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Biofuel

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Critical List: Republicans plan to defund the environment; no one likes the EPA

House Republicans want to defund all kinds of environmental activity -- the EPA, the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service. You know, just anything having to do with the outside. And the USDA thinks that bioengineered bluegrass doesn't fall within its regulatory sphere, which means companies could grow the stuff without any regulation. Exposing mice to air pollution makes them dumber and more depressed. So it's probably good for everyone that the EPA is putting new regulations on coal-fired power plants that should reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide by 73 percent and nitrogen oxides by 54 percent from 2005 …

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Critical List: Dust storm hits Phoenix; Electric Prius hits the roads

Phoenix was hit by a 5,000-foot-tall, 50-mile-wide wall of dust. What does Virgin Australia have in common with koala bears? They're both very interested in consuming eucalyptus leaves, which hopefully will not get the airplanes as stoned as they get the koala bears. Car companies don't trust drivers with 10-year-old cars to steer clear of 15% ethanol, which can damage older vehicles. So they think nobody should get it. Solar leasing companies want to bundle their solar panels into asset-backed securities. When future generations go into foreclosure, not only will they not know which banks own the house, they won't …

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Biomass is the new coal

Cross-posted from Climate Progress. Dominion, one of the largest utilities in the U.S., says it wants to convert three of its Virginia coal plants to run on waste biomass from timber operations. If approved by the state's regulatory commission, it could bring about 150 megawatts of renewable capacity to the state and turn two "peaking" coal plants that operate only 25 percent of the time into round-the-clock generators that operate 90 percent of the time. Like other coal-to-biomass projects we've reported on in the past, this one will create about 250 direct and indirect local jobs and only cost the …

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The Senate likes ethanol slightly less than it used to

For years, Washington has been really gung-ho about putting corn (America’s crop!) into cars (America’s bikes!), and has supported corn ethanol production with a suite of subsidies. But now senators are ready to say: “With food prices rising, we're not so comfortable with that! Maybe people should eat the corn instead, in the form of some kind of high-fructose syrup.” Yesterday, the Senate passed a measure that would end a 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit for ethanol producers. What’s crazy about this is that, unlike most cuts to alternative energy, this was not a Republican-only party. The yea votes came from 33 …

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SciAm op-ed: Kill biofuels to solve the food crisis

With the Senate, on a second attempt, successfully passing an amendment to end the 45-cent-per-gallon ethanol subsidy for American refiners and the 54-cent tariff on imported ethanol, I thought I'd point to this terrific op-ed in Scientific American on how to solve the food crisis. According to author Timothy Searchinger of Princeton University, it's the biofuels, stupid. The crisis certainly isn't due to a lack of agricultural productivity, no matter what agribusiness and the USDA say. Searchinger claims: [T]otal world grain production last year was the third highest in history. Indeed, it has grown since 2004 at rates that, on …

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Introducing the booze-fueled power plant

Bourbon's birthday was yesterday, but if you're anything like me, you're still celebrating. So you'll be glad to know that whisky -- we'll go with the Scottish spelling, because this is happening in Scotland -- is the newest addition to the Unlikely Biofuels Club. Helius Energy is building a 7.2-megawatt plant in Scotland that will run off of waste from whisky distilling. Isn't that so much classier than powering your car with Four Loko? There's more to the story that's not quite as delightful: The plant will get a lot of its energy from burning the whisky byproducts with wood …

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Some biofuels worse than dirtiest fossil fuels

If you fuel your truck with biodiesel made from palm oil grown on a patch of cleared rainforest, you could be putting into the atmosphere 10 times more greenhouse gasses than if you’d used conventional fossil fuels. It's a scenario so ugly that, in its worst case, it makes even diesel created from coal (the "coal to liquids" fuel dreaded by climate campaigners the world over) look "green." The biggest factor determining whether or not a biofuel ultimately leads to more greenhouse-gas emissions than conventional fossil fuels is the type of land used to grow it, says a new study …

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Critical List: Biofuels kinda suck, biomass kinda sucks, Toys ‘R’ Us embraces solar

The Fish and Wildlife Service has promised to evaluate the endangered status of 251 species in the next six years, if only so those pesky enviros will be quiet for a bit. The country's largest rooftop solar-energy field will be installed in New Jersey, at a Toys "R" Us distribution center. No word on when the Barbie Dream House will go green, though. Three senators released a bill that would cut subsidies to oil companies. Don't pat yourself on the back for flying on a plane that uses biofuels: If the fuel comes from palm oil grown on land converted …

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Biofuel from pond scum could replace 17 percent of imported oil

Good news: Growing algae for biofuel could allow us to replace almost half our oil imports! Bad news: It would take a ginormous amount of water and land. Better news: Even if we plan the algae farming in a water-conscious, environmentally responsible way, we can still replace 17 percent of imported oil with biofuel. That's a pretty good compromise! Algae makes for a better biofuel alternative than corn -- it can produce 80 percent more oil per hectare, it uses roughly the same amount of water, and using it for fuel doesn't mean taking food out of anybody's mouth. Plus, …