March 20, 2014
by MoreRecycling
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Algae may be a potential source of biofuels and biochemicals even in cool climate

Algae are organisms useful in many ways in the transition towards a bio-economy. Even in a cool climate as in Finland, algae might be used to produce biochemicals and biofuels, besides use in capture of industrial carbon dioxide emissions. Algae are no… Continue reading

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March 13, 2014
by Anthony Guerrero
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Used Cooking Oil is Heating NRDC’s New York Office

Anthony Guerrero, Director, Facilities & Administration, New York City

With super-storms and snow-pocalypses hitting our region left and right, buildings in New York City have been turning up the heat. The typical building in New York City supplies heat through the use of fossil fuels, either natural gas or heating oil – and this is responsible for 46% of NYC GHG emissions. At the beginning of this winter, however, NRDC’s New York office made a switch to using biofuels in an effort to pursue its Sustainable Operations goalTo continually move our operations along the cutting edge of sustainability management. With the help of the our Facilities Management team and students from Columbia University’s Sustainability Management Program, who conducted a feasibility study of Net Zero Energy in the New York office for their final Capstone Project, we were able to identify areas in which we could improve our energy efficiency while reducing our emissions.

Switching to biodiesel for our heating system was one option highlighted in the Net Zero report that would both cut emissions immediately and save money. Biodiesel made from waste grease, also known as used cooking oil, has replaced our conventional No. 2 heating oil (also known as diesel fuel) used in our boiler. “This was an easy adoption as our current boiler required only minor modifications in this conversion and the switch aligned with our sustainability objectives; we are very pleased with the results” said Milly Suarez, Office Administrator, who orchestrated the switch, after the supplier, Tri-State Biodiesel, was identified and vetted by our sustainability consultant, Closed Loop Advisors.

Through this change we are able to shift away from the use of combustible fuels, nearly eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions normally associated with burning heating fuels.  How does this work? Biodiesel releases less carbon monoxide, particulates, sulfur, and various other nasty emissions than the diesel it replaces.  But the big difference is that the carbon dioxide emitted is biogenic carbon, as opposed to carbon from fossil fuels.  The carbon emitted when the fuel is burned originally came from plants that sequestered the carbon from the air, so it remains part of the carbon cycle, as opposed to being dredged up from ancient carbon deposits which would otherwise not have been in circulation, i.e., fossil fuels.

We are very proud of our step to cut CO2 emissions, but recognize that this particular type of biofuel, waste-grease based biodiesel, is in limited supply and other biofuel options come with more complexities. We use a company that is able to collect used cooking oil from local restaurants, purify it, and then deliver it to us to power our boiler. This is a very low-carbon option for us because if this oil were alternatively disposed of it would eventually release more global warming pollution in the form of methane as it decomposed.

Even though we have virtually eliminated greenhouse gas emissions from our heating fuel, we are still trying to minimize use of the new fuel.  We have installed boiler controls to maximize efficiency of the heating system; sensors on each floor signal the boiler to turn on or off based on the set point temperature of the surrounding area. With this new system we are able to effectively regulate the temperatures on each floor to both provide a comfortable working environment for the employees and be maximally efficient in our energy use. Fuel consumption can be easily monitored with this new system and compared with benchmarks from previous years. We expect to see a 15% savings in heating fuel usage over the next year.

Increasing energy efficiency, ultimately becoming “net zero”, and minimizing our emissions wherever possible are key parts of our goal to be cutting edge in sustainability management – and the move to biodiesel alone reduced our NYC emissions by nearly 40%.

This blog was written in collaboration with Marisa Kaminski, Sustainability Intern, and the NY Facilities Management team.

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September 17, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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The global land rush

Land acquisitions, whether to produce food, biofuels, or other crops, raise questions about who will benefit. Even if some of these projects can dramatically boost land productivity, will local people gain from this? Continue reading

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August 29, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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More efficient production of biofuels from waste with the help of modified yeasts

A significant portion of the petroleum consumed by the transport sector must be replaced in the long term by renewable energy. Therefore, it is of the utmost economic and ecological importance to optimise the production of biofuels from renewable raw m… Continue reading

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August 15, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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New possibilities for efficient biofuel production

Limited availability of fossil fuels stimulates the search for different energy resources. The use of biofuels is one of the alternatives. Sugars derived from the grain of agricultural crops can be used to produce biofuel but these crops occupy fertile… Continue reading

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August 12, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Protein that helps plants tolerate drought, flooding, other stresses discovered

Researchers have uncovered a protein that plays a vital role in how plant roots use water and nutrients, a key step in improving the production and quality of crops and biofuels. Continue reading

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August 8, 2013
by Brian Siu
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Reconciling Sustainability, Resource Conflict and Biofuels: EPA Holds the Key

Brian Siu, Policy Analyst, Washington, D.C.
The RFS has driven substantial investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels that would not have happened without national policy. These technologies are important because they provide new ec… Continue reading

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August 1, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Existing cropland could feed four billion more by dropping biofuels and animal feed

The world’s croplands could feed 4 billion more people than they do now just by shifting from producing animal feed and biofuels to producing exclusively food for human consumption, according to new research. Continue reading

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June 25, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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High-octane bacteria could ease pain at the pump: Engineered E. coli mass-produce key precursor to potent biofuel

Potent gasoline-like biofuels are needed to fuel millions of cars with internal combustion engines, and current biofuels don’t pack the necessary power. Now scientists have programmed bacteria to tailor-make key precursors of high-octane biofuels that … Continue reading

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May 9, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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New advance in biofuel production

Researchers have developed an enzyme-free ionic liquid pretreatment of cellulosic biomass that makes it easier to recover fermentable sugars for biofuels and to recycle the ionic liquid. Continue reading

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May 7, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Combining strategies speeds the work of enzymes

Enzymes could break down cell walls faster — leading to less expensive biofuels for transportation — if two enzyme systems are brought together in an industrial setting, new research suggests. Continue reading

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April 15, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Plant protein shape puzzle solved by molecular 3-D model

Researchers believe they have solved a puzzle that has long vexed science. The researchers provide the first three-dimensional model of an enzyme that links a simple sugar, glucose, into long-chain cellulose, the basic building block within plant cell … Continue reading

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April 8, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Sweet success: Catalyzing more sugars from biomass

Using an ultrahigh-precision microscopy technique, researchers have uncovered a way to improve the collective catalytic activity of enzyme cocktails on cellulosic biomass, boosting the yields of sugars for the production of advanced biofuels. Continue reading

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April 7, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Engineering algae to make the ‘wonder material’ nanocellulose for biofuels and more

Genes from the family of bacteria that produce vinegar, Kombucha tea and nata de coco have become stars in a project — which scientists today said has reached an advanced stage — that would turn algae into solar-powered factories for producing the “w… Continue reading

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March 29, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Researchers engineer plant cell walls to boost sugar yields for biofuels

Using the tools of synthetic biology, researchers are engineering healthy plants whose lignocellulosic biomass can more easily be broken down into simple sugars for the production of clean, green and renewable advanced biofuels. Continue reading

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February 26, 2013
by Brian Siu
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EPA’s Balancing Act

Brian Siu, Policy Analyst, Washington, D.C.
The transportation sector uses 71% of the nation’s petroleum.  Petroleum is also our largest source of carbon pollution. In that context, developing biofuels for transportation make… Continue reading

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February 4, 2013
by MoreRecycling
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Scientists turn toxic by-product into biofuel booster

Scientists studying an enzyme that naturally produces alkanes, long carbon-chain molecules that could be a direct replacement for the hydrocarbons in gasoline, have figured out why the natural reaction typically stops after three to five cycles — and … Continue reading

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February 1, 2013
by Peter Lehner
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Steven Chu, Champion of Clean Energy and Efficiency

Peter Lehner, Executive Director, New York City
“We are in a global race to develop and deploy clean energy technologies,” Steven Chu wrote in his White House blog in 2011. ”We can either sit on the sidelines and watch the competit… Continue reading

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February 1, 2013
by Simon Mui
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LCFS "Red Flags" Don’t Hold Up Under Scrutiny

Simon Mui, Scientist, Clean Vehicles and Fuels, San Francisco
As a scientist working on clean fuel policies, I spend much of my time working to protect our environment, health, and economy from the negative, unintended consequences from… Continue reading

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January 18, 2013
by Sasha Lyutse
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Could our Corn Belt "grow" energy more efficiently–and help clean up our waters too?

Sasha Lyutse, Policy Analyst, New York
Every day our economy pumps more heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, with consequences all too real for all too many Americans, from those of us who faced the wrath of hurricane San… Continue reading

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