Tag Archives: Alternative Energy

An energy-independent future?

John Stewart’s take on President Obama’s speech urging America to become energy independent.

The Daily Show: June 16, 2010

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The Differences Between Clean Energy, Renewable Energy, and Alternative Energy

To many people, the differences between “alternative energy,” “renewable energy,” and “clean energy,” might not be obvious. But each term is unique and has its own individual definition. These three terms are not all exactly the same.

Alternative Energy

When we speak of alternative energy, we refer to sources of usable energy that can replace conventional energy sources (usually, without undesirable side effects). The term “alternative energy” is typically used to refer to sources of energy other than nuclear energy or fossil fuels.

Throughout the course of history, “alternative energy” has referred to different things. There was a time when nuclear energy was considered an alternative to conventional energy, and was therefore called “alternative energy.” But times have changed.

These days, a form of “alternative energy” might also be renewable energy, or clean energy, or both. The terms are often interchangeable, but definitely not the same.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is any type of energy which comes from renewable natural resources, such as wind, rain, sunlight, geothermal heat, and tides. It is referred to as “renewable” because it doesn’t run out. You can always get more of it.

People have begun to turn to this type of energy due to the rising oil prices, and the prospect that we might one day deplete available sources of fossil fuels, as well as due to concerns about the adverse effects that our conventional energy sources have on the environment.

Of all the different types of renewable energy, wind power is one which is growing in its use. The number of users who have some form of wind power installed has increased, with the current worldwide capacity being about 100 GW.

Clean Energy

“Clean energy” is simply any form of energy which is created with clean, harmless, and non-polluting methods.

Most renewable energy sources are also clean energy sources. But not all.

One such example is geothermal power. It may be a renewable energy source, but some geothermal energy processes can be harmful to the environment. Therefore, this is not always a clean energy. However there are also other forms of geothermal energy which are harmless and clean.

Clean energy makes the less impact on the environment than our current conventional energy sources do. It creates an insignificant amount of carbon dioxide, and its use can reduce the speed of global warming – or global pollution.

As you can see, alternative energy, renewable energy, and clean energy are very similar. But it is important to know that there are differences.

There are many actions which can be taken, to help reduce the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Some of these steps can be taken in your own home. Many clean energy solutions can can be easily installed, and some kits are quite affordable.

Carbon emissions and other forms of pollution are not only created by heavy industrial factories. They are created in the common household as well. Energy efficiency has become an important aspect of our lives.

It’s important to start making changes now; if we want to save our planet for our children, for the flora and fauna of the Earth, and for the future of mankind. Clean energy, to be exact, can make a big difference.

Learn more about clean, renewable, and alternative energy forms at Alternative Energy.

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America’s Premier Wave Power Farm Sets Sail

March 14, 1020
http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/wave-power-farm-sets-sail/

Wave energy is among the impressive list of renewable energy resources that is being developed in the United States. New Jersey-based developer, Ocean Power Technologies has launched a project that features the nation’s first commercial wave power farm off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon. Once the project is completed, wave energy will generate power for several hundred homes in Oregon. The wave power farm operates on the wave energy that is created when a float on a buoy flows with the natural up and down movement of the waves.
This action subsequently causes an attached plunger to follow the same kind of ebb and flow movement. The plunger is attached to a hydraulic pump that changes the vertical movement to a circular motion, which drives an electric generator to produce electricity that is sent to shore through submerged cables.

When the initial project is finished, the first $4 million dollar buoy will measure 150 feet tall by 40 feet wide, weighing 200 tons. Nine more of these crafts will be set in motion by the year 2012 for a total cost of $60 million dollars. About four hundred homes will receive electricity from Oregon’s wave power farm by the completion of the project.

The wave energy project has promising potential, but has encountered some degree of skepticism and is faced with several areas of concern. One factor is that wave power is still in the early stages of development and is rather costly, running about five or six times more than wind power. Secondly, many people question how the buoys can be stabilized in the water to gather the energy from wave power. Another concerning factor is that waves are so unpredictable, and the size of the waves could result in either equipment damage of lack of cost effectiveness.

The wave power farm is a developing renewable energy source that could potentially compete with wind and solar energy, although it has had a bit of a shaky start. The first commercial wave power farm was developed in Portugal in 2008, but the project was suspended indefinitely last year for financial reasons. In addition, a wave-powered technology that was developed by a Canadian company sank off the Oregon coast two years ago.

The Oregon wave power farm is being funded by several sources, including Oregon tax credits, Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The wave power farm concept has a great deal of promise and there are other projects around the world that are being developed in Spain, Scotland, Western Australia and off the coast of Cornwall, England. In the United States, Oregon Power Technologies is developing a wave power technology program in Hawaii in conjunction with the U.S. Navy.

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The Bloom Box to revolutionize alternative energy

The Bloom Box to revolutionize alternative energy
Teknowledge
By Isabel Goncalves

It’s an exciting week for energy. Bloom Energy unveiled a refrigerator-sized personal power plant that produces energy cheaply and cleanly and may one day replace the traditional power grid.

Bloom Box is the creation of Bloom Energy, a Sunnyvale, California-based company that is promising to revolutionize energy with its “power plant in a box.”

Bloom Energy’s K.R. Sridhar, holding up fuel cells that are key components of the so-called “Bloom box.” (Credit: CBS)According to K.R. Sridhar, founder of Bloom Energy, two blocks can power the average high-consumption American home — one block can power the average European home.

Sridhar wants to put one in every home by 2020.

Bloom Energy became an instant hit online after it was featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

So what is Bloom Box?

It’s a collection of fuel cells – skinny batteries – that use oxygen and fuel to create electricity with zero emissions.

The idea is to one day replace the big power plants and transmission line grid, the way the laptop moved in on the desktop and cell phones supplanted landlines.

Bloom Energy boxes cost between $700,000-$800,000, but Sridhar envisions making it available in every home, so he estimates they will lower the price to around $3,000 for a unit.

Bloom Energy (click here for their website) will go public on Wednesday, February 24, where it is expected to announce further details about their much-anticipated energy box.

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The Long Road to an Alternative-Energy Future

The Long Road to an Alternative-Energy Future
The Wall Street Journal
BUSINESS FEBRUARY 22, 2010.

Blame it on technology, infrastructure or policy. But it’s going to take many years for new technologies to make much of a dent in our current energ. Just don’t expect them anytime soon.

Why the delay? After all, the computer revolution has shown how rapidly new innovations can be imagined, developed, brought to market and have an impact. But new energy technologies don’t work that way—they can take years to gain just a toehold in the market, and 20 to 30 years to push aside existing products or techniques.

That’s partly because of the sheer size of the energy market. Global power consumption is estimated to total 150 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2010. The utility industry in the U.S., the most energy-hungry nation on the planet, produced an estimated 3.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2009. Nearly half of that was produced by coal, while solar power contributed less than 0.1%.

Wind power is one of the fastest-growing sources of renewable energy in the world. But by the end of 2008 there were still only 121.2 gigawatts of generated capacity—representing around 1.5% of global electricity consumption.

Of course, no single technology needs to replace all that carbon-producing power. Researchers planning for future energy supplies are working on several technologies simultaneously, including carbon capture to produce electricity, and next-generation biofuels and electric-powered cars to move us around. They talk about the need for “silver buckshot,” instead of a silver bullet.

Researchers also agree that policy makers can speed or delay these developments—at least up to a point. A price on carbon, either through a tax or a carbon-trading mechanism, would make new technologies competitive with cheap oil and coal more quickly, spurring investment in and adoption of alternatives. Governments can also spend money on research, development and pilot projects, speeding the move from the drawing board to the market. Higher oil prices also make all the energy alternatives more attractive to investors and consumers.

But even if you combine all the current alternatives, they aren’t likely to make much of a dent for quite a few years. To better understand why, we offer a closer look at a handful of the most-promising clean-energy alternatives, and the reasons they’ll be a long time coming.

New Nuclear Reactors
THE TECHNOLOGY: Advanced nuclear reactors use simplified, standardized designs that should be cheaper and quicker to build and easier to operate. Passive safety features lower the risk of accidents.

These “generation 3+” reactors consume more of the nuclear fuel, lowering operating costs and trimming waste. Looking ahead, some generation IV designs can recycle used nuclear fuel, producing even less waste and relying less on new uranium supplies.

CURRENT STATUS: About a dozen generation 3+ reactors are being built around the world, and more are planned, including nearly two dozen in the U.S. awaiting certification and licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

For generation IV reactors, an international group of scientists and researchers is coordinating research and development, and they’ve agreed to a list of six technologies to pursue.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: While China and France, among others, are moving ahead with construction of the generation 3+ reactors, the first new plants in the U.S. aren’t likely to appear until late in the decade; NRC certification of the new designs may not occur before early 2012, and construction, even if accelerated, will take at least four or five years.

Even in France, Europe’s most enthusiastic devotee of nuclear power, a third-generation plant at Flamanville in Normandy, which is intended as a prototype for up to 40 others, won’t be completed until late 2012.

Generation IV reactors aren’t expected to enter commercial development until after 2020. In 2006, France started funding prototype fourth-generation, sodium-cooled fast reactors. But the technology will not be ready for industrial deployment until after 2035 at the earliest.

Carbon Capture and Storage
THE TECHNOLOGY: Carbon-capture technology pulls carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of coal and other fossil-fuel plants, pressurizes the gas and pumps it underground for permanent storage.

CURRENT STATUS: A handful of small-scale carbon-capture and storage pilot and demonstration projects are under way around the world. In a test to capture CO2 from an operating power plant, American Electric Power Co. is running a pilot at its Mountaineer plant in West Virginia, collecting about 1.5% of the plant’s CO2 emissions and storing them under the site. Other sites in Europe, Africa and Australia are investigating underground storage, but Mountaineer is the first to integrate capture and storage.

Work has also begun on a carbon capture and storage test power plant at Schwarze Pumpe in Germany. It will be used to test oxy-combustion, which generates purer carbon dioxide that is easier to capture and store.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: Technically, carbon capture has been shown effective in small, less expensive pilot projects. In capturing larger emissions streams, operators have to fine-tune the equipment and see how it works in different weather conditions and using different grades of coal. In a test at AEP’s Mountaineer plant, this stage is expected to take at least a year.

Once that is done, the next stage is building and operating a commercial-scale demonstration plant. AEP recently received $334 million in U.S. government stimulus funds for its planned 235-megawatt demonstration plant. AEP expects that power-plant builders could begin offering commercial versions of the technology by 2020.

The Schwarze Pumpe facility in Germany is also only a prototype for a prototype. Eventually, larger demonstration plants will be built in Germany and Denmark, but not until 2015.

Earlier this month, the European Union agreed to provide as much as $13.6 billion in funding for carbon-capture trials but does not believe the technology will be commercially available until 2020.

Ultimately, commercial adoption will depend on whether governments decide to impose a price on carbon and what that price is. Carbon capture is expensive—it could double the price of electricity from some existing coal plants, and cuts plant efficiency by about 30%.

Most experts agree that it is going to take a carbon price of at least $50 a ton for carbon capture to become economically feasible.

Algal Biofuels
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Solazyme A fermentor used by Solazyme to improve growth of microalgae
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THE TECHNOLOGY: Algae are fast-growing, consume carbon dioxide and have the potential to produce more oil per hectare than other biofuels. The oils they produce can be used to make substitutes for diesel fuel, aviation fuel and gasoline.

CURRENT STATUS: About 150 companies world-wide are working to commercialize algal biofuels. U.S. government support has soared in the past few years; the Energy Department recently granted $44 million for research into commercializing algal biofuels and $97 million for algae pilot and demonstration projects.

In the biggest project, Sapphire Energy of San Diego, Calif., plans to break ground on a 300-acre (121- hectare) biorefinery in New Mexico later this year.

Another recipient, Solazyme Inc., uses a fermentation method to produce algae-based fuels and has contracts to provide the U.S. Navy with 1,500 gallons (5,678 liters) of jet fuel and 20,000 gallons of diesel to power navy ships; the company is converting a plant in Pennsylvania into a demonstration biorefinery. Big oil companies, including ExxonMobil and BP, have invested in algae-biofuel projects or companies.

European support for biofuels has oscillated wildly. The European Union originally imposed a compulsory 10% quota of biofuels in all petrol and diesel by 2020 but came close to scrapping this amid concerns it would jeopardize food production. The focus has shifted to sustainable biofuels—a likely boon to funding for algal biofuels, according to experts.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: As promising as the technology is, it hasn’t proved that it can produce fuels in sufficient quantities or at a low enough cost to make a dent in global liquid-fuel consumption. Solazyme’s fermentation method, which grows algae in dark, enclosed tanks, is considered by some experts to be closest to maturity; the company expects to reach commercial-scale production by 2013.

Wind
THE TECHNOLOGY: Wind power is one of the fastest-growing alternative energy sources in the world—a low-carbon, renewable source of electricity that can deliver millions of watts of relatively low-cost power.

CURRENT STATUS: Seven of the world’s 10 largest markets for wind-powered electricity generation are in Europe, which accounted for 54% of the world’s total installed wind capacity at the end of 2008. In the U.S., wind produced about 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity last year, about 2% of total generation and enough to power about 13 million homes. Industry capacity rose nearly 10,000 megawatts, or 39%, last year to a total of about 35,000 megawatts.

Plans for the Beauly-Denny line, a backbone of pylons to carry electricity from wind farms in the Highlands of Scotland to the more densely populated parts of the U.K., were conceived in 2003 but have only just gained approval.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: It may not. Wind power capacity in Europe is expected to increase by roughly 9% a year until 2030. In the U.S., the Energy Department laid out a scenario for how wind could meet 20% of the nation’s total electricity demand by 2030—about 300 gigawatts—displacing half of natural gas-powered and 18% of coal-fired generation. But a recent report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL, found that the Eastern U.S., which isn’t blessed with substantial onshore wind resources, could hit the 20% target by 2024.

Still, reaching that goal is going to take significant investments in new transmission lines, especially in a transmission “superhighway” to carry electricity from parts of the U.S. with lots of wind to places where demand is highest. The NREL study estimates the price tag could be as high as $93 billion.

Local opposition to transmission lines can also present a challenge, especially when lines have to cross state lines. And hitting the U.S. goal also may require significant additions of offshore wind power, which the Energy Department predicts could deliver about 17% of its projected 2030 total. Offshore wind generation promises more reliable power. But it’s about twice as expensive as onshore wind power.

Solar
THE TECHNOLOGY: Energy from the sun can be used to make electricity directly with photovoltaic panels or indirectly using concentrated sunlight to heat a liquid, which produces steam to turn electrical turbines. Concentrating solar plants can be built to store heat and deliver power for several hours without sunlight.

CURRENT STATUS: Total capacity—the amount of power that could be produced if the sun shone constantly—of solar photovoltaic systems has been nearly doubling every two years in both the U.S. and Europe, and the pace of increase is expected to rise further.

In the U.S., the estimated 2,000 megawatts of solar capacity in 2009 was nearly 45% higher than in 2008. That includes about 980 megawatts of concentrating-solar projects; an additional 81 megawatts are under construction. In the EU, there was an estimated 9,530 megawatts of solar capacity in 2008, up from 4,940 megawatts in 2007.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: Even at that rate of growth, solar power is still minuscule: Solar generation in 2009 accounted for less than 0.1% of total electricity production in the U.S. Solar capacity remains less than 1% of the total.

“The biggest obstacle is that we’re starting at such a low level,” says John Benner, a research manager at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

In Europe, nearly 92% of total solar power capacity is accounted for by just Germany and Spain. Spain alone more than quadrupled its photovoltaic capacity between 2007 and 2008. This surge has been driven by government incentives that have yet to be matched in the rest of Europe.

The cost of solar installations has fallen in recent years, but remains high, partly because demand continues to keep pace with supply. And like wind farms, utility-scale solar photovoltaic and concentrated-solar projects also require additional transmission connections.

Electric Vehicles
THE TECHNOLOGY: In theory, electric vehicles could replace most gasoline-powered cars and light trucks. They can run entirely on battery power, or in the case of plug-in hybrids, on batteries that can be charged by a separate gasoline engine when needed as a backup.

CURRENT STATUS: About 56,000 electric vehicles are in use world-wide, but the numbers are deceiving—most are limited to low-speed driving and have limited range. So far, Tesla Motors Inc.’s Roadster is the only open-road electric vehicle in the U.S., but a handful of other all-electric cars, including Nissan Motor Co.’s Leaf, are expected to come to market in 2010. The first commercial plug-in hybrids, led by General Motors Co.’s Chevy Volt, also are slated to be available later this year.

In Europe, there is a wider range of models, including Reva’s G-Wiz, the most popular electric car in the U.K. Later this year, the Mitsubishi i MiEV, the first electric offering from a mainstream manufacturer, will be launched in Europe.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: The biggest obstacle is cost. The advanced lithium-ion battery pack that powers the Volt, which can travel 40 miles (64 kilometers) on a charge, can cost as much as $10,000, though prices are expected to fall as production ramps up. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that in 2030, the added cost of a plug-in hybrid will be higher than fuel savings unless gasoline costs around $6 a gallon (3.78 liters).

Another challenge is the need for public recharging stations. Most American drivers travel fewer than 40 miles a day. For European drivers, the average is even lower. This is well within the range of first-generation electric vehicles, but consumers will balk if they worry about running out of juice. Charging networks are scheduled to be rolled out over the next two years in Denmark, Israel and Portugal in cooperation with national power companies and supported by governments. Similar projects are planned in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

Public charging spots are less important for plug-in hybrids, which are more likely to be recharged at home. Still, owners may need to upgrade their existing outlets to recharge more quickly. A 240-volt outlet, which can charge an electric vehicle in about three to six hours, generally requires adding a circuit to the home’s electric system to handle the additional load.

Write to Michael Totty at michael.totty@wsj.com

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Green-minded Seeing Red Over Biomass Plant

Green-minded seeing red over biomass plant

By David Markiewicz
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
2:59 p.m. Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ask people who live in the North DeKalb neighborhood along Briarwood Road if they consider themselves green friendly, and the answer likely is yes.

The surrounding area, one resident noted, has the highest participation in the county’s voluntary recycling program. There’s even a local REI store, known for its earth-embracing vibe.

The idea of promoting alternative energy development by building a biomass-fueled electricity generating plant nearby might seem like something they would support.

They do – as long as it’s not in their backyard.

The plant, proposed for a Briarwood Road site by developer Raine Cotton of Southeast Renewable Energy, would take unwanted waste wood from tree trimming and clearing operations and convert it into electricity through a gasification process. It would power 6,000 homes.

Opponents contend it would pollute the air, increase truck traffic in the neighborhood near I-85, raise noise levels and use large amounts of water.

All indications are that community opposition will cause Cotton to take his $23 million biomass project elsewhere. The project, which needed rezoning from industrial to heavy industrial use, was rejected by the local community council and county planning commission. DeKalb County commissioners deferred a final decision on the site until later this month.

Last week, Cotton said he is considering two heavily industrialized sites in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties instead.

Biomass is a renewable energy source that can come from multiple sources, including trees. Advocates say the use of biomass fuels can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that emerge from the burning of coal to make electricity.

The Briarwood Road experience could be a sign, observers said, that renewable energy projects, for all the benefits they bring in energy and jobs, won’t have an easy time finding a home in densely populated areas. That could push them to more remote locations where they might meet less public opposition.

Similar projects often are planned outside metropolitan areas, where they “have a little bit harder road than in rural areas,” said Jill Stuckey, director of the Center of Innovation for Energy with the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority.

Stuckey, who helps companies find sites for renewable energy or alternative fuel production facilities in the state, pointed to a biomass electricity generating plant in Rabun Gap as an example.

Still, she said, some projects now in the development pipeline could be targeting more urban locations. The Briarwood Road project might give them pause.

Bill Draper, one of the public opponents of the proposal, said it was the specific aspects of Cotton’s project, particularly the pollution potential, that bothered him.

“I know it’s hard to believe, but I support renewable energy,” Draper said. “Everybody says, ‘Great, let’s get this in here.’ But when I did some research, it wasn’t as clean as you’d think renewable energy would be. I don’t want to be the guy who stands up and says you can’t have this at all. But when you’ve got a populated area and something that’s environmentally unfriendly, you’re going to have a problem. It’s a good application in exactly the wrong place.”

“I didn’t hear a lot of people saying that, in general, the idea of this plant was a bad idea,” added Katie Oehler, who lives a mile from the proposed site and serves on the Drew Valley Civic Association that covers 950 homes. “[But] plopping it down in the middle of a residential area probably is not the best idea.”

“We do need green energy facilities,” said County Commissioner Jeff Rader, whose district holds the proposed site. “And the people who live in that district, I think, are generally supportive of green power. But all the recommendations were adverse to the project. There could be some places in DeKalb County that would be more appropriate.”

Cotton said residents’ concerns were overblown. There would be no smoke or smell from the plant, he said, because of pollution control equipment. In the biomass gasification process, wood is heated with air in a chamber until it breaks down into a gas, which can be used as a fuel to produce electricity.

“We’ve gotten some NIMBY, and it’s totally unwarranted,” he said, using the “not in my backyard” acronym. “You can always find something

.”

Still, Cotton said, “We see the writing on the wall.”

Now he’s looking for a more accommodating site, one that’s close to the sources of waste wood that must be trucked to the plant, and near enough to power transmission lines to allow electricity to be carried more efficiently.

Cotton said he’s heard more support than opposition to his project, which would provide 15 jobs.

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USDA, Navy make Commitment to Increase Military Biofuel Use

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack crossed the Potomac River last week to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Navy that will supposedly lead to the greater use of biofuels and alternative energy in the military.

The Navy has plans to cut its fossil fuel use and switch everything from bases to ships and aircraft to alternative energy. The Navy is laying out a series of targets; most of the key goals don’t take effect until 2015 or 2016, when President Barack Obama would be at the end of his second term, if he gets one.

The memorandum of understanding is a promise by the two agencies to work with each other.

The Navy’s goals:

– By 2012, demonstrate a Green Strike Group composed of biofuel-powered nuclear vessels and ships. By 2016, sail the Strike Group as a Great Green Fleet composed of nuclear ships, surface combatants equipped with hybrid electric alternative power systems running on biofuel, and aircraft running on biofuel.

– By 2015, cut petroleum use by half in its nontactical commercial fleet of 50,000, by phasing in hybrid, flex-fuel and electric vehicles.

– By 2020, produce at least half of shore-based installations’ energy requirements from alternative sources. Also, 50 percent of all shore installations will be net zero energy consumers.

– By 2020, half of the Navy’s total energy consumption for ships, aircraft, tanks, vehicles and shore installations will come from alternative sources.

Iowa Power Farming Show has exhibitor waiting list
Grain and livestock producers have fought lower prices for most of the last year, but that hasn’t slowed the Iowa Power Farming Show, which will hold its 55th annual exhibition Feb. 2-4 at Wells Fargo Arena, Veterans Memorial Auditorium and Hy-Vee Hall.

The 2009 show attracted a record 18,900 to what is now the nation’s fourth-largest indoor agricultural equipment show.

“We have nearly 50 companies on the waiting list, so this tells me that row-crop ag remains strong,” show director Tom Junge said. “We have never had this large a number on the waiting list.”

A total of 620 companies will use 1,620 booths to display everything from the largest combines, planters and tractors to small precision farming guidance systems.

Farmers also can attend seminars on farm marketing, succession transitioning, yields and precision farming.

Admission is $6 for adults, but farmers can get in for $3 by registering at http://www.iowapowershow.com and taking part in a crop planting intention survey.

Vilsack urged to consider livestock antibiotics limits
Lawmakers who want to curb the use of antibiotics in hogs and other livestock are urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to address the issue. Among those measures: boost monitoring for resistant bacteria and write rules for labels that would allow meat to be promoted as “raised without antibiotics.”

The three lawmakers, led by Rep. Louis Slaughter, D-N.Y., are sponsoring legislation that would sharply restrict the on-farm use of antibiotics, but that bill doesn’t appear to be going anywhere for now. In a Jan. 15 letter to Vilsack, the lawmakers press their concerns that overuse of antibiotics in livestock is leading to a rise in drug-resistant bacteria that are a threat to human health.

“Antibiotics are the miracle drugs of the 20th century, yet overuse leads to development of resistant bacteria. With simple, common sense and inexpensive improvements to animal husbandry practices, it would not be necessary to give animals routine and large volumes of antibiotics.”

In addition to expanded monitoring and antibiotic-free meat labels, the lawmakers also called on Vilsack to increase research on alternatives to antibiotic usage in livestock and to request money from Congress for research on resistant bacteria. The USDA is reviewing the letter and will respond soon, a spokesman said.

Could big pipeline player help ethanol transport?
The news of a joint venture between pipeline operator Kinder Morgan of Houston and the U.S. Development Group probably didn’t crack the ice in the Corn Belt last week, but the long-term ramifications could be significant.

Kinder Morgan is one of the nation’s largest natural gas and petroleum pipeline companies. U.S. Development owns and operates ethanol loading terminals.

The crux of the deal involves Kinder Morgan taking over U.S. Development ethanol rail unloading terminals at Linden, N.J., Baltimore and Dallas.

The joint venture has at least the possibility of smoothing what has been one of ethanol’s biggest logistical difficulties: getting the ethanol from the Midwest, where it is made, to the major gasoline markets on both coasts and in Texas.

At present, all ethanol has to move by rail. Ethanol can’t move in pipelines dedicated to oil and gas, primarily because of ethanol’s water content. So what has turned out to be a competent logistical system has been cobbled together linking the nation’s rail network with unloading terminals in major urban markets.

So far, the system has worked, but if the nation expects to move from the current annual use of ethanol of 11 billion to 12 billion gallons to 20 billion gallons or more in the next decade – especially if E15 is allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency as expected this year and more car buyers purchase E85 vehicles – then an expanded ethanol transport system will be needed.

PHILIP BRASHER & DAN PILLER • business@dmreg.com • January 24, 2010
DesMoinesRegister.com

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