Ethanol and gas have settled back into a more normal price differential after three months of being nearly the same after gas prices started to plummet late last year.
Renewable Fuels Association
RBOB – Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygen Blending
president and CEO Bob Dinneen notes that “wholesale ethanol prices traded near parity with—or even above—gasoline prices intermittently in November, December, and January,” but since the end of January, ethanol prices “have been below gasoline prices every day.”
Dinneen refuted a statement by the Petroleum Marketers Association of America that ethanol was “taking a hit” because of the price parity noting that “since January 1, 2011, daily ethanol prices have been below gasoline prices 91% of the time” averaging about 50 cents per gallon. Since January 30, 2015, ethanol has averaged 26 cents less than gasoline.
Market analyst Randy Martinson with Progressive Ag says there was definitely a concern when ethanol prices were higher than gasoline in December. “But the price of corn has dropped and we’ve gotten ethanol back in line and the profitability is improving for ethanol plants,” said Martinson, who adds that the bigger concern for ethanol declining gasoline use.
The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) wants a recent decision to streamline Argentinian biodiesel imports to the U.S. put on hold pending public review and comment.
In a petition filed Monday with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, NBB cited the lack of public comment on the EPA decision and “little transparency regarding the plans Argentinian producers can use to demonstrate compliance” with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
“We have serious questions about how Argentinian producers will certify that their product meets the sustainability requirements under this new approach and whether U.S. producers will be operating under more strict regulations,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “The U.S. biodiesel industry is in a state of crisis right now as a result of EPA’s continued delays in finalizing RFS volumes. An influx of Argentinian biodiesel will only exacerbate the domestic industry’s troubles at the worst possible time.”
The EPA approved the application from Argentina’s biofuels association CARBIO at the end of January.
Typically under the RFS, foreign producers must map and track each batch of feedstock used to produce imported renewable fuels to ensure that it was grown on land that was cleared or cultivated prior to Dec. 19, 2007 – when the RFS was established. The EPA’s January decision allows Argentinian biodiesel producers to instead rely on a survey plan being implemented by a third party to show their feedstocks comply with the regulations. The goal of the survey program is to ease the current map and track requirements applicable to planted crops and crop residues grown outside of the United States and Canada, resulting in a program that seems far less stringent and more difficult to verify.
Read more from NBB here.
ACE executive VP Brian Jennings smiles as Sen. John Thune (R-SD) speaks at fly-in reception.
The seventh annual American Coalition for Ethanol
Fly-in, which included an appearance by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), was another success for the organization, according to Executive Vice President Brian Jennings.
“We do this because we know lawmakers and their staff want to meet with people with a little dirt or grease under their fingernails who are doing things out in the country that really matter,” said Jennings. The group of 70-plus ethanol supporters who attended the event included students, producers, farmers, accountants, bankers, seed and technology companies, and advanced biofuels supporters.
“We’ve always received good feedback from members of Congress,” Jennings added, noting that their main message was to keep the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) on track, “This program is working despite what detractors might say,” he said. “I think members of Congress are starting to see that.”
Interview with Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol
2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album
Ethanol and agriculture industry groups sent their own letter to House Appropriations leadership in response to a group of lawmakers calling for the elimination of funding for blender pumps or corn ethanol export promotion.
The letter signed by the Renewable Fuels Association, American Coalition for Ethanol, National Farmers Union, National Corn Growers Association, and Growth Energy calls on the subcommittee to “vehemently oppose and reject any efforts to include such limiting language” in FY 2016 appropriations for USDA.
It is important to note at the outset that there already exists a prohibition on the US Department of Agriculture using grant funds for the installation of blender pumps, which was included in the recently passed Farm Bill. Now, in a blatant effort to shelter the oil and gas industry from any further competition from ethanol, Representatives Goodlatte, et al. are seeking to place limitations on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to help promote the consumption of American made ethanol at home and abroad; something that agency has been successfully doing with other agriculture and livestock products for decades.
Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Jim Costa (R-CA), claim in their letter that the government has created an “artificial market” for ethanol that is “negatively impacting American consumers, livestock farmers, food producers, retailers, air and water quality, and the ability to feed our nation’s hungry.” The ag and ethanol groups responded that “corn prices today are below the prices witnessed in 2007 when the Renewable Fuel Standard was expanded and livestock feed costs are at their lowest levels in more than five years…Meanwhile, consumer food prices have advanced more slowly since passage of the RFS than in the 25 years prior to its enactment.”
Read the letter here.
Fuel retailers who have had to fight battles with big oil companies to offer higher ethanol blends were among those joining the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Fly-in on Capitol Hill this week.
Charlie Good has been in the fuel retailing business for 35 years as a convenience store operator and auto mechanic and he started offering higher ethanol blends at his Good and Quick store in Nevada, Iowa about 18 months ago. “And it’s just been a big boom for me, it’s added new gallons, it’s increased my customer base,” said Good.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was the main topic of ethanol supporter meetings with lawmakers and their staff this week and Good says even those they met with who have actively opposed the RFS are unlikely to vote for repeal. “The three of the five that we met with that were against it came out and said we’re not actually going to vote to repeal it…they’re just going to remain low key,” said Good.
Interview with Charlie Good, ethanol retailer
2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album
While AAA may be an outspoken critic of ethanol blended gasoline and E15 in particular, some other motor clubs think differently, and one of them was on Capitol Hill this week with the American Coalition for Ethanol to tell his story to lawmakers.
Mike Hammond with Association Motor Club Marketing and Travelers Motor Club, which represent 50 years in the business and over 20 million members, says they studied their claims over the past several years to see if there were any related to ethanol. “And what we discovered is that we have not had one ethanol-related claim where we’ve had to go out and tow,” said Hammond. “In fact, the opposite is true.”
Hammond explains that claims related to gasoline freeze used to be common in the northern part of the country, “but that’s gone away, we don’t have that anymore with ethanol.”
Hammond was pleased to join ethanol supporters in Washington this week for the ACE Fly-in to tell members of Congress and their staff his experiences with ethanol from an automotive standpoint. Interview with Mike Hammond, AMCM and Travelers Motor Club
2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album
A group of Congressional representatives wrote to the House Appropriations leadership this week specifically asking that any funding to help install blender pumps or promote corn ethanol exports be eliminated from the USDA budget.
In response to the letter, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said “the request is neither helpful nor logical,” and also “unnecessary since there is already a prohibition on USDA funding blender pump grants in the 2014 Farm Bill.”
The letter was signed by 18 mostly Republican members of Congress, led by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Jim Costa (R-CA), who claim that “the federal government’s creation of an artificial market for the ethanol industry is negatively impacting American consumers, livestock farmers, food producers, retailers, air and water quality, and the ability to feed our nation’s hungry.”
“This request stems from a flawed and inaccurate argument that has been disproven time and again,” said Buis. “The government is not creating an artificial market for ethanol, but the RFS is seeking to level the playing field and ensure alternatives to fossil fuels have market access so consumers are given a choice instead of a de-facto mandate to use petroleum based products.”
The 18 members of Congress who signed the letter represent ten states – California, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Vermont, Virginia, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final rulemaking this week to clarify the data sources and methodology used to calculate the Cellulosic Waiver Credit (CWC) price.
Under the rule, EPA has calculated the CWC prices for 2014 at $0.49 and for 2015 at $0.64. According to the EPA document, “The price of CWCs are determined using a formula specified in the Clean Air Act (CAA). The cellulosic waiver credit price is the greater of $0.25 or $3.00 minus the wholesale price of gasoline, where both the $0.25 and $3.00 are adjusted for inflation.”
The direct final rule also amends the regulations to remove the CWC prices from the code of federal regulations allowing them to be announced in a more timely fashion on EPA’s website.
Iowa cattle producer and ethanol advocate Bill Couser was a man on a mission this week in Washington DC with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Fly-In.
Couser finally got a sit down with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to talk about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and other issues. “I was able to schedule a half hour with her and I took the cattle industry and the ethanol industry in there and we sat down there as one,” said Couser. “The impression we got from Gina is that she’s there to work with us.”
Couser is co-chair of the Iowa-based America’s Renewable Future, which recently helped to sponsor the Iowa Ag Summit where potential presidential candidates were interviewed live about their views on important agricultural issues, including the RFS. At that event, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who just became the first to officially throw his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential race, stated his opposition to the RFS and Couser had a chance to speak with him about it. “He’s a man from Texas who is set in his ways,” said Couser. “We’re looking forward to the future and visiting with him more.”
Listen to an interview with Bill from the ACE fly-in here: Interview with Bill Couser, America's Renewable Future
2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album
The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) and more than 70 of its members have been in Washington, DC this week meeting with lawmakers, administration officials, and top staff members as part of the group’s “Biofuels Beltway March” annual fly-in.
The group had 160 meetings with lawmakers or their staff representing 43 states scheduled during the two day event with a primary focus on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ACE President Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol was pleased with how the meetings went Tuesday. “It was really a stark contrast to the last few years we’ve been out here in that these folks really know the RFS now,” he said.
Alverson noted in particular meetings that he had with senators from Arkansas and Delaware who had concerns about poultry feed costs, but they were able to find areas of common ground. “One of them is energy security and the other is the low cost fuel we produce,” he said. “I thought we had really constructive conversations.”
Listen to Jamie Johansen’s interview with Alverson here: Interview with ACE president Ron Alverson
2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album
National Biodiesel Day is March 18, and the Iowa Biodiesel Board is suggesting that farmers ask for and use biodiesel as they head into spring planting.
“We’re challenging every farmer in Iowa to request that their fuel distributor offer biodiesel blends this spring,” said Grant Kimberley, IBB executive director and a soybean farmer who uses biodiesel on his farm. “A thriving biodiesel market helps everyone in the ag sector.”
March 18 is National Biodiesel Day because it is the birthday of Rudolf Diesel, the man who invented the engine that bears his name. He ran early models on peanut oil, and was a visionary for renewable fuel.
“I urge farmers to recognize the importance that renewable energy has in a strong and vibrant farming future,” said Ron Heck, an Iowa soybean farmer and IBB officer. “Those of us in the farming community must walk-the-walk by supporting clean energy solutions on the farm.”
Heck noted he has used biodiesel on his own farm for many years. But a poll of more than 360 Iowa farmers conducted this winter by the Iowa Soybean Association finds room for increased biodiesel use. About 41 percent said they use biodiesel in their farming operations. “Not readily available” was the primary reason cited for not using the fuel. However, availability has improved the last several years due to favorable state legislation.
Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine in blends of up to 20 percent (B20). All of the major Original Equipment Manufacturers producing engines and equipment for the U.S. agricultural market support B20 or higher in their warranty position statements.
Ceres, Inc., an agricultural biotechnology company, and Brazilian energy company Raízen S.A., today announced the signing of a multi-year collaboration agreement to develop and produce sweet sorghum on an industrial scale.
Under the collaboration, the companies will each contribute in-kind services and resources and share in the revenue from the ethanol produced from Ceres’ sweet sorghum above certain levels. This season, Raízen has planted Ceres’ sweet sorghum evaluation in a single location and plans to expand to multiple mills in the seasons to come.
Sweet sorghum can be grown to complement existing feedstock supplies and extend the operating season of Brazilian sugarcane-to-ethanol mills. In addition to sweet sorghum, Ceres markets high biomass sorghum to mills and other agri-industrial facilities for use in generating electricity, heat and steam in Brazil. In the U.S., Ceres is marketing improved forage sorghum hybrids to dairies and livestock producers.
The heads of both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency spoke to the National Farmers Union (NFU) convention in Wichita Monday and talked about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted that her agency was “in the hot seat” over the RFS after failing to set standards for the industry last year.
“The RFS is a complicated program, and we weren’t able to accomplish what we needed to do last year,” she said. “Implementing the RFS as Congress intended has been challenging.”
“We need to set levels that send a longer-term message,” McCarthy continued, explaining the agency’s intention to set Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for 2014, 2015, and 2016 before summer of this year.
Listen to McCarthy’s speech here, courtesy of Ken Rahjes, AgView.net. EPA Chief Gina McCarthy at 2015 NFU Convention
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stressed his continued support for the RFS. “I love the RFS – I’m for RFS,” he said. “We need to make sure Congress doesn’t do anything to damage it or repeal it or make it difficult to use. We need to be advocates, spokespeople for this industry. We need to go out and tell folks this is the right thing to do,” he said.
Vilsack urged the crowd to continue to educate the public about the potential of weaning the nation from foreign oil imports and highlighting the potential of renewable fuels. He pointed to areas of the economy, like the military, that were converting to home grown fuels. “Navy is starting to look at renewable fuels. I am optimistic about this. We need to be advocates for this industry. We don’t want to lose this amazing marketing opportunity.”
NASCAR began running Sunoco Green E15 in its three top national series back in 2011 and on Saturday at the Phoenix International Raceway the league surpassed seven million miles of racing on the fuel with American Ethanol.
“NASCAR has shown under the most demanding competition that E15 is safe, reliable and it works,” said Dr. Michael Lynch, Vice President, NASCAR Green Innovation and STEM Platforms. “NASCAR fans are 80 percent more likely than non-fans to support the use of ethanol blends in their own car on the street, because they understand that NASCAR and our diligent race teams did our homework from the start with thousands of miles and hours of testing.”
Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of Richard Childress Racing, says the move to Sunoco Green E15 has actually boosted the performance of the race cars – lowering emissions and increasing horsepower. “Since this change took place, we have seen increased horsepower from a higher-octane ethanol fuel blend and decreased emissions. In our own internal tests at RCR, we used ethanol blends up to E30 and found no issues with that fuel, either,” said Childress.
NASCAR made the fuel change in conjunction with their NASCAR Green® Platform, the largest and most comprehensive recycling, tree planting and renewable energy programs in sports.
Syndicated car-talk program “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” will feature a discussion on global demand for U.S. ethanol and its co-products on this week’s globalcast which airs live on Saturday morning March 14.
Judd Hulting of Patriot Renewable Fuels will talk with Bobby about the operations, products and statistics of Patriot’s ten-year old, ethanol plant located near the Quad Cities and not far from Chicago. “Demand for American-made ethanol and distillers grain is growing worldwide as countries are coming to understand and value the cost-saving and environmental benefits of high-octane ethanol and farmers continue to demand the high-protein distillers grain,” says Hulting, who is the commodities manager at Patriot. Hulting will also talk about Export Green, his recent trade mission to Brazil in collaboration with the U. S. Department of Commerce.
“The advantages to the production and use of ethanol nationally – and export internationally – are striking,” says Likis. “Join us to hear Judd discuss the export of U.S. produced ethanol and his trade mission to Brazil. You may be surprised to learn that E27 (27% ethanol) – up from E25 – is now the baseline for retail gasoline in Brazil.”
To view Hulting’s interview in its entirety, tune it to WatchBobbyLive.com on Saturday, March 14, at 10:25a ET.