China May Reopen Market for U.S. DDGs

distillers_grains_ Photo US Grains CouncilNews out this week that Chinese officials committed to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack that the ban on imports of U.S. distillers grains (DDGs) containing the MIR 162 trait will be dropped is being met with optimism by the ethanol industry.

“While we are still awaiting the official regulatory announcement from China regarding the approval of this policy, it is welcome news for America’s ethanol industry,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “I would like to personally thank Secretary Vilsack for his leadership and steadfast commitment to ensuring a resolution to this issue. Additionally, the many hardworking professionals of the USDA and the USTR deserve praise for their dedicated work behind the scenes and for their persistence in working with their Chinese colleagues to re-establish market access for U.S. DDGs.”

“China has always been somewhat schizophrenic with our protein feed,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen in an interview today. “There are times when they desperately want it and can’t get enough of it, there are times when they will erect these mysterious trade barriers so that we can’t get our product in there … We think we may be getting through it now.”

According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative
, one of the outcomes of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meetings was in the area of agricultural exports related to biotechnology traits. “China announced that it would approve the importation of new biotechnology varieties of U.S. soybeans and corn ­… and also that it would pursue a regular dialogue with the United States focused on the benefits of the increased use of innovative technologies in agriculture, for both the United States and China.”

Ethanol Report on RFS Anniversary

ethanol-report-adToday, December 19, marks the seventh anniversary of the signing into law of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which expanded the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In this Ethanol Report, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen remembers that day seven years ago and talks about its accomplishments so far and how EPA needs to move ahead with the law as written. He also comments on the report out this week from the Bipartisan Policy Center recommending changes to the RFS.

Ethanol Report on RFS Anniversary

E85 Ethanol is a Popular Fuel in Iowa

Three Brothers Car Repair E85 pumpE85 ethanol is becoming a popular fuel in Iowa. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says motorists in the state bought more than 3.3 million gallons of E85 in the third quarter of 2014, the third highest E85 sales in any quarter on record, and a more than 350,000 gallon increase (12 percent) over the second quarter of 2014.

“It’s encouraging to see motorists stepping up to improve air quality in Iowa while taking advantage of attractive E85 prices in the third quarter of 2014,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Price is often a motivator for consumers, but there are many reasons to use E85, including the energy security, environmental and local economic development benefits. And, while falling petroleum prices may curtail E85 sales in the fourth quarter, a record setting year for E85 sales in Iowa is still within reach.”

In Iowa, E85 is a fuel blend containing between 70 and 85 percent ethanol. E85 is currently sold at more than 200 fueling sites in Iowa, and can be used in all flex-fuel vehicles (FFV). To determine if your vehicle can use E85, please check your owner’s manual, the vehicle’s fuel cap, or click here for a list of FFVs.

A list of E85 retailers in Iowa is available here.

POET-DSM Commends Partners in Cellulosic Ethanol Venture

POET DSM logoPOET-DSM is commending its partners in a cellulosic ethanol venture. This company news release says POET is praising Suomen Bioetanoli Oy and the government of Finland after the Finnish government announced a 30 million euros grant to Suomen Bioetanoli Oy to build a plant that will convert wheat straw into about 24 million gallons of ethanol annually.

“Suomen Bioetanoli Oy is taking a bold step forward in growing Europe’s bioeconomy and expanding our sources for transportation fuel,” said Rob van Leen, Chairman of the POET-DSM Board. “Additionally, the grant award shows Finland’s firm commitment to growing sustainable energy production. Our joint venture partners look forward to working with Suomen Bioetanoli Oy to make commercial cellulosic bioethanol a reality in Finland.”

POET and DSM are in discussions with Suomen Bioetanoli Oy on how to utilize process, yeast and enzyme technology from the respective companies for the conversion of cellulose to ethanol.

RFA Refutes Univ of Minnesota Report on Ethanol

RFANewlogoThose who advocate for ethanol are refuting an academic report about the green fuel. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is countering conclusions made by researchers at the University of Minnesota claiming that ethanol is more harmful to humans and the environment than gasoline. RFA examined the research, recently published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” finding it ran counter to real-world data, contradicted current lifecycle modeling and research, and omitted key variables when determining the environmental impact of electric vehicles and gasoline, ultimately undermining the credibility of the study.

RFA notes that the paper’s conclusions “…stand at odds with real-world data showing decreases in ozone and PM2.5 concentrations…” and that “Data from 222 EPA sensing sites show that ozone and PM2.5 concentrations have trended downward during the period in which the use of ethanol-blended gasoline has dramatically increased.”

The RFA response goes on to show that “On a full lifecycle basis, the study’s results are contradictory to the results from the Department of Energy’s latest GREET model” and that “There is a substantial body of evidence proving that ethanol reduces both exhaust hydrocarbons and CO emissions, and thus can help reduce the formation of ground-level ozone.”

The study’s reliability is also called into question as it omitted key factors when reaching conclusions on the environmental impact of gasoline and electric vehicles. RFA points out that the University of Minnesota conclusion “…excludes NOx and SOx emissions associated with crude oil extraction, a decision that grossly underrepresents the actual lifecycle emissions impacts of gasoline.” RFA concluded, “Omitting key emissions sources from the lifecycle assessment of EVs and crude oil inappropriately skews the paper’s results for the overall emissions impacts of these fuels and vehicles.”

You can read all of the RFA’s response here.

Happy Anniversary RFS!

rfs-7Friday marks the seventh anniversary of the signing into law of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) which expanded the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as we know it today.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has compiled a report that examines the successful impact of the RFS over the past seven years on the economy, job creation, agriculture, the environment, fuel prices, petroleum import dependence, and food prices.

Among its findings, the report notes that “Renewable fuel production and consumption have grown dramatically. Dependence on petroleum—particularly imports—is down significantly. Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector have fallen. The value of agricultural products is up appreciably. And communities across the country have benefited from the job creation, increased tax revenue, and heightened household income that stem from the construction and operation of a biorefinery.”

“The RFS was always intended to be a marathon and not a sprint. Results were never intended to come overnight, but over the past seven years America has reaped vast economic, environmental, and national security benefits due to the increased use of home-grown, renewable fuels,” noted RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “The only hiccup in the unprecedented success of the program is a consequence of EPA’s recent failure to implement the program as designed by Congress. As we blow out the candle on the RFS’ seventh birthday cake, we do so with a wish that EPA would quickly restore the RFS to a trajectory that will enable continued investment in advanced biofuels, drive the market beyond the blend wall, and provide consumers with meaningful options and savings at the pump.”

Read more from RFA.

Seed Industry Challenges

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “What’s the biggest challenge for the seed industry?”

All of agriculture depends in some way on seed. The long term survival of the seed industry impacts everything. It looks like you think anti-GMO attitudes have the greatest negative impact on the seed industry. Environmental regulations came in with a close second.

Here are the poll results:

  • Intellectual property rights – 4%
  • Anti-GMO attitudes – 33%
  • Trade restraints – 11%
  • Environmental regulations – 19%
  • Innovation progress disruption – 4%
  • Pollinator health issues – 11%
  • All of the above – 11%
  • Other – 7%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What type of gadget is on your wish or to-give list?

Christmas is right around the corner and gadgets are one of our favorite things to talk about. We want to know what gadget you want to find under the tree this year or what type of techie gift you’re giving. Is it a smart phone, computer, power tool, camera or one of each? I wouldn’t mind seeing a camera under my tree!

Proposed Pennsylvania Biodiesel Plant Closer to Reality

pennsylvaniaflagA proposed biodiesel plant for York, Pennsylvania, is closer to reality, as the city Redevelopment Authority (RDA) green-lighted a development agreement with two entrepreneurs who want to turn a long-vacant, RDA-owned industrial building into a biodiesel plant. This article from the York Daily Record says Britta Schwab and James Munene can buy the RDA-owned building for $1,000, if they also get the financing for the refinery.

Schwab and Munene will have to satisfy the RDA that they have financing lined up for the project, including $114,000 they told the authority it will take to renovate the 10,000-square-foot building. They also would have to meet other conditions spelled out in the yet-to-be negotiated development agreement, including submitting plans detailing the renovations they plan for the building, said Shilvosky Buffaloe, the city’s deputy director of economic development.

Schwab and Munene, in their presentation to the authority on Wednesday, said they would create five to 10 new jobs for workers to produce biofuel from used restaurant cooking oil and grease. They plan to provide jobs to ex-offenders, among others, at a time when many in York struggle to find work.

“We’re very excited to have the opportunity to do business in York City,” Schwab said Wednesday.

When completed, the refinery could produce up to 5,000 gallons of fuel a day by fall 2015.

Iowa Lawmakers Honored for Support of Renewables

Three retiring state lawmakers in Iowa have been honored for “their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels.” The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says the outgoing lawmakers were given the “Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels” award for their long, distinguished careers and steadfast support of renewable fuels.

IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill, former Sens. Nancy Boettger and Daryl Beall, and IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill, former Sens. Nancy Boettger and Daryl Beall, and IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

“It’s bittersweet to see these distinguished individuals leave the state legislature after long, successful careers, and we wish them nothing but the best in the future,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “Their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels issues will be greatly missed, and we sincerely thank them for their enduring accomplishments.”

The Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels awards were given to:

State Senator Daryl Beall of Fort Dodge, Iowa. Sen. Beall was an enthusiastic supporter of renewable fuels who worked tirelessly to promote ethanol and biodiesel both inside and outside the state legislature.

State Senator Nancy Boettger of Harlan, Iowa. As a farmer, Sen. Boettger was a rock solid supporter of renewable fuels who was critical in winning support for Iowa’s renewable fuels policy, including tax credits for retailers offering higher ethanol and biodiesel blends and fuel dispensing equipment grants for renewable fuels upgrades.

State Senator Hubert Houser of Carson, Iowa. Sen. Houser was also instrumental in passing the framework of today’s renewable fuels policy in Iowa, and was active in the creation of Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE), an ethanol production facility in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

With 43 ethanol refineries producing more than 3.8 billion gallons annually and 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce nearly 315 million gallons annually, Iowa is the nation’s renewable fuels leader.

Nebraska Seeks to Export Wind Energy

Nebraska Renewable Energy Exports ReportThe Nebraska Power Review Board (PRB) has commissioned a study that identifies the factors that impact the desirability of developing between 5,000 -10,000 MW of renewable energy for the state. Performed by the Brattle Group, the study also presents options available to policy makers to meet the state’s economic development objectives. The report has been submitted to the Nebraska Legislature for review.

Based upon a review of state, regional, and national renewable energy and transmission policies, The study, “Nebraska Renewable Energy Exports: Challenges and Opportunities,” identifies the following challenges to wind generation developments in Nebraska:

1. Transmission Constraints: Transmission projects currently in development will provide transmission infrastructure sufficient to integrate at least another 2,000 MW of wind projects. However, achieving the considerably higher target of renewable generation in Nebraska would require a substantial expansion of the state, regional, and interregional transmission systems.

2. Limited and Uncertain Demand for Renewable Energy: The regional market for renewable generation is currently saturated. However, demand for additional renewable generation will likely emerge as costs decline relative to conventional resources, wholesale electricity prices increase, coal plants retire, and new environmental policies are implemented. Nebraska will need to better position itself to be prepared to take advantage of emerging new demand for renewable generation.

3. Less Attractive Economics Compared to Neighboring States: Renewable generation developers in Nebraska face competitive disadvantages relative to some other states in the wind-rich Great Plains region, including lower financial incentives and lower wholesale power prices.

4. Greater Perceived Risks: Due to the requirements of the Certified Renewable Export Facility (CREF) process and limited experience in developing renewable generation under that standard, there is a perception among developers that wind projects in the state are more risky and more difficult to pursue than in neighboring states.

The study discusses both the costs and benefits of supporting renewable generation development in Nebraska. If, after considering these tradeoffs, the Nebraska Legislature chooses to promote the development of renewable resources in the state, the authors identify a number of options available to meet these goals.

“Nebraska has some of the best wind in the country but a surprisingly low amount of wind generation installed and under development,” said Brattle principal Judy Chang, a co-author of the study. “Nebraska policy makers and legislators have been working to increase the attractiveness of the state to renewable energy developers. They have already reduced some barriers, including those related to limiting public power condemnation rights. We anticipate that Nebraska policy makers will consider the options laid out in our report to make decisions about further improving the economics and regulatory setting for renewable development.”

 

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFGovernor Dannel P. Malloy has announced Connecticut has once again been recognized as a fuel cell leader, ranking as one of the top five states by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in its recent report State of the States: Fuel Cells in America 2014. The report showcases Connecticut as one of the successful Top 5 Fuel Cell States, along with California, New York, Ohio and South Carolina. Partially funded by the DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office and produced by Breakthrough Technologies Institute, State of the States provides in-depth profiles of fuel cell and hydrogen policies, initiatives and installations across the country.
  • The Canadian Wind Energy Association is calling on the Government of British Columbia to send a clear signal on future market opportunities for wind energy in British Columbia in the wake of its decision to approve the $8.77 billion Site C hydroelectric dam project. While Premier Clark indicated that there will be an important role for independent power producers in meeting future power needs in British Columbia, the announcement failed to provide any signals about either the scale or timing of future market opportunities for wind energy in the province.
  • Canadian Solar Solutions has completed the sale of the 10 MW AC RayLight solar power plant valued at over C$65 million (USD$56 million) to One West Holdings Ltd., an affiliate of Concord Green Energy. The RayLight 10 MW AC solar power plant is located in the Township of Tay, Ontario and uses Canadian Solar’s MaxPower CS6X-300/305P panels made in Canada. BowMont Capital and Advisory acted as financial advisor to Concord on the transaction.
  • S&C Electric Company has announced that Europe’s largest battery-storage project has been officially opened by Amber Rudd, minister at the Department for Energy and Climate Change at Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, England. S&C Electric Europe, Samsung SDI and Younicos collaborated to deploy the technology onto a United Kingdom Power Networks substation. The fully automated 6MW/10MWh Smarter Network Storage (SNS) project will assess the role of energy storage in cost-effectively supporting the UK’s Carbon Plan, and will save more than £6 million ($9.4 million) on traditional network-reinforcement methods.

NY Gov Andrew Cuomo Bans Fracking

There is big news coming out of New York today with the announcement that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has banned hydraulic fracking in the state. The news came on the heels of a study that was released concluding that fracking could pose, “significant public health risks.”

The Sierra Club applauds Governor Cuomo for recognizing what the science has made consistently clear: fracking is a hazard to human health that endangers communities wherever it is allowed,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. By banning fracking, Frack off GasholesGovernor Cuomo has set himself apart as a national political leader who stands up for people, and not for the interests of the dirty fuel lobby. Today’s decision will shake the foundations of our nation’s flawed energy policy, and we can only expect that it will give strength to activists nationwide who are fighting fracking in dozens of states and hundreds of cities and counties.

Yet while Governor Cuomo banned fracking, the state didn’t steam ahead with previous commitments to renewable energy. The Long Island Power Authority Board of Trustees voted to approve only a fraction of the renewable energy projects promised by the governor, bringing just 122 megawatts of new solar projects online and falling short of the 280 megawatts of renewable energy the governor committed to this year.

Brune added, “The Sierra Club also extends heartfelt congratulations to all of the passionate anti-fracking activists in New York who were relentless in telling the truth about the dangers of fracking, persevered years of opposition from the oil and gas lobby, and ultimately prevailed. All we need now is for New York to bring wind, solar, and energy efficiency to full potential so we can leave dirty fuels in the ground and move quickly to clean energy prosperity.”

Deck Stacked Against Ag and Biofuels in Report

bpcThe Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) appears to be a bit partisan in a new report released this week on “Options for Reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

The report was produced after several meetings during the year with an advisory group that consisted of 23 members, seven of which were oil companies representatives. Only five members of the group represented agriculture or advanced biofuels and biodiesel producers. The rest were a mix of academia (2), big business (4) with two of those representing Toyota, environmental groups (2), and policy organizations (3).

Both of the agriculture representatives were from the National Farmers Union (NFU), president Roger Johnson and vice president of programs Chandler Goule. “It was very important that agriculture that supports the renewable fuels industry be present at the table,” said Goule, who said the meetings were held in a very professional manner. “The problem with the meetings is that they were heavily skewed toward big oil.”

NFUlogoThe report concluded that improvements to the RFS are needed, but did not recommend actual repeal of the law. Goule says NFU has major objections to two of the policy recommendations made in the report. “The flattening of the total renewable fuel mandate at its current level going forward, but continuing to increase the three advanced categories, we have significant concerns about what that would to do ethanol and biodiesel,” he said. “Even more concerning was removing the total renewable fuel mandate and only mandating the three advanced categories. Basically what they are doing is giving in to Big Oil’s conclusion that a blend wall exists, which it does not.”

Chandler talks more about the BPC report in this interview: Interview with Chandler Goule, NFU

Seeds of Cellulosic Ethanol

asta-css-14-dupontLike all good things, cellulosic ethanol starts with the seed.

During a presentation at the American Seed Trade Association CSS 2014 and Seed Expo last week in Chicago, John Pieper with Dupont Industrial Biosciences talked about the importance of seed to the cellulosic ethanol industry. “It has everything to do with seed because it has to do with farming,” he said. “It has to do with making our lands and soils more productive as well as being able to realize the full potential of seed and other crop inputs that we have today that are hindered because of tillage and crop rotation practices.”

Using non-food agricultural products to make ethanol also provides economic benefits for farmers on several levels. “By taking stover and converting it from an agricultural landfill, waste product, into a recycled or used by-product, we get more money back to the farm operation to invest in tools and production practices – and we get a better seed bed for their next crop to be prolific and highly productive,” said Pieper.

Pieper talked about what Dupont is doing in the cellulosic ethanol field. “We’ve been operating a demonstration facility in Vonore, Tennessee for the last four years and for over two years we’ve taken corn stover from central Iowa down to the plant and made transportation fuel-grade ethanol from it,” he said. Now they are preparing to open a commercial facility in Nevada, Iowa next year and Pieper says they were pleased to see Abengoa and POET open their first plants this year. “It’s a very exciting time,” he said, but he does note that stable government policy – including the Renewable Fuel Standard – is key to moving forward in the future.

Listen to my interview with Pieper here: Interview with John Pieper, Dupont Industrial Biosciences


2014 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo photo album

USDA Looks to the Forests for Renewable Energy

usda-logoHarvesting biomass from forests is not only helping those forests’ health, it’s helping the country achieve energy independence. This news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) has removed 200,000 tons of biomass that could have been a fire risk and was turned into biofuels.

“This initiative helps to retrieve forest residues that are a fire risk, but otherwise are costly to remove,” said [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “In just three months, working with private partners across the country, the program helped to reduced fire, disease and insect threats while providing more biomass feedstock for advanced energy facilities.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency administered the program earlier this year. Eligible farmers, ranchers or foresters participating in BCAP received a payment to partially offset the cost of harvesting and delivering forest or agricultural residues to a qualified energy facility. Up to $12.5 million is available each year for biomass removal.

This past summer, 19 energy facilities in 10 states participated in the program.