and Margy Fischer, Farm Journal Machinery Editor
U.S. Leads Wind Power Growth
For the third year in a row, the U.S. was the fastest growing wind power market in the world, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The 2007 edition of DOE's "Annual Report on U.S. Wind Power Installation, Cost, and Performance Trends” found that $9 billion was invested in 5,329 megawatts of new U.S. wind power capacity last year, causing the total U.S. wind power capacity to increase by 46%.
The report notes that wind power accounted for 35% of all new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2007 and can now supply about 1.2% of the country's electricity needs. In addition, new transmission facilities under development throughout the country will allow the future development of another 200,000 megawatts of wind power.
Biodiesel Hurdle Cleared
After more than five years of extensive research, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has voted to approve biodiesel blend specifications that should significantly bolster automaker support and consumer demand for biodiesel.
One of the approvals is for a new specification for blends of 6% biodiesel (B6) to 20% biodiesel (B20) for on- and off-road diesel. Automakers and engine manufacturers have requested finished blend specifications for B20 biodiesel for several years, citing the need as the single greatest hurdle preventing full-scale acceptance of B20.
John Gaydash, General Motors director of marketing, fleet and commercial operations, says, "The new ASTM spec for B6 to B20 is a major building block in GM's efforts to elevate biodiesel as part of our energy diversity strategy.”
Nearly all major engine manufacturers in the U.S. currently accept use of at least B5, while Caterpillar, Cummins, John Deere and New Holland already accept blends of B20 or higher. Several companies are expected to raise their approvals to B20 now that the final ASTM specifications are approved.
Green Collar Workforce
The biofuels industry is estimated to create 240,000 full-time jobs by 2015, and this has brought together a consortium to supply the industry with a specially trained workforce.
Iowa Biofuels Training International (IBTI) is a consortium working to train the future employees of biodiesel and ethanol plants. To do that, IBTI seeks to create industry-relevant coursework, as well as in-the-field training, for students interested in the field. Two community colleges in Iowa—Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, and Indian Hills Community College, Ottumwa/Centerville—have received grants from the Department of Labor to set the foundation for IBTI-certified institutions and coursework.
The colleges already offered biofuels training courses, such as ethanol shift maintenance and ethanol plant management, and IBTI is working to expand participating institutions, as well as courses offered.
Nebraskans Demand Biofuels
Pollsters were struck by rural Nebraskans' strong support for renewable forms of energy—and how out of touch state policy is with that sentiment. In a recent University of Nebraska poll of rural Nebraskans, 91% agreed or strongly agreed that more should be done to develop ethanol, bio-diesel, wind and solar energy.
While 28 states have renewable portfolio standards that require electricity providers to obtain a percentage of their power from renewable resources by a certain date, and four others have goals in place, Nebraska has neither.
"Nebraska's own Sen. George Norris, who championed the Rural Electrification Act more than 80 years ago, would roll over in his grave because we are not adapting,” says University of Nebraska ag economist Bruce Johnson.
Despite hunger for new energy sources, 57% agreed or strongly agreed that the environment should be protected even if it restricts energy supplies. Results are at http://cari.unl.edu/ruralpoll/.