Category Archives: sugar

3 Picks: Fungi Biofuel, Sugar Ethanol, Biobutanol


Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Bacteria and Fungi Together: A Biofuel Dream Team? From Scientific American by Erin Brodwin. Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have created isobutanol from cornhusks, E. coli, and the fungi Trichoderma reesei. “Often when scientists arbitrarily combine organisms in the laboratory, one will outgrow another, driving it to extinction. Yet T. reesei and E. coli exhibited the one characteristic necessary for any stable system: synergy. “We allowed the natural dynamics to emerge,” Minty says. This interaction, which Minty and his team call a cooperator-cheater mechanism, allow the bacteria and fungi to maintain a state of balance. When the fungi degrade materials in the cornhusks into sugars, some of that action takes place on its surface. T. reesei thus gets the first crack at using them, preventing E. coli, which is far more efficient at snatching them up, from stealing all of the sugars and potentially starving out T. reesei.” K.M.: A number of years ago the very popular fungi-will-solve-the-world’s-problems-guy, Paul Stamets, sounded like making biofuel with fungi was a no-brainer. I’ve wondered what has happened to his project, but this article would suggest it is a hopeful field of study. Don’t miss comment #1. @Talli calls this project bogus.

2) Taxpayer Funded Sugar-for-Ethanol Program: “U.S. sugar processors have offered to sell 90,150 tonnes of sugar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of its “sugar-for-ethanol” program, designed to reduce an oversupply and boost domestic prices, the government said on Wednesday. The USDA will sell the sugar to ethanol producers, aiming at averting mass forfeitures of sugar that was used as collateral for government-backed loans. The Obama administration inaugurated a program last week to buy unwanted sugar and sell it at a loss to ethanol makers to produce more biofuels and mitigate a costly sugar surplus.”

3) Biobased butanol, butadiene and BDO are having a hot year: Jim Lane tells us “complex, multi-carbon drop-in renewable diesel, jet fuels and biodiesel have been the expansion story for advanced biofuels in the past three years — if any platform could be described as the “hottest of the hottest” right row, four-carbon chemicals and fuels are right in the heart of the roaster right now.” K.M.: Corn growers are no doubt quite hopeful about using corn to produce this drop-in fuel.

BONUS: I highly recommend viewing this slideshow with excellent and informative commentary on no-till and cover-crops.

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

Global Sugar Stocks-to-use Ratios: Why is there a Discrepancy? Anybody?

Over the next few days I am working on a few reports based upon stocks-to-use ratios. I noticed a huge discrepancy between the USDA and FAO sugar global stocks-to-use ratios. The FAO has percents in the 30’s and the USDA has percents in the teens. (see below) If there is anyone here who would care to take the time to leave a comment explaining why, I’d really appreciate it, as I’m obviously missing something???

source: usda

source: FAO

source: FAO

Bob Dinneen is Exuberant over Ethanol Exports to Brazil

“Biofuels are like cholesterol. There’s good and bad cholesterol.”
—Brazil’s former President Lula

These recent tweets, below, by Renewable Fuel Association’s CEO and ethanol lobbyist, Bob Dinneen, caught my attention. I think you’ll agree with me that they are quite interesting in a voyeuristic way in which one watches someone present a very biased “rah-rah” side of a tainted story.

Dinneen is in Brazil right now at UNICA’s Ethanol Summit. UNICA is Brazil’s sugarcane industry association. Below, I’ve started with his tweets from May 10th, when he was in Seville, Spain for World Biofuels 2011 and ended with his latest tweet from Sao Paulo. This guy gets around, spreading his message that the U.S. has the cheapest ethanol available to the world due to our nation’s supportive policy.

It appears that Bob is absolutely beside himself over the fact that expensive sugar, rising demand, and a low US dollar has led to Brazil becoming a large importer of U.S. ethanol. Their ethanol fueling stations and flex-fuel light vehicle fleet, already set up, seem to have him drooling.

Brazil imported nearly 23 million gallons of U.S. ethanol in 2010, up from .3 million gallons in 2009. It is expected that Brazil will double its ethanol imports from the U.S. this year, with an expected 40-50 million gallons total. Most imports will occur in March and April, until Brazil’s April sugarcane harvest is completed. Brazil has been the world’s largest ethanol exporter, while the U.S. has been the second largest.
K. McDonald

In Seville for World Biofuels 2011. Gasoline is $1.25/lt. That’s roughly $5/gal. Even w/ higher tax, that’s not much more than US. Low US $!

At World Biofuels 2011 Conf in Seville. FO Lichts notes US is now worlds low cost producer and export leader. Currency values dictate trade.

At World Biofuels 2011 – FO Lichts sees little chance of sugar price falling below 20 cents/lb, making BZ ethanol even less attractive.

Sugar ethanol prices from Brazil have increased 350 pct over past year. US ethanol now worlds lowest cost and will continue so.

Speaking at World Biofuels 2011 in Seville. Explained that growing US ethanol exports NOT eligible for the tax incentive!

At World Biofuels Conference, debating with EPURE’s Vierhut about E90 imports to EU. He agreed EU needs to change their tariff structure.

Speaking at World Biofuels Conference, translator asked me to slow down! I can’t! I get passionate about ethanol. Sorry translator!

At World Biofuels 2011 in Seville – talking with reporters that don’t understand US ethanol provides BOTH fuel AND feed. No impact on food!

#WorldBiofuels is held in Seville in a beautiful Chapel at Focus Abengoa. Listening to an organ concert to close the day. Very serene.

Participating in CFTC Ag Advisory Cmte meeting. Lots of concern about increased volatility in corn futures contracts. Too much speculation?

So TPaw says ethanol doesn’t need tax breaks. Ok, did anyone ask him about oil tax breaks? How about a level playing field?

It’s hardly political courage to trash ethanol incentives – the industry supports reform … will someone call for an end to oil subsidies?

Kudos to the CFTC for finally going after speculators in the oil market. They drove the world’s economy into the tank in ’08.

At press event w/ Rep Shimkus talking about the Open Fuel Standard. Yay, let’s empower consumers to reduce oil use!

At Brazilian Consulate for the 3rd time this week to pick up visa for my trip Brazil next week. I need some sugar ethanol for this nonsense!

@fuelinggood I’m heading to Brazil – they have E-85 everywhere. No app necessary. We need more ethanol here!

On plane for Miami and then on to Sao Paulo, Brazil. US exporting ethanol to Brazil these days. I look forward to driving US ethanol there!

Arrived Sao Paulo! Heading to UNICA’s Ethanol Summit. Looking forward to debating trade policies now that US is exporting to Brazil.

W/ 22 mil people, the traffic in Sao Paulo is legendary. Going on 90 minutes for the 10 miles from the airport. But all cars use ethanol!

At UNICA Ethanol Summit – BP’s Phil New says biofuels will be 40 pct of liquid fuel supply growth by 2020. Ethanol here to stay!

At UNICA’s Ethanol Summit – 4 oil co’s seem more interested in biochemicals from sugar than biofuels, particularly when it comes to ethanol.

At Ethanol Summit, Vinod Kosla challenges oil co’s to invest in biofuels and biochemicals as boldly as they do for oil and gas. Applause!

At UNICA’s Ethanol Summit – more than 2000 here – good event. Telling that more talk about biochemicals than ethanol though! Hmmm

At UNICA’s Ethanol Summit – funny to hear producer after producer note that the Brazilian sugar ethanol industry needs tax breaks! What?

In Sao Paulo – ethanol here about $1.7 Reals per liter. If my math is right, that’s about $4.02 per gallon. US ethanol much cheaper today.

2nd day of UNICA’s Ethanol Summit in Sao Paulo set to begin. Today I get to debate trade policy with the Brazilians. Should be fun!

Participating on panel discussing trade issues at UNICA’s Ethanol Summit. Trade works between US and Brazil. We import/we export. Now export

Parallel universe at UNICA’s Ethanol Summit – Brazil opposes US tax incentive for ethanol here, but defend lower…

Heading home. Seems like I just got to Brazil. Interesting event. Brazilian ethanol industry hurting – looking to govt for clear direction.

END TWEETS BY @ethanolbob

UPDATE: Brazil to Subsidize its Ethanol Sector

For more information about Brazil’s ethanol production and usage, I recommend this Wikipedia page.