The CapEx-OpEx Fallacy, Electric Cars, and Biofuels

Jim Lane “Electric power is cheap”, and “cellulosic biofuel costs less than $1.00 per gallon”. The Tesla Model S, from the unveiling on 26-Mar-2009. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons) So why isn’t everyone buying a Chevy Volt? And why can you get lower interest rates on your Visa Card than next-gen biofuel developers face? It’s the old capex-opex (Capital Expense vs. Operating Expense) fallacy. Earlier this week, a new study from researchers at UC Santa Barbara determined photovoltaics to be much more efficient than biomass at turning sunlight into energy to...
Refinery exemptions RFS

Did Trump’s EPA Cost Corn Growers $3.65 Billion In 2017?

by Jim LaneIn Washington, new evidence has appeared that a Trump Administration shift on US low carbon fuel policy may have cost US corn growers an estimated $3.65 billion. The mechanism? A secretive effort by Administration officials installed at the US Environmental Protection Agency that destroyed an estimated 1.37 billion gallons of annual demand for low-carbon renewable fuels, in favor of fossil fuels. Officials at the agency exploited a loophole in US low carbon fuel legislation that allows small oil refineries to gain hardship waivers in cases of severe distress from complying in full with US low carbon fuel laws.  Now, evidence...

Gevo and Butamax Make Peace

Jim Lane In Delaware and Colorado, Gevo (GEVO) and Butamax have entered into worldwide patent cross-license and settlement agreements, ending a patent dispute related to technologies for the production of bio-based isobutanol. This settlement ends all of the lawsuits and creates a new relationship between the companies, aimed at leveraging each other’s strengths and accelerating development of competitive supply for bio-based isobutanol. The cross-license agreement grants both parties patent licenses to all fields for isobutanol and is structured to develop robust and sustainable isobutanol markets. The license will be royalty bearing for Butamax in certain fields...

Earnings Round-Up: ADM, Green Plains, Syngenta

Jim Lane Green Plains In Nebraska, Green Plains (GPRE) announced net income for the quarter was $42.2 million compared to net income of $25.5 million for the same period in 2013. Revenues were $829.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2014 compared to $712.9 million for the same period in 2013. Net income for the full year was $159.5 million compared to $43.4 million for the same period in 2013. Revenues were $3.2 billion for the full year of 2014 compared to $3.0 billion for the same period in 2013. Fourth quarter 2014 EBITDA was $90.7 million compared to...

Novozymes Ignites Yeast Wars

Novozymes (Copenhagen:NZYM-B; OTC:NVZMY) moved into yeast this week with a new organism, Innova Drive. It’s saccharomyces cerevisae — the workhouse yeast that has been powering wine fermentation since the days of Noah and the Ark. But here’s a new strain engineered to cut fermentation times up to two hours, and yield boosts of up to two percent. A 2% yield increase and a 5% faster rate of production — let’s illustrate it — would mean something like 7.1 million gallons per year of more ethanol from the same standard 100 million gallon nameplate plant. Retailing at up to $10 million dollars, per year (yes,...

Biochar’s Likely Market Impacts

Biochar is still mostly a research and cottage industry, yet it has the potential to impact returns for a broad range of investors. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA Biochar, or amending soil with biomass-derived carbon, shows great potential to improve the productivity of soils, as well as to increase the utilization of fertilizers by plants, while sequestering carbon to reduce the drivers of climate change.  On August 10, I went to the 2009 North American Biochar Conference to look at the potential for investors.  Before I went, I took a look at the publicly traded companies...

What I Sold: Pacific Ethanol (NASD:PEIX)

This entry continues a series on companies I sold as part of a portfolio cleanup prompted by the mess on Wall Street.  In the first entry I describe what I plan to do with the cash, and the second was about Carmanah Technologies.   UQM Technologies was one I didn't sell. In May of last year, I took a look at competitive forces in the corn ethanol industry.  While I was rather negative on the industry at the time, when ethanol stocks fell in the summer and fall of 2007, I called the bottom much too soon, and...
GasolineGate

Report Alleges EPA Tests Skewed Against Ethanol By Oil Industry Influence

by Jim Lane In Washington, researchers for a report published by the Urban Air Initiative contend that “technical data that shows the nation has been exposed to decades of flawed test fuels and flawed driving tests, which in turn means flawed emissions results and mileage claims”.  The complete Beyond a Reasonable Doubt series from UAI is available here. Further, EPA emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that, according to a report from Boyden Grey & Associates, the Agency appears to have directly solicited financial contributions and technical input, “especially on the fuel matrix,” from an oil industry controlled research organization. Of the...

Ethanol shortage could up gas prices

USA Today Money comments about a potential for future increases in gas prices and also shortages in Ethanol. "Gasoline prices will be unusually high and shortages might occur this summer, because the U.S. ethanol industry can't keep up with the demand for fuel-grade alcohol to mix with gasoline, the head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration told a Senate committee Wednesday." On Wednesday of this week the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee met to discuss ethanol as a substitute for MTBE, a clean-air additive in gasoline. This potential change will increase the cost of refining...

Linc Energy: Making Synthetic Crude From Coal Downunderground

by Debra Fiakas CFA Gas-to-liquids is back on my radar screen after an article appearing in early March 2015 on Biofuels Digest described progress Emerging Fuels Technology (EFT) has made in perfecting the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert carbon-based feedstock to liquid fuel, otherwise called Gas-to-Liquids.  Fischer-Tropsch often referred to as FT for short is a series of chemical reactions to convert carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons.  The reactions are triggered by a catalyst, usually cobalt or iron, and managed under high temperatures in a chamber or reactor.  Some might consider it a neat trick...

Abengoa Bioenergy: a 5-Minute Guide

Jim Lane Location: St. Louis Year founded: USA – 1982 EU – 1998 Brazil – 2007 Type of technology(s): a. Traditional fermentation of cereal grains and sugar cane for the commercial production of bioethanol b. Traditional transesterification for the production of biodiesel from cereal and vegetable oils. c. Multiple technology options for the commercial demonstration of cellulosic fuel production. Fuel Type: Bioethanol, biodiesel. Major Investors Abengoa is a public company, of which Abengoa Bioenergy is a wholly-owned subsidiary.  Abengoa trades in Madrid with the symbol ABG, and as ABGOF on...

BlueFire Renewables: Solid and Liquid

Jim Lane You just can’t beat the financing of renewable fuels for all-out zaniness. Tragicomedy, anyone? Consider the case of BlueFire Renewables (BFRE). Sometimes, the financing of renewable fuels can start to sound a little like an Abbott & Costello routine. The planned BlueFire plant Allow us to summarize. You can finance a liquid renewable fuel as long as the market is solid, especially if you are making solids, and the market for solids is liquid, and your liquidity is solid. Adding solids to...

Eight Upsides of the New Ethanol

Jim Lane Eight technologies, seven public stocks – who’s adopting what, who’s in the lead? Perhaps you have written off ethanol as a bum investment. That’s understandable. Though, as a general rule, all acts of mind-closing should be made while chanting Michael Dell’s mantra from 1997, writing off Apple as a bum investment. It’s a good chant, you could try it. Here’s how it goes. “What would I do?” Hari Rama. “I’d shut it down.” Rama Krishna. “And give the money back”. Krishna Rama. “To the shareholders.” Rama Rama. Missing the biggest gold rush. Krishna Hari....

Gevo marching: GEVOgraphy expands to Malaysia; advantaGEVOus ruling in Butamax case

Jim Lane Gevo signs agreement for cellulosic biomass development in Malaysia, as the company secures a crucial win in preliminary injunction battle with Butamax over IP. In Colorado, Gevo (GEVO) signed a collaborative agreement with the intent to site a cellulosic biomass isobutanol facility in Southeast Asia, with the Malaysian government’s East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC), Malaysian Biotechnology Corp (BiotechCorp) and the State Government of Terengganu. The company is in the final stages of evaluating additional partners to complete the biomass to isobutanol value chain. The collaboration offers a diversified feedstock, organized approach and the opportunity...

REG: A Little ADM With Better Growth Prospects

Jim Lane At 8:30am, there’s a standing daily meeting of the key traders in Gary Haer’s sales group at Renewable Eenergy Group's (NASD:REGI aka REG) headquarters in Ames, Iowa. And they’re not kidding. Everyone stands. For 15 minutes there’s the rat-a-tat-tat of rumor, fact, competitors, pricing, spreads, the who’s selling what and where, the buying and selling of diesel, renewable diesel and biodiesel across North America. On most minds this Friday morning, what’s going to happen with corn prices? The USDA late on Thursday released its annual spring plantings report and it was a shocker. Corn acres...

The Future of Alternative Fuels: Ethanol

Besides a slew of clean car announcements connected to the North American International Auto Show, the alt energy topic that has made media and blog headlines most often over the past week has been alternative fuels. We are thus going to run a 2-part series on alternative fuels this week as follows: ethanol today and coal-to-liquids tomorrow. ETHANOL: INVESTOR FRIEND OR FOE? I’m going to start this post with a statement of opinion: I don’t really like corn-based ethanol (as an investment), I never have, and, as a result, I haven’t followed this space as closely as...