts in the Bitterroot National Forest. The total cost for the fuel is $5000, significantly lower than the estimated $125,000 it would cost to heat the school over the winter months if it still used fuel oil. More...

Wyoming Biodiesel Plant in the Works
Wyoming Biodiesel Co., a subsidiary of Sheridan-based Energy Fuel Dynamics LLC, has announced plans to construct a new biodiesel plant in Campbell County, Wyoming, capable of producing 30 million gallons of biodiesel annually. The plant would be Wyoming's first biodiesel plant, as well as one of the largest nationwide. Biodiesel is derived from vegetable oil, and a major production facility would be a boon to Wyoming farmers who grow oil seed crops such as canola and camelina. Biodiesel processing also produces a high-protein cattle feed, helping to feed Wyoming livestock. More...

Northern Plains Resource Council Meeting Showcases Renewable Energy Options
The Billings Outpost recently ran a story on the 34th Northern Plains Resource Council annual meeting, highlighting the renewable energy options available for Montanans. The article quotes keynote speaker Michael Nobel, who works for Minnesotans for an Efficient Energy Economy (ME-3). Nobel advocated immediate solutions to energy consumption, such as dramatically increasing the number of hybrid cars used for urban commutes and continuing to expand on biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. The article also highlights the incorporation of biofuel vehicles by Yellowstone park managers. More...

Arizona Consumers Take Advantage of Alternative Energy Credits
Arizona residents have lots of incentives to develop alternative energy technologies. The upcoming $2,000 federal tax credit for residential solar power installations can be combined with the Arizona $1,000 solar tax credit. Additionally, some Arizona utility companies have added incentives: Tucson Electric Power, for example, will offer a $2,400 rebate per kilowatt on solar panel installations. When these tax credits and rebate are taken in context of the rising costs of natural gas and oil, it appears that solar energy is not such an expensive option. Other alternative energies are also becoming popular, most notably the rising interest in biofuel production. This Arizona Daily Star article highlights success stories for several Arizona entrepreneurs who work in the field of biodiesel production. More...

Article Provides Background on Dairy Farm Energy Projects
An article in the September/October 2005 issue of the journal Distributed Energy examines the push to encourage onsite power production at dairy farms across the country and provides a cautionary tale for dairy owners thinking about investing in bio-based energy systems. Titled "DG Down on the Farm," the article discusses the state of the technology for on-farm digester/generation systems and outlines various state programs and the reasons for their varied success in encouraging installation of energy systems at dairies. The article also provides examples and perspectives from both dairy producers and the utility companies, which can play an important role in how successful a bio-based energy program will be. More...

Townsend School District Plans Biomass Boiler Installation
Townsend school district officials announced that a new biomass boiler will be installed in the school next summer. The boiler, which burns wood pellets, is expected to save the district half of its annual heating bill of $50,0000; officials hope to save $1 million over the next thirty years. The district will defray the costs of the new system with a $130,000 grant from the federally funded Fuels for Schools program. Townsend is the latest of several Montana school districts to take advantage of the federal program. The wood pellets that fuel the boiler are wood scraps and products collected from lumber mills or fuel reduction projects. More...

Colorado-Based Beer Breweries Produces Ethanol from Waste
Colorado-based Coors Brewing Co. and Merrick & Company have found a novel use for the waste produced from beer production: creating 1.5 million gallons of ethanol. One plant distills residuals from beer making and has been successful enough that a second, $2.3 million plant will open later this month on the same site. This second plant will double ethanol production at the brewery, partly through inputting millions of gallons of spilled Coors, George Killian's Irish Red and other beers directly into the process via an underground pipeline. Additionally, three other ethanol plants are under development in the state. These plants will push Colorado from have virtually no ethanol production to becoming one of the nation's top producers. More...

Op-Ed: The Future of Renewable Energy in the West
This opinion piece by Headwater News argues for an expanded renewable energy market in the West. They advocate that a renewable energy policy should no longer be driven only by considerations of the low environmental impact of renewable energy technologies, but also by the reduced energy costs that renewables offer. Some Montana schools, for example, are turning to wood and biomass for heating, while some 29,000 Colorado customers who use Xcel Energy's wind energy program will pay $10 a month less for heat than those who use traditional fossil fuel generated energy, according to the Denver Post. The op-ed also cites the economic potential of renewable energy projects, such as the recent wind turbine projects announced in Montana and Idaho. More...

Hybrid Grass Shows Promise as Fuel Source
Scientists studying a hybrid grass at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say it might be used as an efficient solid fuel, reports a UPI article posted on Science Daily. Leafless stems of the 13-foot tall Giant Miscanthus, or elephant grass, offer a comparatively clean and renewable solid fuel source, researchers reported at the British Association for the Advancement of Science festival. As a fuel, the grass offers an energy ratio of input to output less than 0.2, compared with ratios that exceed 0.8 for ethanol and biodiesel from canola. More...

Ford to Offer Hybrid Versions of Half its Lineup by 2010
Ford Motor Company recently announced plans to increase production to encompass more than half the vehicle models by 2010. The company plans to increase production of its Ford Escape Hybrid to 250,000 in just five years. Ford recently unveiled its second hybrid, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, which goes on sale this fall, and the company plans to introduce hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Mazda Tribute by 2008. More...

Ford also noted plans to increase its flexible-fuel vehicles. The 2006 models of the Ford F-150, Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Town Car will accept E85, an ethanol and gasoline mixture containing 85 percent ethanol. Ford said it could produce as many as 280,000 flexible-fuel vehicles in 2006. More...

Turkey LItter to Fuel Small Town
According to an AP article in the Pioneer Press, energy developers are building a new plant that will burn tons of turkey litter from farms across western Minnesota. Situated in the small town of Benson, the plant is expected to begin production in 2007 and provide enough power to supply the town of 3,300 and the farms around it. The project comes a decade after the Minnesota Legislature ordered the state's largest power supplier - now Xcel Energy Inc. - to invest in biomass as a power source. More...

Manure-powered Ethanol Plant Planned in Kansas
Panda Energy has announced that a new 100 million gallon ethanol plant it plans to construct in Haskell County, Kansas, will be powered by gasified cattle manure, reports Kansas Ag Connection. The company also plans ethanol plants in Texas and Colorado, and together the three facilities will use three billion pounds of cattle manure a year in the creation of bio-gas to run the plants. The company says the biofuel will save 1,000 barrels of oil per day. More...

Standard Runs Feature on Hybrid Vehicles
An article in the September 18 issue of The Montana Standard focused on hybrid vehicles and their growing popularity in Montana. According to the article, "Rising gasoline prices, federal tax incentives and threats of global warming are increasing sales of hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles nationwide, and Montana is no exception." More...

Construction of New Corn-Based Chemical Plant Underway
A new $100-million manufacturing plant to support new corn-based polymers is now under construction in Loudon, Tennessee, under a joint venture of DuPont and Tate & Lyle. The new plant will convert corn into a chemical called 1,3 propanediol, or PDO for short. The companies call the new product Bio-PDO, and will use it to produce DuPont Sorona polymer, which can be used to produce clothing, carpeting, plastics, and other products. According to the companies, the production of Bio-PDO consumes 30 to 40 percent less energy than producing PDO from petroleum; producing 100 million pounds of Bio-PDO in the Loudon plant will save the energy equivalent to 10 million gallons of gasoline per year. More...

Firm Offering $25 Million for Renewables, Efficiency Projects
RNK Capital LLC, a manager of environmental investments, has announced plans to invest $25 million in the U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency market and is inviting interested parties to submit an Expression of Interest. The company hopes to receive offers for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that will result in renewable energy credits, sulfur dioxide emissions allowances, nitrous oxide emissions allowances, or other environmental credits. As an active participant in the markets for emissions trading and renewable energy credits, RNK Capital will consider either buying the credits or allowances generated by the projects or providing debt financing for the projects. See RNK Capital's Request for Project Proposals website.

Bozeman Biofuels Launches Website
Looking for biofuels information with a local slant? Try Bozeman Biofuels website! Bozeman Biofuels was formed following the Bioneers conference in fall 2004. The group is committed to using alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol. Its website offers useful information on biofuels, including where to purchase in Bozeman, links to other resources, and more..

National Lab Expert Notes Energy Benefits of Ethanol
A researcher at DOE's Argonne National Laboratory has completed a study that defends the energy and environmental benefits of producing ethanol from corn and other biomass sources. Argonne researcher Michael Wang presented research at the National Press Club confirming that ethanol fuel substantially helps reduce fossil fuel and petroleum use, when compared with gasoline. Wang also found that ethanol produced from corn achieves moderate reductions in greenhouse gases. Ethanol produced from grass and other "cellulosic" or woody biomass sources can achieve much greater energy and greenhouse gas benefits.

The Argonne research dismisses an ongoing academic argument about the amount of energy needed to produce ethanol. A paper published in the March edition of "Natural Resources Research" by researchers at Cornell University and the University of California at Berkeley claims that ethanol production from corn requires 29 percent more energy than is provided by the resulting ethanol fuel. In contrast, a 2004 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that ethanol produces 67 percent more energy than is consumed in its production. But according to the Argonne research, what really matters is that ethanol compares favorably to gasoline, the fuel it replaces. More...

Tool Helps Fleet Managers Evaluate Hybrid Vehicles
A new software tool that compares the costs and emissions of hybrid electric vehicles to conventional vehicles is now available for government and business fleet managers. The tool takes into account purchase price, fuel costs, repair and maintenance costs, resale value, and applicable tax incentives. For example, the tool indicates that at the current fuel prices of $2.50 per gallon or more, hybrid vehicles can offer significant financial savings to fleets. A high percentage of city driving and large number of miles driven per year can further increase the cost-effectiveness of hybrid vehicles. Called the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) Cost Calculator Tool, the tool was developed by the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Center for a New American Dream, and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. More...

Reports: High Gas Prices Changing U.S. Consumer Behavior
With gasoline prices soaring, U.S. drivers are driving less and considering more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to two new studies. A report from the California Energy Commission (CEC) notes that despite an increase in population in 2004, the state is now using less gasoline. Comparing the state's total gasoline sales from the first four months of 2005 and 2004, sales actually declined by one half of one percent. In the same time period, gasoline prices rose from $2.12 per gallon to $2.60 per gallon. A public opinion poll and forthcoming study by the Polk Center for Automotive Studies confirms the CEC findings, noting that 59 percent of the people polled say they will drive less at current gasoline prices. The Polk study also found that 40 percent of poll respondents said they would delay purchasing a new vehicle, and 55 percent said that when they do buy a new vehicle, they'll buy a more fuel-efficient one.

Experts Predict Natural Gas Costs Will Increase Sharply
This winter will likely bring dramatically higher natural gas prices, posing a harship for low- and fixed-income consumers. Low storage and high demand are contributing to the increasing costs, says Tom Hauptman, a Billings-based oil and gas producer. If forecasting models prove correct, NorthWestern Energy gas customers are facing monthly bills in the range of $200 to $300 this winter. More..

Report: FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership Making Gains
A new report from the National Research Council concluded that DOE's three-year-old FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership has made "an excellent start." The partnership is a research collaboration among DOE, the "Big Three" automakers, and five major energy companies, with a goal of developing emissions-free vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells. The report, released in early August, notes that the partnership faces significant technical challenges, including hydrogen storage in vehicles, commercially viable fuel cells, and the need to build an infrastructure for hydrogen fueling. More...

Gas Prices Reach All-Time Highs
The price of gasoline continues to climb, reaching record levels in many areas. According to AAA, the nationwide average price of a gallon of regular unleaded reached $2.524 on August 16, an increase of about 36 percent over the last year. Montana's average was slightly below the national average at $2.439 per gallon for regular unleaded. More...

Shopping for a new car? Consider models with high miles-per-gallon ratings, or models that use alternative fuels such as ethanol. The new federal energy bill passed allows tax credits for certain cars, ranging from $250 to $3400. The credit amount is largely determined by a vehicle's city fuel economy relative to the average for its weight class. More..

Energy Act Includes Biofuel Requirement and Tax Incentives
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 sets a new national minimum requirement for the use of biofuels, particularly ethanol. The new "Renewable Fuels Standard" requires that gasoline sold in the United States contain a total of 4 billion gallons of biofuels in 2006, increasing to 7.5 billion gallons in 2012. The standard provides greater flexibility for refiners by allowing renewable fuel credits and by eliminating the reformulated gasoline oxygenate standard. The bill allows a credit of 2.5 gallons for every gallon of ethanol produced from wastes or cellulosic (woody) biomass sources. A recent report by DOE's Energy Information Administration analyzed a similar requirement and found it had a negligible impact on fuel prices. See the report.

And should you install a refueling station for alternative fuels at your home or business, you can earn a 30 percent tax credit (this sounds unlikely for the home, but Honda is now offering home natural gas fueling stations in California). The credit applies to fueling stations for ethanol, natural gas, compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen, and biodiesel blends containing at least 20 percent biodiesel. The act also extended tax incentives for fuel distributors that blend biodiesel into their diesel fuel. More...

The act also requires federal alternative fuel fleets with flexible fuel vehicles (vehicles that can be fueled with gasoline or alternative fuels) to actually use alternative fuels, provided they are reasonably available and not unreasonably expensive. Currently, many federal fleets are buying the flexible fuel vehicles but fueling them only with gasoline or diesel fuel. See pages 682 to 1724 of the energy act (PDF 2.6 MB).

Paper Manufacturer Plans Cogen Plant for Wood Waste
Paper manufacturer Kruger received approval to build a new 23-megawatt biomass cogeneration plant in its Brompton, Quebec, mill. The plant will use wood waste from its operations to generate about 100 megawatts of electricity. More...

Ethanol-fueled Vehicle on Loan to Montana DEQ
A new ethanol-fueled Chevy Avalanch will call Montana home for the next year, as part of a new effort by General Motors to increase the use of ethanol fuel. The Avalanche is fueled by E85, which is comprised of 85 percent ethyl-alcohol and 15 percent gasoline. Governor Schweitzer is a strong advocate of alternative fuels, which have the potential to benefit both the economy and the environment. Ethanol is made from agricultural and forest wastes and burns cleaner than fossil-based fuels. Only two stations in Montana sell the fuel, although several other stations sell a lower blend of E10. Some 28 states are participating in the effort. More...

USDA Begins Process to Designate Preferred Biobased Products
USDA Begins Process to Designate Preferred Biobased Products
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has started its process to designate preferred biobased products for purchase by federal agencies. Under the 2002 Farm Bill, the USDA's Federal Biobased Products Preferred Procurement Program will identify more than 110 categories of products—the USDA calls them "items"—and then determine which biobased products are available within each of those categories.

Under a proposed rule published last week, the USDA will begin by tackling the following six categories: mobile equipment hydraulic fluids, urethane roof coatings, water tank coatings, diesel fuel additives, penetrating lubricants, and bedding, bed linens, and towels. For each category, the USDA has been able to identify at least one manufacturer of biobased products. For most of the categories, the USDA was unable to determine the potential market, but the agency did note that DOE anticipates a large potential market for the use of biodiesel as a diesel fuel additive.

Once the final rule is issued, manufacturers of qualifying biobased products that fall within the six categories will be invited to post their product and contact information on the program's Web site. Federal agencies looking to procure products in those categories will then have to give preference to the biobased products. The USDA is accepting comments on the first six proposed "items" through September 6, 2005. More...

G8 Leaders Commit to Clean Energy Technologies at Summit
Leaders of the world's eight largest industrialized nations have adopted a 38-point plan of action to address the related issues of climate change, clean energy, and sustainable development. During last week's two-day summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, the Group of Eight (G8)—comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—agreed that climate change is a serious and long-term challenge that has the potential to affect every part of the globe, and acknowledged that the use of energy from fossil fuels, and other human activities, contribute in large part to increases in greenhouse gases associated with the warming of Earth's surface. The G8 statement noted that "we know enough to act now to put ourselves on a path to slow and, as the science justifies, stop and then reverse the growth of greenhouse gases."

The G8 agreed to a plan of action that calls for the promotion of greater energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, surface transport, aviation, industry, power generation, and other sectors. The agreement also calls for further efforts to promote renewable energy technologies and hydrogen technologies. Notable among those efforts is the G8's plan to launch a Global Bioenergy Partnership to support biomass and biofuels deployment. More...

Students Help Resort Owner Consider Renewable Energy Sources
With energy costs running about $50,000 each year, the owner of the Sleeping Buffalo Resort in Saco turned to engineering students at Montana State University to help investigate the potential for alternative energy sources to power the resort. three students examined the potential for geothermal, micro hydro, wind and solar. Results of the initial study showed that geothermal offered the most potential. More...

Senate Votes in Favor of National Renewable Portfolio Standard
The U.S. Senate voted 52 to 48 to enact a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which would require utilities in the U.S. to obtain at least 10 percent of their electricity production from renewable resources such as solar, wind, and and bioenergy by the year 2020. The RPS mandate is not included in the House's version of the Energy Bill, so it still faces some serious challenges. More...

Publication Helps States Encourage Advanced Vehicle Technologies
A new handbook developed by the Alliance to Save Energy with support from Ford Motor Company will help states and localities encourage their residents to purchase and use energy-efficient transportation technologies.  The information in The Drive to Efficient Transportation: State Policies to Encourage the Purchase and Use of Light-Duty Advanced Technology Vehicles and Alternative Fuels offers state policymakers a menu of programs that have proved effective in other states. Download the publication.

Sage Mountain Center Announces Summer Programs
Sage Mountain Center in Whitehall has announced its summer workshops, including Cordwood Construction, Straw Bale Building, and Solar Electricity for the Home. Full schedule is available at SMC's website.

DOE and USDA to Cooperate on Producing Hydrogen from Biomass
DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) aimed at developing more cost-effective ways to produce hydrogen from biomass resources. Under the MOU, DOE and USDA experts will meet regularly to share information on technologies and activities of mutual interest related to reducing the cost of chemically converting biomass to hydrogen. Biomass sources that can be used for hydrogen production include ethanol, crop and forest residues, and dedicated energy crops, such as switchgrass or willow. Transitioning to hydrogen technologies in the agriculture industry and in rural communities is important for a number of reasons: Renewable, farm-based biomass can fuel hydrogen production; agricultural vehicles could one day be fueled by hydrogen; and hydrogen fuel cell technology could potentially provide power for rural communities and remote locations on farms and ranches. More...

DOE Initiates Six Projects to Boost Vehicle Fuel Efficiency
DOE has entered into an agreement with industrial and academic organizations to pursue six projects aimed at significantly improving the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks. DOE is providing $7.35 million in funding to the six partnerships, which have a total value of $14 million. Four of the projects focus on developing advanced combustion engines, including an exhaust gas recirculation control system for diesel engines, a variable valve actuation system for low-temperature combustion in diesel engines, a fast-response actuator system for adjusting the compression ratio in engines, and an engine that operates on a high-compression-ratio, modified Atkinson combustion cycle—an approach used in the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape Hybrid—in which the intake valve is held open longer than normal to allow a reverse flow into the intake manifold.

In addition, International Truck and Engine Corporation will develop idle reduction equipment for trucks that will be available as a factory-ordered option, and Clarity Group, Inc. will conduct field performance evaluations for a wide variety of advanced technology vehicles, and will evaluate the infrastructure needed to support the vehicles. More...

Cow Manure and Cotton Gin Waste to Fuel Ethanol Plant in Texas
Ethanol fuel has a big advantage over conventional motor fuels: its primary energy source is the starch found in corn and other grains, a renewable source of energy. However, in most ethanol fuel plants, that benefit is watered down a bit by the use of fossil fuels to run the fermentation and distillation processes that convert the starch to ethanol. The developers of a new ethanol fuel plant in Hereford, Texas—located about 40 miles southwest of Amarillo—plan to avoid that dilemma through an unusual approach: the biofuel plant will produce its fuel using biomass energy. Hereford has an ample supply of cattle manure, and the plant will combine that with cotton gin waste, converting the mixture into a clean-burning biogas to fuel the plant's boilers. The Panda Group is developing the project and plans to break ground on the project this summer, with commercial operation expected in late 2006. The plant will produce 100 million gallons of ethanol per year from corn and milo, a type of sorghum that produces large yellow or whitish seeds. More...

North Dakota Adopts Incentives for Wind, Hydrogen, Alternative Fuels
High school students from Portland, Oregon, and San Jose, California, took top honors on Saturday at the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Model Car Challenge, part of DOE's National Science Bowl competition. The team from the Woodrow Wilson High School of Portland took first place in the Grand Prix speed race, and the team from the Harker School of San Jose won the "King of the Hill" award by conquering a 20-degree incline with their hydrogen-powered model car. The two first-place teams will each receive $1,750 for their schools' science departments. The Model Car Challenge is one of several hands-on activities in which the 63 National Science Bowl teams took part on Saturday. Eighteen teams, selected by lottery, used model car kit components provided by General Motors Corporation to design and build hydrogen-powered race cars measuring at most one foot wide by two feet long. More...

North Dakota Adopts Incentives for Wind, Hydrogen, Alternative Fuels
North Dakota Governor John Hoeven signed several bills into law on Earth Day to accelerate wind power, hydrogen, and alternative fuel technologies in the state. The wind energy provisions reduce the siting application fees, lessen the regulatory burden for siting wind plants, allow the sale of renewable energy credits to other states, and promote new investments in transmission lines. A pending bill will also cut in half the assessed value of a wind plant for tax purposes. One bill also creates a sales tax exemption on hydrogen used to power either an internal combustion engine or a fuel cell.

Several bills relate to ethanol and biodiesel production. The ethanol-related bills provide $3.25 million in incentives for new and existing ethanol plants in the state, $1.35 million in incentives to expand existing ethanol plants, and a 20-cent-per-gallon tax incentive for retail sales of E85 (a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline), an incentive that must be passed on to the consumer. The biodiesel provisions include $1.2 million to buy down interest on new biodiesel production plants, income tax credits for fuel suppliers and retailers, and a sales tax exemption for equipment that allows a facility to sell biodiesel blends. New ethanol and biodiesel production plants will also earn a 30 percent investment tax credit. More...

Helena Commissioner Hopes to Add Hybrids to City Fleet
Could Helena's city fleet soon boast environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles? Yes, if Commissioner Paul Cartwright has anything to say about it. Cartwright is calling on the city's leaders to include hybrids in budget discussions this year.  Nineteen cars in the city's 150-vehicle fleet are up for replacement this year. Hybrids cost a few hundred dollars more upfront. But, says, Cartwright, "we'll more than make back the cost in fuel savings.We ought to at least look at it." More...

Ethanol Bill Clears House
The House voted to approve a bill that would require all regular and unleaded gasoline sold in the state to contain 10 percent ethanol, an of the environmentally friendly fuel derived from grain. If passed, the bill will help create an ethanol industry within the state, and also help spur the agricultural industry. The bill must go back to the Senate for final approval. More...

Senate Passes Renewable Energy Mandate
A  renewable energy requirement for Montana is among the energy bills in front of the Legislature this session. The Montana Renewable Power Production and Rural Economic Development Act–Senate Bill 415–will require utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015. The bill passed the Senate 32-18 and is now in the House. Supported by Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, the bill also is enjoying support from state and local agencies, farmers, conservation groups, and others. Eighteen other states have similar renewable energy standards. More...

Philipsburg Using Wood Chips for Heating
The Philipsburg school system is successfully using biomass technology, with a new boiler that burns wood chips for heating. And, not only does the system use a renewable resource–forest and mill wood scraps–as its fuel, it's also saving the schools a lot of money. For example, heating costs for the town's two schools reached a whopping $8,000 in December, dropping to $467 in January after the new boiler went into service. The Forest Service's Fuels for Schools project provided a $350,000 grant for the system. More...

New Northwest Online Renewable Energy Journal Set to Debut
The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance has contracted with Celilo Group Media Inc. and Clean Edge Inc. to produce a new website, nwcurrent.com, that concentrates on renewable and clean energy in the Northwest: Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The target audience includes electric utility management and staff, energy efficiency professionals, state and regional policy-makers, and renewable energy professionals. More...

Study Shows Enormous Renewable Energy Potential for New Mexico
If New Mexico utilities increased their use of renewable electricity to 20 percent by 2020, residents of the state would save a whopping $570 million on energy bills. That's the conclusion of a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. In addition, the scenario would create 4,760 new high-skilled jobs in manufacturing, construction, operation, maintenance, and other industries; $1.6 billion in capital investment; $117 million in property tax revenues for rural communities; and $57 million in payments to ranchers and rural landowners from wind power leases and the production of biomass energy. More...

Carbondale, Colorado, Switches City Fleets to Biodiesel
Carbondale's public works department is making an important contribution to cleaner air there, now that its heavy equipment and other diesel-engine vehicles are burning biodiesel. Biodiesel is a non-toxic, non-petroleum, vegetable oil-based, renewable fuel that can be used either in 100-percent form or blended in various concentrations with regular petroleum diesel. Carbondale is currently using a 20 percent, or B-20, biodiesel blend. More...

Idaho Geothermal Power Plant Moves Ahead with Power Agreement
Plans for the construction of a 10-megawatt geothermal power plant in Idaho gained ground when Idaho Power Company agreed to buy power from the proposed facility. U.S. Geothermal Inc. announced that it has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Idaho Power. The company's Raft River Geothermal Power Plant, to be located 10 miles east of Almo in southern Idaho, is scheduled to begin producing power in mid-2006. More...

Energy Star Homes Built in Missoula
Hopeful Missoula homeowners have a new option on the city’s real estate market: certified energy-efficient homes built by Kingdom Builders. The two townhouses, recently finished on Kent Street, have been carefully inspected to ensure the minimum loss of air from doors and windows. The resulting homes are nearly soundproof and save $25-40 per month in energy costs. While the homes cost an extra two percent to build, homeowners would recoup the loss in saved energy costs over a five-year period. More...

Renewable Energy Production May Drive Down Cost of Natural Gas
A recent report titled Easing the Natural Gas Crisis: Reducing Natural Gas Prices through Increased Deployment of Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency, issued by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, indicates a relationship between natural gas prices and renewable energy development. According to the report, renewable energy can replace natural gas electricity generation, freeing up more natural gas reserves and keeping the price lower. The study stated that each one percent reduction in natural gas demand resulted in a two percent price decline. More...

Great Falls Co-Generation Plant Approved
Great Falls city commissioners approved unanimously a $5 million plan to finance a co-generation project at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. The co-generation plant will use an internal combustion generator to convert methane gas from the wastewater plant into electricity. Financing will come in the form of revenue bonds, and the co-generation plant is expected to pay for itself over the 20-year life of the bonds. More...

Poultry Litter Fuels Minnesota Power Plant
DOE's Network News reports that the first U.S. power plant to be fueled primarily with poultry litter is now under construction in Benson, Minnesota, about 125 miles west of Minneapolis. Fibrowatt LLC completed financing of the 55-megawatt plant in mid-December and immediately began construction. The plant will consume about 700,000 tons per year of biomass, of which about 90 percent will be poultry litter and 10 percent will be other agricultural biomass. Fibrowatt LLC is partly owned by Fibrowatt Ltd., a company that has built three similar plants in the United Kingdom. SNC-Lavalin Power Inc. is building the Minnesota plant under a $142-million contract and expects the plant to start operating in early 2007. More...

Thompson Falls School Adopts Biomass Energy
The Thompson Falls school district will become the third Montana district to adopt biomass energy technology for building heating.  District officials have decided to accept a $200,000 federal grant that would pay for the conversion of an old diesel-burning generator into one that utilizes biomass fuel, primarily wood product wastes.  Officials point to the significant increase in diesel prices over the past few years, from 50 cents a gallon to $1.52.  Darby and Victor school districts also use biomass-fueled generators. More...

Governor Schweitzer Interested in Montana Ethanol Production
New Governor  Brian Schweitzer hopes to see an ethanol bill work its way through the 2005 legislature, so long as it benefits the state’s farmers and contributes to economic growth. Schweitzer expressed interest in passing an ethanol bill that would require a 10-percent blend of ethanol fuel in Montana from ethanol produced in Montana from Montanan-grown agriculture. More...

New Biodiesel Guidelines Released
The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has released the 2004 version of Biodiesel Handling and Use Guidelines. The guide includes a frequently asked questions section, expanded biodiesel basic information, and the most currently available blending information. The guide is available for download at http://www.nrel.gov/vehiclesandfuels/npbf/feature_guidelines.html.

Federal Appropriations Bill Includes Montana Biofuel Research Funding
The recent federal omnibus appropriations bill includes over a half million-dollar allocation to Montana State University’s Institute for Biobased Products and Food Science.  Funding will primarily be used to further research into the biofuel industry, including ethanol, biodiesel and biolubricants. More...

New Study Advocates $350 Million in Federal Funding for Renewable Energy Technologies
A recent study by the National Commission on Energy Policy calls for a commitment by the federal government for $350 million in new research and development funding for renewable energy technologies.  The new R&D funding should be focused on overcoming production hurdles for emerging technologies so that the nation could become less dependent on foreign oil reserves.  The study claims to have bipartisan support; Commission officials hope that the U.S. Congress will act soon on its findings. More...

Organizations Form Renewable Energy Business Alliance
A number of renewable energy business organizations have announced the newly formed Renewable Energy Business Alliance. The Alliance reportedly will work to "support policies and programs to expand renewable energy production in the United States. As its priority, the Alliance will seek to make the production tax credit permanent, and work to be sure the credit applies to all renewable energy technologies on an equal basis to conventional power supplies." Founding members include American Wind Energy Association, Geothermal Energy Association, Solar Energy Industries Association, USA Biomass Power Producers Alliance, Integrated Waste Services Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, American Public Power Association, and Solid Waste Association of North America. More...

Multinational Corporation Purchases Missoula Biofuel Company
Yasheng Group, Inc., a California-based industrial technology corporation, has signed a letter of intent for acquisition of Missoula-based Sustainable Systems LLC, a small biofuel company.  Sustainable Systems will become a subsidiary of Yasheng Group, and will continue to work on research and development of bio-based products, including fuel, lubricants and chemicals.  Yasheng Group, a $1.5 billion corporation, has been internationally recognized for its environmental efforts, and it sells products in Europe, Asia and North America. More...

Bozeman Students Ask for Greener Student Center Building
Student at Montana State University are asking that future renovations to the Strand Union Building  incorporate greater emphasis on recycling, energy efficiency, and renewable energy generation. At a town-hall style meeting organized by leaders of the Associated Students of MSU, students voiced support for increased recycling measures, energy-saving techniques, and perhaps even solar panel installation. Architects and MSU officials indicate that they welcome the student input into the planning process. More...

New Mexico Governor Lobbies for State Renewable Energy Agency
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson announced that he would ask the state legislature to fund a new agency that would promote the production of renewable energy in New Mexico. The proposed agency would be known as the Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, and would be a quasi-state organization.  Its first task would be the financing of wind energy projects in the state. A final report on the proposed agency is expected at the end of the month. More...

United States and 13 Other Countries Form Methane Energy Partnership
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that 13 countries have joined the Methane to Markets Partnership, an international effort to capture methane emissions and convert them into energy. In the United States, the major source of methane emissions is landfill gas, but the partnership also focuses on recovering methane from coal mines and from natural gas and oil systems. Methane to Markets has the potential to reduce net methane emissions by up to 50 million metric tons of carbon equivalent annually by 2015, equivalent to eliminating the carbon emissions from 50 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants. Representatives from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom joined the United States in signing a document to formally create the Methane to Markets Partnership. More...

OIT Creates Renewable Energy Systems Program
Renewable Energy Access reports that the Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT), in Portland, OR, will be offering a Bachelor of Science degree in Renewable Energy Systems (RES), beginning in 2005.  It is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, and is intended to create renewable energy professionals. The program is part of OIT's Oregon Renewable Energy Center. More...

Denver Company Uses Bacteria and Coal to Create Natural Gas
Denver-based Luca Technologies, Inc. recently announced a technological breakthrough: the discovery that bacteria feeding on coal deposits can produce natural gas in a relatively short amount of time.  The methane production could continue indefinitely, making the process a form of renewable energy.  If developed successfully, Luca’s discovery could increase the availability of natural gas deposits over the next century. More...

Rising Oil Prices Make Renewables Affordable
With oil prices rising towards $60 a barrel, renewable energy technologies that previously were underutilized because of their cost are becoming more attractive.  Wind, solar, biomass and biofuel energy production costs, relative to high oil and natural gas prices, are not just cleaner and unlimited, but also potentially cheaper.  And in the long run, oil, gas and coal prices will increase dramatically as world supplies are exhausted. More...

Colorado Renewable Energy Standard Initiative Passes
Colorado voters approved Amendment 37, which would require that Colorado utilities purchase at least ten percent of their energy portfolio from renewable energy resources by 2015. The amendment is the first renewable energy mandate in American history to be passed directly by the voters rather than being approved by state legislatures; several bi-partisan attempts to pass a similar energy standard in the Colorado legislature have failed in recent years. The measure passed 52 percent to 48 percent. More...

Montana Public Service Commission Candidates Square Off Over Renewable Energy
Russ Doty, a Billings Democrat, and Brad Molnar, a Laurel Republican, recently debated the merits of adding renewable energy to Montana’s energy portfolio.  Doty believes that wind energy could make up to twenty percent of Montana’s energy portfolio, and argues that wind energy is cheaper and less environmentally destructive.  Molnar dismissed Doty’s proposal as unrealistic, adding that he believes wind power to be less reliable and perhaps more expensive than fossil fuels. More...

Clean Energy Production Growing Nearly 25 Percent Faster Than Oil and Gas
With oil and gas prices surging, alternative fuels and clean energy technologies are becoming more and more competitive.  In fact, the production of alternative fuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel, is growing at by nearly thirty percent, compared with 4 percent for oil and 6 percent for natural gas, according to the Christian Science Monitor.  While the US lags behind Europe and Japan in renewable energy production, demand is high for both solar and wind-derived power. In response, Home Depot has started stocking solar power devices, and both the U.S. Postal Service and Federal Express have recently installed large-scale solar panels on some of their facilities. More...

Are Rising Natural Gas Prices Evidence Enough For Amendment 37?
This Denver Post article takes issue with Xcel Energy’s opposition to a proposed renewable energy mandate while at the same time notifying customers of future natural gas price hikes.  Amendment 37 would require that Colorado utilities obtain three percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2007, and ten percent by 2015.  Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest utility, has claimed that energy prices would go up if Amendment 37 passed, while many energy experts have suggested that in fact customers would save money.

Idaho Scientists Explore Small-Scale Hydropower
Scientists at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) are hoping to develop a new form of renewable energy: small-scale hydropower, which does not use dams or massive turbines. The INEEL project, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, explores the potential to use mountain streams to generate electricity: they estimate that 12,000 megawatts of energy could be produced by small-scale hydropower. Typically, a single system would generate less than one megawatt, which though small by utility standards, would power over 800 homes. According to the INEEL report, Idaho ranks fourth in the nation for potential small-scale hydropower projects. More...

Scientific Study Claims Colorado’s Renewable Energy Mandate Would Save Money
A new study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists claims that Amendment 37, which would mandate that Colorado utilities include a percentage of their energy portfolio from renewable energy sources, would save residential, commercial and industrial customers $236 million by 2025. The study also describes numerous beneficial side effects of a renewable energy mandate: 2,000 new jobs, $709 million in capital investment and a $50 million increase in gross state product. Critics claim that the study is not impartial. More...

Colorado Feedlot Owner Turns Manure Into Energy
Feedlot owner Gary Teague, of Fort Morgan, Colorado, hopes to convert waste into energy, reports the Denver Post.  Teague’s cattle produce 140 tons of manure daily, and current, affordable technologies—known as an anaerobic digester—could convert the animal waste into methane and, eventually, electricity.  Teague intends to build the nation's largest anaerobic digester, capable of producing enough energy daily to meet the needs of 5,000 people; moreover, the digester would eliminate tons of methane emissions, reducing unpleasant odors and greenhouse gases. More...

Denver Post Endorses Renewable Energy Standard Amendment
The Denver Post has endorsed Amendment 37, which would create a state renewable energy mandate.  The amendment would require Colorado utilities to obtain three percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2007, and 10 percent by 2015.  The paper justified its support of the amendment in noting the possibilities for cleaner, cheaper energy, as well as increased economic opportunities for rural Coloradoans.  Moreover, the amendment has been devised to be as moderate as possible: its cost has been capped at 50 cents per month per household and it includes provisions by which utilities can opt out of the program. More...

USDA Requests Public Comment on Renewable, Efficiency Program Rules
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing new program rules for administering its Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program, and is requesting public comments. The program was created as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, and the USDA has already committed to $45 million in grants to farmers, ranchers, and rural businesses through the program. The proposed rule formalizes the program guidelines for receiving and reviewing future grant applications, and also establishes a new process for offering loans and loan guarantees. The proposed rule change was published in the Federal Register on October 5th, and public comment will be accepted for 30 days after its publication. See the announcement and the proposed rule on the USDA Rural Development office website.

Bozeman Residents Concerned Over Rising Energy Costs
The cost of nearly all fossil fuels – from gasoline to propane – are expected to rise this winter, and is a source of concern for Bozeman residents.  This Bozeman Daily Chronicle looks at the measures Bozeman residents and businesses are taking to keep spiraling energy costs under control.  Some are considering switching to renewable energy sources, such as wind power. More...

Ski Companies Back Colorado Energy Mandate Amendment 37
The Vail and Aspen ski companies have endorsed Amendment 37, the proposed renewable energy mandate that would require Colorado utilities to purchase or produce ten percent of the state’s energy from renewable energy sources by 2015.  Ski company officials view the potential effects of global warming on the ski industry could be catastrophic.  Global warming is widely believed to the result of carbon dioxide emissions, much of which has been released by the burning of traditional fossil fuels. More...

Western Governors Identify Renewable and Coal Energy for Future Growth
A recent study commissioned by the Western Governors Association recommends the construction of new power plants and transmission lines, as well as increased utilization of wind power, hydropower and coal production. The Rocky Mountain Area Transmission Study recommends $4 billion worth of upgrades and additions to the transmission lines and $10 billion in new power capacity from coal, hydropower, natural gas, wind and geothermal energy. More...

U.S. Security and Energy Efficiency: What’s the Relationship?
A growing group of energy experts suggest that increasing fuel efficiency in the United States could be the most effective means of freeing American strategic interests from foreign oil dependence, according to a recent Christian Science Monitor article. Just by "consolidating and accelerating" existing trends toward greater efficiencyat an estimated cost of $180 billion over a decadethe US could eliminate oil imports by 2040, according to a recent Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) report.  Even the continued implementation of lower-cost efficiency programs could save nearly one-quarter of current electrical production. More...

Seattle Researches Hopes to Convert Manure into Fuel
Eric Leonhardt, director of the Vehicle Research Institute at Western Washington University in Bellingham, wants to transform manure into "biogas," methane that fuels a hybrid vehicle running on compressed natural gas (CNG).  Leonhardt sees naturally-produced CNG as another option for the alternative fuel market, adding to recent progress in hydrogen fuel cells and “biofuels”.  The Institute is also developing vehicle prototypes that could use biogas in a cost-effective manner. More...

Majority of Colorado Voters Support Renewable Energy Mandate
According to a recent Rocky Mountain News poll, 74 percent of Colorado voters support Amendment 37, which would require Colorado utilities to obtain a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.  The percentage would begin with three percent by 2007 and increasing incrementally to 10 percent by 2015.  The RMN poll found overwhelming support for the amendment in all demographic groups, including registered Democrats and Republicans alike.  The amendment would be financed through monthly power bill charges, capped at 50 cents each month.  More...

Colorado Newspaper Urges ‘Yes’ Vote on Colorado Renewable Energy Mandate
The Daily Camera’s
editorial staff recommends passage of Amendment 37, which would require Colorado utilities to include at least 10 percent of their energy portfolios from renewable sources by 2015.  Questioning the motives of some Colorado energy companies’ opposition to the renewable energy mandate, the Camera’s editorial states that opposition to a common-sense energy policy works against the interests of energy companies and consumers alike.  One study even suggests that Coloradoans would save $14 million in energy costs should the amendment pass. More...

Idaho Power Company Envisions Greater Role for Renewable Energy
Idaho Power Company has recently released a draft integrated resource plan that envisions adding over 1,200 megawatts in energy production by 2013, about half of which would come from renewable energy sources or energy efficiency practices. The proposed draft is a dramatic step forward for a utility that currently receives less than one percent of its electricity from renewable sources and energy efficiency.  This would go up to ten percent should the plan move forward. More...

Idaho Renewable Energy Company Set to Enter California Energy Market
Intrepid Technology and Resources, an Idaho-based renewable energy company that specializes in capturing and processing biogases such as methane, recently announced a partnership with several large California dairies to make available their anaerobic digester systems.  The digester systems transform biogas into energy, which could help California dairy farmers meet environmental regulations and generate electricity at the same time.  California is the nation’s largest dairy state, with 2000 individual dairies and 1.4 million head of cattle. More...

Lake Powell’s Declining Reservoir Creates Energy Problems
Lake Powell declining level, currently more than one hundred feet lower than normal, could threaten the intake tunnels of the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona, within two years, should the drought continue.  Operators of the station want to drill new intake tunnels before the existing ones are exposed, forcing the shutdown of the station.  The station, along with the Glen Canyon Dam, provides energy to three states as well as the electricity needed to transport water to Phoenix and Tucson. More...

Idaho Geothermal Plant Slated for 2006
Boise-based U.S. Geothermal has announced plans to build a 10-megawatt geothermal plant in Cassia Co., Idaho.  The company has already secured property and energy rights and hopes to begin construction soon.  A mile under the site is a magma-warmed aquifer which heats water to 300 degrees; US Geothermal believes that the site could, in time, produce as much as 90 megawatts of electricity. More...

Biodiesel Station Opens in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City-area diesel consumers now have the option of buying a biodiesel blend, thanks to Dal Soglio Sinclair in Midvale, Utah.  The station offers B2, a diesel blend that contains two percent biodiesel, for the same price as regular diesel, making it the first time in the United States that biodiesel retails for the same price as petroleum-based diesel.  The station also offers higher-percentage biodiesel blends to bulk users. More...

Wyoming, Nevada Geothermal Resources Explored
Renewable energy production and economic development may coincide in Wyoming and Nevada, thanks to abundant geothermal resources, reports the Billings Gazette.  Thanks to a US Department of Energy grant, geothermal experts will soon begin exploration of geothermal energy sites in Wyoming and Nevada. More...

Wood Chipping Exhibit Demonstrates Energy Source Potential
Representatives from the Bitter Root Resource Conservation and Development Area demonstrated a wood chipper near Hamilton on Wednesday, Aug. 25.  Proponents of wood chippers emphasize its potential for clearing ‘hazardous’ fuels on forested property, such as small trees and deadfall.  The chips created at the demonstration will be used as fuel at the woodchip boilers at the Darby and Victor schools.  Both boilers were built with federal dollars under the “Fuel for Schools” program, which utilizes the scrap wood removed from federal, state and private property as part of the effort to reduce hazardous fuel material from Montana forested land. More...

Los Angeles Mayor Ends City’s Involvement in Coal-Fired Plant, Looks to Renewable Energy
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) recently ended its involvement in the proposed expansion of the Intermountain Power Project (IPP) near Delta, Utah.  Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn ordered the department to stop using its resources to study construction of a third generating unit at the massive coal-fired facility. Instead, Hahn wants those resources committed to increasing the department's investment in renewable energy, such as wind and solar power.  The LADWP currently receives about 800 megawatts of electricity from the plant, which is sufficient for approximately one-third of the city’s needs. More...

Lake County Paper Recommends Pursuing Alternative Fuels, Efficiency
This Lake County Leader editorial discusses the deleterious effect of rising gas prices on Montana’s economy.  Because of the long distances required for work and play in the state, Montanans are more dependent, and affected, by rising fuel prices than those living in smaller and/or more urban states.  The editorial recommends that Montanans – and Americans at large – come to grips with our energy dependency on gasoline by exploring alternative fuels, such as ethanol and bio-diesel, as well as working to increase energy efficiency in our vehicles.

State Renewable Energy Mandate Initiative Makes Colorado Ballot
Supporters of a state-mandated renewable energy standard received a boost this week with the announcement by Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson that the ballot measure had gathered more than enough legal signatures to make it onto the fall ballot.   While backers of the measure turned in over 115,000, the state certified 87,000, which was far above the 67,829 mandated by state law.  The initiative would require that Colorado utilities provide at least 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015. More...

Car Manufacturers Discontinue CNG Vehicle Production
Major American auto manufacturers GM and Ford have recently announced that they will discontinue the production of CNG (compressed natural gas) and propane vehicles at the close of 2004.  Instead, they plan on devoting their research and development energies to hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.  This decision will have major repercussions on fleets of state-owned CNG vehicles, such as in Arizona, where a majority of state vehicles run on compressed natural gas. More...

Arizona Banks on Renewable Energy for Economic Growth
A study released at the recent Southwest Renewable Energy Conference stated that Arizona could gain nearly 4,000 skilled jobs if the state’s renewable energy resources were utilized, particularly in solar and wind-related power generation.  The positive benefits of renewable energy in Arizona were not limited to job creation: the study estimates that the state could save $1.6 billion in energy costs and gain an additional $115 million in property tax revenue. More...

Western States Move Forward on Renewable Energy Development
Crossing party lines, governors of Western states are working together to increase the development of renewable energy resources. The governors decided at the annual Western Governors Association meeting to dramatically increase renewable energy development in the West. Advocates cite the variety of positive effects of renewable energy: not only is it largely environmentally safer, it also reduces foreign energy dependence, adds local jobs and tax revenue, and may reduce energy expenditures. More...

Washington Hydropower Facility to Install Fish-Friendly Turbines
A utility in Washington State plans to install a fish-friendly turbine at a hydropower project on the Columbia River. The new turbine technology, developed with the support of DOE and the hydropower industry, is designed to increase the survival rate of migrating juvenile salmon that pass through the turbine. According to NHA, the Grant County Public Utility District (PUD) willinstall one turbine later this year at the Wanapum Dam, which is part of the Priest Rapids Project. Field testing will start in early 2005, and if successful, the remaining nine turbines at the dam will also be upgraded to the new design. According to NHA, the new turbines will also boost the power production at the dam by about 15 percent.  More...

United States to Help Form New International Methane Partnership
DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that the United States and seven other countries—Australia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine—will form the "Methane to Markets Partnership" to develop and promote cooperation on the recovery and use of methane. Methane is a clean-burning fuel that is the main component of natural gas and is also a potent greenhouse gas. The Partnership will focus on deploying cost-effective technologies in landfill gas-to-energy projects, methane recovery projects at coal mines, and improvements in natural gas systems.

Capturing methane emissions and converting them to energy is among the most cost-effective approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and it also provides an energy source that improves quality of life in local communities. The new partnership has the potential to reduce net methane emissions by up to 50 million metric tons of carbon equivalent annually by 2015 and continue at that level or higher in the future—a greenhouse gas reduction equal to removing 33 million cars from roadways for one year or eliminating emissions from fifty 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants.

The United States will commit up to $53 million over the next five years to help develop and implement methane projects in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and similar contributions are anticipated from other developed countries. The EPA will lead the Methane to Markets Partnership. More..

Cars Could Provide Electrical Power Source
The Christian Science Monitor reported recently on progress in the development of "vehicle-to-grid," or V2G power. The concept uses the excess electrical energy stored in the batteries of parked hybrid and fuel cell cars to provide peak power to the electrical grid. Thus, during the 90 percent of the time that cars are parked, they are plugged into the grid, supplying power as needed. Sophisticated circuitry prevents the car batteries from running too low. Industry analysts say the extremely distributed generation technology could aid in development of renewables, and could generate up to 10,000 megawatts by 2020--offsetting the production of 20 new power plants. Several cities are already investing in V2G-capable buses, and companies are looking to V2G as a source of emergency or remote power. Read the article.

Three Montanans Receive Energy Awards
The NW Energy Coalition, a Seattle-based regional energy organization, awarded three Montanans its highest honors in recognition of their efforts to promote clean, renewable and low-cost energy in the Northwest.  PSC Chairman Bob Rowe and former Commissioner Bob Anderson shared the 2003 Headwaters award, given for leadership in renewable energy development in the Northwest.  Thomas Michael Power, chairman of UM’s Economics Department, received the 2002 Conservation Eagle award, in recognition of his efforts to assist low-income energy consumers. More...

Great Falls Tribune Backs Western Governor’s Renewable Energy Plan
This Great Falls Tribune Op-Ed piece welcomes the recent decision by the Western Governor’s Association to develop 30,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2015, and a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency by 2020.  The Tribune calls for implementation of this plan, and cites the various benefits it would bring to Western energy consumers: lower, more stable energy costs, a cleaner environment, and a lessened dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Hydrogen-Powered Campus Facility Envisioned at Fort Missoula
The University of Montana’s College of Technology (COT) Dean Paul Williamson may see his dreams of a hydrogen-powered college campus become reality.  Following two years of planning and with the assistance of a $750,000 hydrogen-related energy grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, city, county, state and federal officials, as well as private interests, have agreed on a plan to build a new COT campus on land near historic Fort Missoula.  The campus would be hydrogen-powered, the first of its kind in the Northwest.  Backers of the project hope that the new campus would become a magnet for scientific research and economic development. More...

Idaho Dairy Farmers Hope to Convert Methane into Energy
A new Idaho Statesman article explores the potential market for anaerobic digesters among Idaho’s many dairy farms.  Idaho has more than 380,000 dairy cows statewide, and the average cow produces more than 100 pounds of manure daily.  Anaerobic digesters collect the organic gases released from manure composting and turn it into useable, or sellable, energy.  Some dairy farmers and state officials see the digesters as a win-win situation: fewer odors polluting the air of Idaho communities, less groundwater contamination, and the digesters produce electricity.  The sole remaining hurdle: the cost of the anaerobic digesters, which can average nearly $1 million for a single, large dairy operation.  Read the article.

Renewable Energy Could Provide Power Worldwide and Cost Less
A recent study released by British-based energy think tank New Economics Foundation concludes that the cost of providing energy worldwide from renewable sources is less than the costs of existing fossil fuel extraction and utilization, when government subsidies to oil, coal and natural gas industries are included.  The study reports that fossil fuel subsidies are at least $235 billion annually, and this does not include the costs related to carbon dioxide emissions.  All of sub-Saharan Africa could be provided with solar-based energy for less cost than what OCED countries pay for fossil fuel subsidies to the continent annually. More...

Yellowstone Park Concessionaire Utilizes Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Practices
Xanterra Parks and Resorts, a food and hotel company that operates 14 restaurants and thousands of guest rooms in Yellowstone National Park, have intensified efforts to be more “green”; that is, using less energy, more renewable energy sources, and sustainable business practices.  They have incorporated modern energy-efficiency techniques into their buildings, as well as adopted methods for saving water and have recently installed solar panels.  Company officials see this as a win-win scenario: they save money, the environment is better off, and people are genuinely excited to visit their facilities. More...

Renewable Energy Conference Announced in Billings
Harvesting Clean Energy V will take place in Billings on Jan. 20-21, 2005, according to a recent announcement.  The conference is intended for agricultural producers, state and local leaders, business development professionals, rural utilities and public agencies with an interest in renewable energy sources, particularly wind, solar, biomass, micro-hydro, and geothermal.  The conference is open to the public. More...

Colorado Invests in Fuel-Cell Future
The state of Colorado will invest $2 million to create a new Colorado Fuel Cell Research Center, according to the Rocky Mountain News.  State officials hope to make Colorado a leader in fuel-cell technology research, attracting top scientists and major scientific funding to the state.  The center will be located at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. More...

Idaho Utility Commission Allows Biomass Project
Despite initial misgivings, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) approved a 17.5-megawatt project between Idaho Power and a biomass power company called Renewable Energy.  Idaho Power was reprimanded for not following correct IPUC regulations on power pricing, but the power company’s conduct was not see as egregious enough to prevent the renewable energy project from moving forward. More...

Biodiesel Stations Springing Up Across America
The production and availability of biodiesel fuel—made from vegetable oil and often used cooking oil—grew at a dramatic pace in 2003.  Production of the fuel had a 66 percent increase, while the number of stations nationwide—now over 200—grew at 50 percent last year.  Because the fuel is not dependent on costly foreign oil supplies and it’s more fuel-efficient, it has become an attractive alternative to gasoline-based transportation. More...

Worldwide Renewable Energy Market Surges
Rising energy costs worldwide, combined with an unstable source of Mid-East oil, have contributed to a rising demand for stable, renewable energy sources.  In Asia, Europe and North America, renewable energy companies have become very profitable, as wind and solar energy output worldwide has quadrupled and quintupled, respectively, over the last five years.  This solaraccess.com article explores the expanding, lucrative future for green energy.

California Dairy Installs Methane Digester
The Straus dairy farm in Marin County, California, recently completed installation of a methane digester that will use the waste from 270 cows to produce electricity, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The Straus project is the first of 14 methane projects under construction to receive matching funds from a $10 million pool created by the California Energy Commission, and becomes the fifth methane digester active in the state. The net-metered system is expected to save the dairy over $5,000 per month in operating energy costs, so should pay back the capital outlay required in two to three years. In addition to generating electricity, the system will strip organic pollutants from the farm's wastewater, solving another pollution challenge for the farm. More...

Colorado Renewable Energy Legislation Fails in Senate
For the second time, renewable energy legislation that would have mandated that a portion of the state’s energy portfolio come from renewable sources, failed to win support in the Colorado Senate.  Despite having passed the House with bipartisan support and enjoying widespread public support—75%, by some estimates—senators were not swayed. More...

Department of Agriculture Announces $23 Million in Renewable Energy Grants
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that $23 million in grants will be made available to ranchers, farmers, and rural small businesses interested in developing renewable energy equipment or improving energy efficiency.  The Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program will pay up to 25 percent of the cost of installing renewable energy systems, meaning energy or hydrogen derived from solar, wind, geothermal and biomass sources.  The deadline is 75 days after the May 5 announcement.  More...

Idaho Company Transforms Waste into Energy
Boise-based Environ, Inc., has developed a new technology that converts organic waste—such as cow manure and sewer sludge—into energy, and at an efficiency rate ten times higher than that of existing anaerobic digesters.  Environ plans to construct a factory in six months.  The location has not yet been determined, as planners conduct negotiations with local ranchers over the availability of cow manure.  The new plant will employ more than forty people with wages higher than $8 an hour.  More...

PacifiCorp Overwhelmed with Renewable Energy Bids from RFP
PacifiCorp, an investor-owned Northwest utility, announced in February that it was accepting bids for up to 1,100 megawatts of energy produced from renewable sources.  It has since received bids totaling more than 5,000 megawatts, all from western states.  The company will develop a short list of finalists and announce the bid winners in June.  The massive response generated by the RFP shows the immense possibilities of renewable energy production in the Northwest.  More...

Grand Opening of Biodiesel Pumps at Missoula Stations
Two Missoula-based Cenex stations officially unveiled their newly installed biodiesel pumps on April 24.  Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brian Schweitzer and Republican U.S. Senator Conrad Burns were on hand to praise Cenex’s efforts in making biodiesel fuel available in Montana.  Biodiesel is partially derived from vegetable oil, burns cleaner, is more efficient and is easier on vehicle engines.  More...

Another Colorado City Turns to Biodiesel
The city of Durango, Colorado,  announced plans to test biodiesel fuel in its municipal vehicles, including garbage trucks, snowplows and construction equipment.  Biodiesel will be available in the city at a local Exxon station by early May.  City officials are interested in the fuel because it is considered to be more fuel efficient and better for the environment.  The city will begin by testing the fuel on four vehicles; if they consider the experiment successful, they may expand use of the fuel to their entire municipal fleet. More...

Executive Order Launches California's "Hydrogen Highways"
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed an executive order that creates a public and private partnership to build a "hydrogen highway" in the state by 2010. The Hydrogen Highway Network initiative aims to speed the transition to a hydrogen transportation economy in California by building a network of 150 to 200 hydrogen fueling stations throughout the state—roughly one every 20 miles on the state's major highways. The order also calls on the California Environmental Protection Agency to develop a plan by year-end for the state's transition to a hydrogen economy. Thanks to the efforts of California agencies and transit systems, several automakers, and the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP), 13 hydrogen-fueling stations are already in place in the state, and 17 more are in the planning stages. The CaFCP and others estimate that the full network will cost roughly $90 million, mostly coming from private investment by energy companies, automakers, high-technology firms, and other companies. More...

Colorado Expands Biodiesel Fueling Stations
Blue Sun Biodiesel, a Fort Collins-based biofuel distributor, plans to expand its network of fueling stations next month by adding 10 new stations.  This amounts to a more than threefold increase, from four to 14.  Blue Sun’s announcement comes shortly after the city of Denver committed to fueling 60 municipal vehicles with biodiesel for the remainder of the year. More...

Denver Post Editorial: Support Renewable Energy
A recent editorial by the Denver Post calls on the Colorado legislature to pass an energy bill mandating that a portion of Colorado’s energy portfolio come from renewable sources.  Similar to a bill signed into law in New Mexico, the legislation has bipartisan support for two reasons: it may create new jobs in rural areas and it encourages the use of clean, domestic energy sources. More...

New Mexico Alternative Energy Companies Benefit from Renewable Energy Legislation
Four New Mexico renewable energy companies will provide solar-generated electricity to rural communities in the state.  The companies are taking advantage of new legislation requiring that a portion of the state energy portfolio originate in renewable sources.  The announcement was made at the North American Energy Summit in Albuquerque, NM, on April 14. More...

Officials Stress Diversification of Energy Sources
At the North American Energy Summit in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Bush energy officials and US senators articulated a future energy plan that lessened dependence on oil and natural gas.  Deputy Energy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow and New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici emphasized the greater use of domestic coal, nuclear power and alternative energy sources to replace oil and natural gas dependence. More...

Renewable Energy Jobs: 240,000 by 2020
At a Seattle-based energy conference pushing for expanded exploration of renewable energy in the United States, researchers at UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory announced that up to 240,000 jobs could be created in the renewable energy industry by 2020, as compared with 80,000 jobs for new coal and gas-fired electricity plants. More...

How Would Governor Candidates Tackle Montana's Energy Future? Find Out!
Wondering where the six candidates vying for Governor stand on energy issues?  An article in the Billings Gazette summarizes the candidates' answers to the question: "What strategies and objectives would you support and initiate to help reduce the nation's demand for energy?" More...

Western Governors Gather to Focus on Energy Issues
Governors from western states are gathering this week in New Mexico to develop "clean energy plans" for the future. The group will explore a number of topics, including renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and cross-border collaboration on energy policies.  More...

Western States to Develop Renewable Energy Network
A regional renewable energy network, called the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System (WREGIS) is expected to become a reality in 2005.  WREGIS is funded by the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP) and the California Energy Commission, and will cover 11 western states, two Canadian provinces, and Mexican Baja.  The system will track renewable energy generation and ownership of renewable energy facilities in the West. More...

New Mexico Furniture Business Converts Wood Chips to Electricity
An experimental bio-energy invention might help Zuni Furniture Enterprise save money using scrap wood.  The invention, called BioMax 15, converts organic material to energy both as heat and as electricity.  It is expected to cover three-quarters of the heating and one half of the electricity of the furniture production facility.  Zuni Furniture is one of eight sites nationwide testing the device before it goes on the market nationwide.  More...

Renewable Energy, Sustainable Business: What Are the Connections?
In an article titled "When Green Power meets Green Business," author Kevin Hagen explores the two sides of green business: the renewable energy industry and companies practicing sustainable business methods.  The former consists of companies developing new sources of energy and energy technologies, while the latter includes businesses that balance bottom line profits with social and environmental responsibilities.  Amazingly enough, according to Hagen, the two sides largely operate autonomously.  Hagen identifies common ground for renewable energy and sustainable business companies, and advocates a closer working relationship between them. Get the story from SolarAccess.com.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles Highlighted in Utah
A recent article of the Salt Lake Tribune explores the Utah market for alternative fuel vehicles.  There are over 7,000 alternative fuel vehicle users in Utah, and many take advantage of lower fuel costs and higher fuel efficiency.  In addition, alternative fuels—such as compressed natural gas, propane or E85 (an ethanol-based fuel)—burn much cleaner, releasing fewer air pollutants and reduce dependence on foreign sources of crude oil. More...

Idaho Power Company Looks to Biomass Energy
The Idaho Power Co. has proposed purchasing electricity from a biomass energy plant currently under planning near Emmett, ID by Renewable Energy of Idaho.  The utility company seeks a 20-year contract to purchase electricity from the 17.5-megawatt facility, which will convert organic material into methane gas to power generators. More...

Bitterroot Valley Family Discovers Life off the Grid
Steve Dalvo, his wife Kim, and their two children are building a house top of a ridge just east of Shook Mountain, near the divide between the East Fork and West Fork of the Bitterroot River.  When the power company told the Dalvo family that it would cost more than $50,000 to connect his home to the power grid, Steve explored renewable energy options.  A wind turbine, gas generator, and wood stove power and warm his home, and he intends to add south-facing solar panels this summer. More...

Thompson Falls School Considers Biomass Heating System
Faced with the increasing costs of diesel fuel, which is used to heat the Thompson Falls elementary and middle schools, school administrators are considering new approaches to energy consumption.  One possibility is biomass: using wood particles– “hog fuel” – that are a side effect of lumber and reforestation projects.  The wood particles are cheap, around $29 per ton, burn 20 times more efficiently than wood stoves, and could save the school district $30,0000 a year in heating expenses. More...

Indian Tribes and Cities Teaming Up to Deploy Renewable Energy
Organizations representing Indian tribes and U.S. cities have announced that they will team up to promote tribal-owned renewable energy projects. More than 150 U.S. cities are working with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, and renewable energy projects on tribal lands could help those cities meet their pledges. The new "Energy Independence Day Campaign" brings together the ICLEI with the Intertribal Council on Utility Policies, which represents federally recognized Indian tribes in the Dakotas and Nebraska and other tribes throughout the West. The Intertribal Council on Utility Policy has proposed a collaborative intertribal project for some 3,000 megawatts of tribally owned wind power, built on 24 Indian reservations across the Great Plains by 2010. The Energy Independence Day Campaign is open to any tribe, city or local government willing to commit to producing or promoting the purchase of utility-scale renewable energy. More...

Panel Says Montana Not Utilizing Renewable Energy Potential
Some members of an energy panel sponsored by the Wind Working Group say Montana’s renewable energy resources are underutilized, and recommend a more aggressive push towards wind energy generation.  Panelists noted that, unlike neighboring Western states such as Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, Montana is largely absent from current negotiations over renewable energy development. More...

Former DOE Official Claims that New Mexico is the “Saudi Arabia” of Renewable Energy
Dan Reicher, a former Department of Energy official who worked under Bill Richardson in the 90s, speculated that New Mexico has immense potential for renewable energy generation.  Wind, sun, biomass and geothermal resources abound in New Mexico, said Reicher, who also approved of new green energy legislation recently signed into law by New Mexico governor Richardson. More..

Idaho School Heated by Wood Chips
Council School District in Adams County, Idaho, will be the first school district in that state to use a biomass heating system.  The system, fueled by wood chips, will cut the district’s heating bill in half. Funding was provided by the U.S. Forest Service’s “Fuel for Schools” initiative. More...

MREA Names Recipient of 2004 Renewable Energy Award
The Montana Renewable Energy Association recently honored former Public Service Commissioner Bob Anderson with its 2004 Montana Renewable Energy Award. 

MREA President Dave Ryan, called Anderson "an outstanding example and role model for all of us who want to promote renewable energy." Anderson served as public service commissioner from Helena for 12 years until January 2003. During that time, he successfully influenced state policy in favor of renewable resources and technologies such as wind power, Ryan said. Anderson also shaped these policies nationally as chairman of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners Committee on Energy Resources and Environment, Ryan said.

The Montana Renewable Energy association is a nonprofit group working to promote renewable energy in Montana.

Teacher Guide Helps with Renewable Energy Education
The Union of Concerned Scientists has released the newly revised Renewables Are Ready: A Guide to Teaching Renewable Energy in Junior and Senior High School Classrooms.  The guide "provides an ideal background for teaching a unit on renewable energy. It can be used to illustrate basic scientific principles and includes hands-on activities, games, action projects, and a resource guide." You can download the guide (PDF)  from the UCS website.

Biofuel Catching On in Northwest
The price of biodiesel – about 15 cents more per gallon at the pumps than regular diesel – has not deterred its popularity in its first year of general availability.  Over 200,000 gallons of biodiesel were purchased in 2003 in Idaho, and industry experts expect that number to increase in 2004, as more people become aware the fuel’s environmental benefits.  Biodiesel is a mixture of regular diesel and organically generated diesel, usually derived from restaurant cooking oil. More...

Idaho Entrepreneurs Hope to Convert Manure into Energy
Construction is set to begin on a new facility in Rupert, Idaho, designed to refine cow manure into useable methane gas.  A joint venture between dairymen and an engineering company, the facility utilizes an anaerobic digester for converting manure to methane in less than 20 days, with an 80-percent yield ratio. More...

Green Buildings Attract Interest from Real Estate Industry
The construction of “green” buildings – that is, buildings designed for energy efficiency and conservation – could become a lucrative alternative for the real estate industry.  Design costs for green buildings have dropped while popularity for the structures has risen among consumers.  More...

U.S. and Philippines Join Forces to Strengthen Sustainable Energy Development
U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Philippine Secretary of Energy Vincente Perez to strengthen the Sustainable Energy Development Program between the two countries and to promote the use of cleaner-burning fuels in vehicles. Through the Sustainable Energy Development Program -- a $5 million project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Philippines Department of Energy and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) -- the United States provides advisors to strengthen and support the Philippine Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission as they implement the landmark 2001 Electric Power Industry Reform Act. The program also helps promote power sector reform. More...

"Apollo Project" Looks to Create 3 Million Jobs and Achieve Energy Independence in 10 Years
An alliance of labor, environmental, civil rights, business, and political leaders have laid out a vision for the so-called "New Apollo Project" to create 3.3 million new jobs and achieve energy independence in 10 years. Named after President Kennedy's moon program, which inspired a major national commitment to the aerospace industry, the Apollo Alliance aims to unify the country behind a 10-year program of strategic investment for clean energy technology and new infrastructure.

The Alliance also announced that it has received support from 17 of America's largest labor unions, including the United Auto Workers, the Steelworkers and Machinists, as well as a broad cross section of the environmental movement, including the Sierra Club, the NRDC, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Greenpeace. Read the Apollo Jobs Report (pdf).

DOE, China to Bring Clean Energy to the 2008 Olympic Games
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham joined China's Science and Technology Minister Xu and Beijing's Vice Mayor Fan on January 12 to sign the Green Olympic Protocol for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. DOE and China signed a Statement of Intent on Green Olympics cooperation in September 2002, and since then the two countries have established 11 teams to move forward on the agreement. Two joint working group meetings were successfully held in Beijing in 2002 and 2003, leading to new proposals for cooperation. The new protocol transforms the Statement of Intent into a legally binding international agreement. More...

Washington Lumber Mill Seeks Permit for 20-Megawatt Congeneration System
The Hampton lumber mill in Darrington, Washington, is seeking a permit to develop a 20-megawatt congeneration facility. The proposed facility would generate electricity and steam by burning waste wood, which would then be sold to other parties. More....

California Grants License for Largest U.S. Geothermal Plant
The California Energy Commission (CEC) has approved a license for the 185-megawatt Salton Sea Unit 6 Geothermal Project. Proposed by CE Obsidian Energy, LLC, the project will be the largest geothermal power plant in the country. The facility will be located on 80 acres of land at the southern end of the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, approximately six miles north of Calipatria in Imperial County. More...

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Highlighted at Idaho Energy Conference
State legislative and regulatory officials emphasized energy efficiency and renewable energy diversity as essential to the future of Idaho’s energy policy at the Idaho Energy Conference on November 6-7, 2003.  Tax incentives and utility resource plans were identified as potential driving forces for renewable energy innovations; the use of public funds, however, was not mentioned. More...

Opinion: Energy Bill Crucial to Renewable Energy
While three-quarters of the American population supports increased utilization of renewable energy, Congressional energy bills fail to reflect popular consensus.  The most recent energy bill – currently stalled in the Senate – would provide increased mechanisms for renewable energy production, including tax credits, tax deductions, increased research and development of renewable energy sources, and federal purchasing of renewable energy. More...

Utah BLM Completes First Geothermal Lease Sale Since 1988
Geothermal energy development in Utah took a step forward recently, as the Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) leased nearly 6,600 acres of public land to geothermal energy companies. The leased land is primarily located in Beaver and Millard counties near two existing geothermal plants: the Bonnet Geothermal plant in the Cove Fort-Sulphurdale geothermal area and the Blundell plant in the Roosevelt Hot Springs geothermal area. The winning bidders will be required to pay rental fees and royalties on any energy produced. The leases will start with a term of 10 years, but if the companies produce geothermal energy on their leased land, the BLM will extend the leases for up to 40 years. Read the More...

"Gateway to Opportunity Forum" to Help Entrepreneurs with Renewable Energy Development
A January 6-7 forum in Glendive will help entrepreneurs thinking about starting a home business to sell value-added products. Gateway to Opportunity will include 36 classes "that focus on value-added agriculture/alternative crops; alternative energy development; business skills/marketing; information technology and E-commerce; recreation and tourism and inventions, ideas and new products." More...

Entrepreneur Converts Organic Waste into Oil
Brian Appel, inventor of Ticketmaster, has discovered and marketed a process by which animal by-products – specifically, turkey bones and tissue left over from a nearby Butterball facility – are converted into fuel.  His invention imitates the natural process by which crude oil is created, but takes only hours rather than eons, and a factory was recently completed in West Hempstead, NY, capable of converting 200 tons of organic waste daily. More...

Uses for Biodiesel Byproducts Could Help Lower Cost
The Idaho Statesman reports that a University of Idaho researcher is exploring ways to capture value from the byproducts of biodiesel production. At present, high biodiesel production costs limit the fuel's market competitiveness, but scientist Brian He is working on ways to use waste glycerol and seed meal from the production process. If producers could market the waste materials as well as the biodiesel, costs for the product could come down. He is working with a bacterial fermentation process that converts the glycerol to a raw material used in production of polyester, and using solvents to remove toxins from the seed meal so it can be used as animal feed. He plans to set up a model production line that would demonstrate how production of a variety of materials could be integrated in a single processing facility.More...

Waste Methane Gas Used as Energy Source in Wyoming
The U.S. Department of Energy and the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities announced the completion of a microturbine that converts methane gas, created by sludge waste, to electricity.  The turbine produces 250 to 300 kilowatts of electricity daily, enough to save over $1,000 a month in energy costs.  Other turbines could be added to the site in the future, as the existing turbine uses less than 15 percent of the available methane. More...

Nine of Ten Washington Voters Support Increased Usage of Renewable Energy
In a recent poll, 93 percent of Washington voters were favorable to increased use of renewable energy resources, and 95 percent supported measures to improve energy efficiency.  The poll, conducted by Opinion Dynamic Corporation (Cambridge, MA), involved 600 Washington voters sampled randomly, with a stated error margin of four percent. More...

Are Renewables, Efficiency on your Holiday Shopping List?
With the holiday season in full swing, renewable energy and energy efficiency may be the last thing on most people's minds, but determined U.S. organizations are hoping to change that. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), for instance, has developed a "windy" gift list. AWEA suggests either buying green power or buying products from companies that do so. More...

Of course, energy experts always say to focus on energy efficiency first before trying to meet your needs with renewable energy. With that in mind, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reminding consumers that they can save energy by buying gifts that carry the DOE/EPA Energy Star label. Energy-Star-qualified electronic equipment uses up to 50 percent less energy than conventional equipment. More...

Better Than Green: New Mexico Renewable Energy Advocates Emphasize Industry Profitability
Proponents of renewable energy development in New Mexico state that renewable energy is not just cleaner, but could also become profitable.  Government agencies, environmental groups and business leaders have all recently stressed the potential for job creation, tax revenue and reduced energy costs which could accompany increased development of wind and solar power in New Mexican communities. More...

University of Idaho Receives $950,000 Grant to Publicize Benefits of Bio-diesel
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a $950,000 grant to the University of Idaho to research and publicize the benefits of and barriers to bio-diesel fuel.  The University will accomplish this goal through workshops, websites, publications and educational displays. More...

City of Missoula Utilizes Bio-Diesel Fuel for Its Snowplows
Missoula air might be cleaner this winter, as city officials have authorized the purchase of bio-diesel fuel for their snowplow fleet this winter.  Bio-diesel fuel is made of 20 percent soybean-based fuel-grade oil mixed with 80 percent traditional diesel fuel, and is offered at the Cenex station on Brooks.  City officials call this a ‘test year’ and if considered successful, may be expanded to other city vehicles in the future. More...

Public Biodiesel Pump Open in Missoula
Bio-diesel fuel called ‘B20’ – a blend of 80 percent petroleum and 20 percent agricultural-based fuel– is being sold at the Brooks Street Cenex station in Missoula.  While biodiesel fuel costs about 25 cents more per gallon, it burns cleaner and uses sustainable energy.  Already used by the University of Montana in its "bio-bus," the fuel will be utilized this winter by Missoula City vehicles. More...


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