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Silicon Valley biofuel company gets $2.5m grant

A Silicon Valley company is getting a $2.5 million federal grant to develop a pilot-scale “biorefinery” that will make jet fuel out of switchgrass.

The Energy Department announced the grant to Cobalt Technologies of Mountain View as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to find and use alternative fuels to lower costs and improve performance.

“Advanced biofuels are an important part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, improve our energy security and protect our air and water,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a news release. “The innovative biorefinery projects announced today mark an important step toward producing fuels for our American military and the civil aviation industry from renewable resources found right here in the United States.”

Domestic oil and gas production has increased each year the President has been in office, the Energy Department notes, but at the same time the administration is seeking other ways to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. According to the Energy Department’s Billion Ton Study, advanced biofuels could replace about one-third of the nation’s current transportation petroleum use.

The grant to Cobalt is part of an $18 million investment in four projects across the country in which pilot-scale biorefinery projects will use various non-food biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials, and algae to produce biofuels that meet military specifications for jet fuel and diesel. Recipients must contribute at least 50 percent matching funds for these projects.

Partnered with the Naval Air Warfare China Lake Weapons Division, Show Me Energy Cooperative and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Cobalt intends to build a pilot-scale facility to purify and convert butanol made from switchgrass into jet fuel. The company will both evaluate the process’ efficiency and its greenhouse-gas emissions.

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This week in big-time campaign cash

$25,000-and-up contributions to California campaigns and committees, which skyrocketed last week, continued in a mighty flood this week with just days to go before the election. This is my roundup as of about 5 p.m.; I’m sure they’ll continue to roll in…

The highlights in brief:

Tons of money moved for and against Proposition 8 this week, including a tide of cash from Mormons and out-of-state donors supporting the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Chesapeake Energy anted another $1 million — bringing its total so far to $3 million — for Proposition 10, the alternative fuels intiative from which it stands to make a bundle (though its ante is still chump change next to the $18.75 million put up by Prop. 10 proponent T. Boone Pickens‘ Clean Energy Fuels Corp.)

A whole lot more incumbent or otherwise safe Democratic candidates continued tithing money back to the state party.

And children’s hospitals across California made a last-ditch effort to prop up Proposition 3, the Children’s Hospital Bond Act.

Details after the jump… Continue Reading

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This week in big-time campaign cash

I knew it was coming, but it still hurts my head: The number of $25,000-and-up contributions to California campaigns and committees suddenly went through the roof this past week as Election Day neared and polls tightened. Given the sudden, enormous jump in notable contributions, I must resort to a more stripped-down format this week. The highlights in brief:

The campaign to defeat Proposition 8 raked in at least about $2.5 million this past week; I’m quite sure many of the big-ticket donations gathered at high-profile Southern California fundraisers this week have not yet been logged in as of this posting.

Chesapeake Energy doubled down on Proposition 10, putting another $1 million into the alternative fuels intiative from which it stands to make a bundle (though its ante is still chump change next to the $15.75 million put up by Prop. 10 proponent T. Boone Pickens‘ Clean Energy Fuels Corp.)

A bunch of Florida Republicans anted up for California’s proposed legislative redistricting reform.

And labor unions (especially the SEIU) and safe Democratic officeholders with money to burn tithed their cash to the Democratic Party, which seems to smell GOP blood in the water in districts up and down the state.

Details — so many details — after the jump… Continue Reading

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This week in big-time campaign cash

Topping this week’s roundup of big ($25,000 or more) spenders on California campaigns and committees yet again is T. Boone Pickens‘ Seal Beach-based Clean Energy, which put another $3 million Wednesday into the campaign for Proposition 10, a $5 billion bond measure called the California Alternative Fuels Initiative that would provide cash incentives to buyers of certain high-fuel-economy and alternative-fuel vehicles as well as to companies researching and developing renewable energy and cleaner cars. You know Pickens stands to make a bundle if this measure passes; Clean Energy has now contributed almost $11.75 million of the almost $13.5 million collected overall for the campaign… so far.

The Burlingame-based California Teachers Association gave $1 million Tuesday to oppose Proposition 8, the proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Other contributions to the “No on 8” effort this week included $450,000 Wednesday from healthcare supply heir and billionaire philanthropist Jon Stryker of Kalamazoo, Mich., (bringing his total thus far to $1 million), and then $25,000 each from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa‘s mayoral campaign committee Monday; Regent Entertainment CEO Paul Colichman on Tuesday; the Los Angeles-based Breslauer, Rutman & Anderson management services firm Wednesday; personal and dating ad Web site operator Progressive Computing LLC of San Diego on Wednesday; Malibu retiree Charles Williams on Wednesday; and Levi Strauss executive assistant Andrea Fong of San Francisco on Wednesday. Also, Equality California moved $1.45 million it had collected, and the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign moved $250,000 from its California Marriage PAC, into the main “No on 8” account. Meanwhile, A&Z Produce owner Jay Clark of Centerville, Utah gave $25,000 Sunday to support Proposition 8.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association — the state’s prison-guard union — put up $1 million Wednesday against Proposition 5, which would expand state funding and oversight for treatment and rehab programs for nonviolent drug offenders and parolees while reducing criminal penalties and limiting courts’ authority to lock up offenders who violate probation or parole. The Pala Band of Mission Indians gave $50,000 Saturday to oppose Prop. 5.

The California Teachers Association also gave $300,000 Monday, while the Service Employees International Union’s California State Council gave $250,000 the same day, to the joint campaign against Proposititions 6 and 9; the Democratic State Central Committee of California put up $185,824.64 and the California Professional Firefighters put up $44,345.59 Wednesday to oppose the measures as well. Proposition 6 is a tough-on-crime package including adult prosecution for gang-related criminals 14 and up; annual criminal background checks for public housing residents; harsher bail conditions and penalties for certain crimes; and so on. Proposition 9 seeks to expand crime victims’ rights including restitution.

The SEIU’s State Council also gave $300,000 Tuesday to Strengthening California Through Leadership, a PAC controlled by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles.

And the SEIU’s State Council struck yet again, giving $200,000 Tuesday to oppose Proposition 4, the proposed state constitutional amendment which would require doctors to inform the parent or guardian of a minor 48 hours before providing an abortion to that minor. San Francisco-based Planned Parenthood Golden Gate gave $125,000 the same day also to oppose Prop. 4.

Much more on propositions 1a, 2, 7 and 11, plus a bunch of legislative races, after the jump… Continue Reading

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This week in big-time campaign cash

Topping this week’s roundup of big ($25,000 or more) spenders on California campaigns and committees is Arizona education and communications magnate Peter Sperling‘s $1.75 million Thursday for Proposition 7, which would require California utilities to procure half of their power from renewable resources by 2025. This brings Sperling’s stake in the measure to $9 million so far.

Bob Wilson of Brooklyn, N.Y., gave $1.4 million Tuesday to the campaign for Proposition 5, which would expand state funding and oversight for treatment and rehab programs for nonviolent drug offenders and parolees while reducing criminal penalties and limiting courts’ authority to lock up offenders who violate probation or parole. (This donation double’s Wilson’s prior investment in the measure to a total of $2.8 million so far; I’m pretty sure this Bob Wilson is the same retired hedge fund manager and philanthropist Robert W. Wilson who has given substantially to the campaign against Proposition 8.) Meanwhile, the Police Officers Research Association of Califorina (PORAC) political action committee put up $50,000 Wednesday to oppose Proposition 5.

Natural gas giant Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma City, Okla., put up $1 million Tuesday to support Proposition 10, a $5 billion bond measure called the California Alternative Fuels Initiative that would provide cash incentives to buyers of certain high-fuel-economy and alternative-fuel vehicles as well as to companies researching and developing renewable energy and cleaner cars.

Ponying up this week for the campaign against Proposition 2 — which would prohibit confinement of certain farm animals in ways that don’t let them turn freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs — were Demler Enterprises of Wasco, with $182,827.10 Monday; the Demler-owned Pine Hill Egg Ranch of Ramona, with $105,000 Monday; the Washington, D.C.-based American Farm Bureau Federation, with $50,000 Wednesday; Norco Ranch Inc. of Norco, with $35,967.95 Tuesday; and McAnally Enterprises of Norco, with $25,631.74 Tuesday. Meanwhile, the San Francisco-based Caufield Family Foundation gave $50,000 Wednesday and the New York City-based Humane Society of the United States gave another $33,000 Monday to support Proposition 2.

Healthcare supply heir and billionaire philanthropist Jon Stryker of Kalamazoo, Mich., gave $200,000 Wednesday (bringing his total so far to $550,000); UNITE HERE‘s New York City-based issues fund put up $100,000 Saturday; the Oakland-based Service Employees International Union United Health Workers West PAC coughed up $100,000 Wednesday; Jonathan Lewis of Coral Gables, Fla., gave $100,000 Wednesday; “Grey’s Anatomy” star T.R. Knight of New York City sent $50,000 Tuesday; the PAC of SEIU Local 1000, representing state workers, gave $50,000 Wednesday; and firedoglake.com editor Susan McIntosh of Menlo Park gave $30,000 Wednesday for the campaign against Proposition 8, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Equality California shifted $500,000 it had collected into the main “No on 8” fund Thursday. Meanwhile, Dr. Josephine Templeton of Bryn Mawr, Pa., gave $100,000 Tuesday and Laguna Niguel businessman Richard Jordan gave $25,000 Tuesday to support Proposition 8.

The Democratic State Central Committee of California gave $185,000 Monday to Manuel Perez’s 80th Assembly District campaign; $184,000 Tuesday to Fran Florez’s 30th Assembly District campaign; and $35,960.42 Wednesday to former Assemblywoman Hannah Beth Jackson‘s 19th State Senate District campaign. The Merced County Democratic Central Committee kicked in $60,000 Tuesday to Jackson’s campaign, too, and the San Diego County Democratic Party gave her $50,000 Wednesday. The Yolo County Democratic Central Committee gave $50,000 Wednesday to Assemblywoman Lois Wolk’s 5th State Senate District campaign.

Across the aisle, the California Republican Party gave $100,000 Thursday — after the Republican Central Committee of Orange County had given $30,200 and the Republican Party of Riverside County had given $27,600, both Tuesday — to former Assemblyman Tony Strickland‘s 19th State Senate District campaign. The state GOP also handed over $90,000 today for Gary Jeandron’s 80th Assembly District campaign; the Fresno County Republican Central Committee had given Jeandron $30,000 Tuesday. And Livermore businessman and rancher Robert Rao must’ve had some debt left over from his unsuccessful bid in the 15th Assembly District’s GOP primary, because he put $93,818.19 of his own money into his campaign fund Tuesday.

The construction industry’s California Alliance for Jobs Rebuild California Committee gave $300,000 Thursday to support Proposition 1A, the $10 billion bond measure for high-speed rail.

Crime Victims United of California gave $100,000 Saturday to the campaign for Proposition 6, a tough-on-crime package including adult prosecution for gang-related criminals 14 and up; annual criminal background checks for public housing residents; harsher bail conditions and penalties for certain crimes; and so on. Meanwhile, the California School Employees Association‘s political action committee put up $50,000 Tuesday to the joint campaign against Proposition 6 and Proposition 9, the latter of which would expand crime victims’ rights including restitution.

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles gave $107,900 Tuesday and the UCSF Foundation in San Francisco gave $35,000 Saturday to support Proposition 3, the Children’s Hospital Bond Act, which would authorize almost $1 billion in bonds to be repaid from state’s General Fund to pay for construction, expansion, remodeling, renovation, furnishing and equipping of children’s hospitals. Also, the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems dumped $83,333 into its own issues fund Wednesday, presumably on its way somewhere else… wanna bet where?

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla of Portola Valley gave $50,000 Wednesday and Judith Koch of Mountain View gave $25,000 Tuesday to oppose Proposition 4, the proposed state constitutional amendment which would require doctors to inform the parent or guardian of a minor 48 hours before providing an abortion to that minor.

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This week in big-time campaign cash

I’m including last Friday, Sept. 5 in this week’s roundup of big ($25,000 or more) spenders on California campaigns and committees, as I was out of town that day and had to do last week’s post a day early.

And what a day it was to miss, as 37 egg-related companies from across the nation chose last Friday to lay a golden egg totalling $3,804,443.41 upon the campaign to defeat Proposition 2, which would prohibit confinement of certain farm animals in ways that doesn’t let them turn freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. (For brevity’s sake, I’ll save the detailed list of donors for after the jump.)

Does that seem like a lot of separate entities giving a lot of money — especially when you add in dozens more contributions in increments smaller than $25,000 also reported Friday — all on one day? Sure looked that way to Proposition 2’s proponents, who yesterday filed a new complaint (here and here) with the Fair Political Practices Commission. The complaint notes that United Egg Producers had listed many of these contributors as already committing funds in a July 15 fundraising letter, but California law generally requires all donations of $5,000 or more to a ballot-measure campaign be reported within 10 business days. Said Prop. 2 campaign manager Jennifer Fearing: “The opponents of Prop 2 have been caught red-handed in one of the biggest campaign money laundering schemes of all time.”

That’ll be for the FPPC to decide. Meanwhile, only two donations were made in favor of Prop. 2 this week — $25,000 on Monday from Farm Sanctuary Inc. of Watkins Glen, N.Y., and $25,000 Thursday from Animal Welfare Advocacy Inc. of Mamaroneck, N.Y.

In other news, 37 donors gave a total of $1,207,501 this week in support of Proposition 8, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. (Again, see a detailed list after the jump.) Meanwhile, the National Center for Lesbian Rights put up another $50,000 last Friday to oppose Prop. 2; Puma Springs Vineyards owner Barbara Grassechi of Healdsburg gave $30,000 Monday; Levco CEO Kathy Levinson of Los Altos gave $30,000 Thursday; New York theatrical producer Ted Snowden gave $25,000 last Friday; and San Francisco housewife Dagmar Dolby gave $25,000 Monday.

The California Republican Party gave $591,000 Wednesday to Danny Gilmore‘s campaign for the 30th Assembly District seat, and $400,000 Monday to Gary Jeandron‘s campaign for the 80th Assembly District seat.

The California Democratic Party gave $204,104 Monday to Manuel Perez‘s campaign for the 80th Assembly District seat, and $156,000 last Friday to Hannah Beth Jackson‘s campaign for the 19th State Senate District seat; Jackson picked up another $27,500 that same day from the Santa Barbara Democratic Party, and $55,000 more from the county party today.

Westport Fuel Systems Inc. of Long Beach anted up $250,000 Wednesday to support Proposition 10, a $5 billion bond measure to provide cash incentives to buyers of certain high-fuel-economy and alternative-fuel vehicles as well as to companies researching and developing renewable energy and cleaner cars.

Retired Cisco Systems chairman John P. Morgridge of Portola Valley gave $100,000 Monday to the campaign against Proposition 4, the proposed state constitutional amendment which would require doctors to inform the parent or guardian of a minor 48 hours before providing an abortion to that minor.

New York City-based infrastructure consulting and construction management giant Parsons Brinckerhoff Americas Inc. gave $30,000 Tuesday in support of Proposition 1A, the $10 billion bond measure for high-speed rail.

Brian L. Harvey of Los Angeles, president of the Cypress Land Company, gave $100,000 Wednesday to the campaign for Proposition 11, the legislative redistricting reform measure; the Western Electrical Contractors Association PAC had given $25,000 Monday.

Detailed lists of No on 2 and Yes on 8 donors, after the jump… Continue Reading