Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to provide documents regarding oil industry efforts to influence the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Last May, following a Reuters article describing how the Carlyle Group and Delta Airlines had lobbied members of Congress and the administration to reduce the amount of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel, CREW asked for an investigation by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records. It took months for the EPA to release even the documents the agency already had provided to Reuters, and it has yet to hand over all relevant documents.
Based on a follow-up Reuters article, CREW also has concerns that oil companies leveraged high-level political connections to convince the White House and the EPA to insert special waivers into the RFS that could potentially allow oil companies to refuse to sell biofuels.
“It certainly seems as if the administration has backtracked on its commitment to renewable fuels. The question is why. Was there a back room deal orchestrated by big oil and high ranking officials in the Obama administration?” asked CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Even though it is nearly 2015, the renewable fuel standards for 2014 still haven’t been released. Is this to avoid potential political fallout in the mid-terms for siding with the oil industry over the biofuel industry?”
CREW also notes that Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sent a letter earlier this month to the White House expressing their concerns about EPA potentially inserting a waiver into the RFS, which would allow oil companies to refuse to distribute renewable fuel. Carlyle and Delta lobbied heavily for both of these modifications to the program and would benefit financially from the change.
The 2014 Export Exchange is continuing today in Seattle, Washington with representatives from more than 50 different countries in attendance to learn more about DDGS, the distillers feed product produced by U.S. ethanol plants.
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is co-sponsor of the event with the U.S. Grains Council and RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen says it’s because we produce a lot of distillers feed. “Our plants, if they were a single country, would be the fourth largest producer of corn equivalent feed, behind only the U.S., China and Brazil,” said Dinneen, who spoke at the event yesterday on agricultural policies and politics. Interview with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen at 2014 Export Exchange
RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper spoke at the event on the supply and demand outlook for DDGS.
“We have ample supplies of distillers grains coming from the U.S. ethanol industry but the demand picture is somewhat murky,” said Cooper. “That murkiness has to do with trade barriers and interruptions in the global trade of distillers grains that we’re seeing.”
Cooper says the U.S. is expected to produce 36-37 million metric tons of DDGS in the current marketing year, but one of the biggest trade disruptions in the market is being created by China’s demand that shipments of distillers grains must be certified to be free of the MIR162 biotech corn trait. “That kind of certification is not possible,” said Cooper. “So, we expect exports to China to be significantly curtailed or even halted until this situation is resolved.”
Last year, half of the U.S. distillers grains exports went to China, but Cooper says there are other countries increasing imports. “We are seeing continued growth of distillers grains exports to other parts of Asia outside of China,” he said, adding that Mexico is increasing imports and countries such as Egypt and Turkey are also growing markets. Interview with RFA Senior VP Geoff Cooper at 2014 Export Exchange
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is looking for visual evidence of prices for 85% ethanol (E85) around the country.
“We’re doing an E85 “Post your Price” contest,” says RFA Vice President, Industry Relations, Robert White. “That came about from a study we just concluded in St. Louis this summer.”
That study showed evidence of price gouging for E85, with retail prices were around $1 per gallon higher than was justified by wholesale prices for the locally available ethanol blendstock.
In this edition of the Ethanol Report, White talks about the study and the new contest.
Ethanol Report on E85 study and contest
Members of the ethanol industry joined with government leaders in applauding Abengoa at the opening of its $500 million cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas last week.
Among those on hand for the celebration was Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White who says Americans should be proud of the new plant “because this phantom fuel, as the naysayers like to call it, is here and it’s here to stay.”
However, White says they are concerned that this third cellulosic plant opening this year could be the last if EPA fails to continue implementing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as Congress intended. “There may never be another celebration like this and it’s sad but true,” he said. “This promise was made years ago and (the administration) needs to stick to it.”
Interview with RFA's Robert White at Abengoa Opening
Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.
The following is a guest editorial by American Coalition for Ethanol founder Merle Anderson.
I just want to remind EPA and Big Oil that I am still around. Since organizing the American Coalition for Ethanol nearly 30 years ago I have just celebrated my 93rd birthday.
I am damn mad because I think we’ve let EPA fool us into letting the fraudulent 10 percent ethanol blend wall stand. It has collapsed grain markets by dishonestly ending ethanol’s growing demand for corn and they call that free enterprise. I call it stealing many, many billions of dollars from agricultural economies.
That blend wall exists because EPA fooled people into thinking it is legitimate because fueling standard cars with E30 illegally increases gasoline’s hazardous emissions. Ever try drinking gasoline? My friend Orrie Swayze’s research agrees that E30 reduces gasoline’s hazardous emissions by 30% because, unlike gasoline, ethanol does not produce known human carcinogenic tailpipe emissions.
I also find it laughable that EPA claims E30 can harm standard auto engines. Show me a legitimate warranty denial. I have never owned a flexible fuel vehicle and fueled my last 7 vehicles with half E85 or used E30 through blender pumps to travel over 600,000 miles. When I traded in the vehicles, the engines were still in top condition.
When blender pumps were installed for the first time, I started hearing many positive remarks about ethanol’s engine performance. EPA tries to deny that standard auto owners have successfully driven millions of miles annually on popular, high octane E30 since blender pumps were installed five years ago. Our typical report still is “more power and can’t tell any difference in mileage compared to E10.”
I challenge agricultural and ethanol leaders to dare and expose EPA’s lies that built the blend wall. I also urge that you use E30 in standard vehicles and openly endorse premium E30 as the legal, safest, best, lowest cost fuel choice on the market today for standard vehicle owners.
Fuel prices are on the decline and the Renewable Fuels Association wants to know how low E85 is at your station.
In an effort to promote E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) sales and track E85 prices, RFA is offering the opportunity to win FREE E85 for one year with a simple snap of a camera and click of a mouse. All you have to do is submit a photo of an E85 pump to www.chooseethanol.com/PostYourPrice and the winner will be drawn at random. E85 is currently sold at more than 3,440 stations and is approved for use in all flex-fuel vehicles.
“The more information we collect on E85 prices, the more we are able to track and ensure consumers receive a fair price for the high-octane, environmentally-friendly fuel. We hope consumers have fun with this contest, but also understand the cost-saving benefits of higher-level ethanol blends,” stated Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA.
E85 offers tremendous price savings for consumers, often being sold at $0.75–1.00/gallon less than E10 gasoline. However, RFA recently uncovered signs of price gouging in the St. Louis market during the 2014 summer driving season. It examined retail E85 prices at nine Big Oil-branded stations, finding an average E85 price of $3.48/gallon while the average E10 price stood at $3.45/gallon. The St. Louis retail price for E85 was surprising, given that wholesale E85 prices in St. Louis averaged $2.58/gallon compared to $2.93/gallon for E10. When factoring in RFS RIN prices, locally-available ethanol prices, hydrocarbon blendstock, and a more typical markup, RFA concluded that E85 could have been sold to consumers at retail prices as low as $2.44–2.55/gallon.
In addition to an overall winner, two others will be chosen receive free E85 for a month. This award will be given to the individual who posts a photo of the largest gap between E85 and regular unleaded gasoline and the individual who posts a photo of the smallest gap between E85 and regular unleaded gasoline.
Find out more about the contest here.
If you’re an ethanol advocate, there’s an app for that from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).
In this edition of the Ethanol Report, RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen talks about the new app, what it does, who should use it, and why they developed it. He also comments on when we might yet see a final rule on the 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard and how railway transportation issues continue to impact the industry.
Ethanol Report on New Advocacy App
The National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo opened with a conversation about the current state of important federal biofuels policies, including the status of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Among those on the opening panel was Michael McAdams, founder and president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, who talked first about the state of his industry. “There’s an old expression ‘you’re either the bug or the windshield,'” he said. “Unfortunately, in my own association, about 15% (of my members) have become bugs.”
The reason for that, says McAdams, is the uncertainty surrounding federal biofuels policy. “The partnership between the federal government and industry has to have clarity and certainty,” he said. “What we haven’t had in the last two years is certainty for the people I represent in the advanced and cellulosic sector.”
In an interview after the panel, McAdams described the state of the advanced biofuels industry right now as being in “suspended animation” waiting for clarification on policy including volume obligations under the RFS and pathways for new technologies.
Regarding the RVO, McAdams notes that at this point, with no final numbers for this year yet, the administration needs to be focused on rulemaking for 2015. “I’m assuming the week after the election or maybe Friday before the election we’ll see the numbers (for ’14),” said McAdams. The problem with that is that the 2015 numbers are due November 30 “so one could make a rational case that the numbers they actually publish are the numbers for ’15, not for ’14.” He adds that the administration has already said they expect it will be February before they proposed the 2015 volume obligations.
McAdams urges the advanced biofuels industry to keep working “to deliver the innovative fuels of the future.”
Interview with Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association
Remarks from Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association
2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
With record corn production forecast this year comes lower corn prices, which makes the food versus fuel argument harder than ever to make, according to Growth Energy.
Total corn production is now projected at 14.475 billion bushels, 550 million bushels more than last year’s record, while the average price received by farmers is expected to be $3.40 per bushel, the lowest price in eight years.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports the international food price index is down 6.0 percent over the last year, grain prices are down nearly 9 percent since 2013, but meat prices are nearly 22 percent higher than a year ago.
Domestic food prices are up 2.5 percent compared to December 2013, nearly the same as the overall Consumer Price Index, which is up 2.1 percent for the same period. But while corn and other grain prices are rapidly declining, consumer meat prices are up 11.6 percent since last December.
“The current WASDE projections and recent reports from the FAO and Bureau of Labor Statistics further confirm that there is virtually no correlation between U.S. ethanol production and consumer food prices,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “Corn prices are below the cost of production for most farmers, and ethanol is selling approximately $1.00 per gallon less than the gasoline on the wholesale marketplace.”
“As integrated livestock and poultry companies brag about their record profits and margins to their stockholders and investment bankers, the Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council and The National Council of Chain Restaurants, all allies of Big Oil, continue their campaign to intentionally mislead Americans about the cause of rising food prices in the U.S,” Buis added.
The harvest may be running a little slow right now, but the latest report from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is calling for a bit more corn than expected a month ago, adding to the already record forecasts.
Corn production is now forecast at 14.5 billion bushels, up almost one percent from the previous forecast and four percent more than last year. Corn yields are expected to average 174.2 bushels per acre, up 2.5 bushels from the September forecast and 15.4 bushels above the 2013 average.
The bigger crop mean lower prices and USDA’s latest World Agricultural Supply Demand Estimate also released today. Corn supplies for 2014/15 are now projected at 15,736 million bushels, up 129 million from last month, while season average prices were lowered 10 cents to $3.10 to $3.70 per bushel. Corn used to produce ethanol, distiller’s grains and other co-products is projected at 5.125 billion bushels, while corn consumption for feed is estimated at 5.375 billion bushels.
A new documentary film that explores the history of the American fueling infrastructure and how it has led to today’s oil-dominated market, which features some ethanol industry figures, is being well received by critics and viewers alike.
“PUMP” the movie, opened last month and has a rating of 71% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with an 82% audience approval rating. Big name reviewers like the New York Times and Variety have had very good things to says about the movie.
The film is the latest from Josh and Rebecca Tickell, who have done other documentaries on alternative fuels beginning with FUEL, released in 2009, that focused on biodiesel.
PUMP features several familiar faces of folks known in the renewable fuels industry, including “Energy Victory” author Dr. Robert Zubrin, Biofuels Digest Editor Jim Lane, and Renewable Fuels Association Vice President for Industry Relations Robert White.
“Not often do small town farm kids from Kansas make it to Hollywood’s big screen, but I am fortunate enough to be one of those, if even for just a few seconds,” writes White in a column today for the E-xchange Blog. “The opportunity to be a part of an educational effort of this scale is not only rewarding, it is exciting.”
To find out more about the movie and when it might be playing in your area – check out PumpTheMovie.com and like it on Facebook.
Randall Doyal, General Manager and CEO of Minnesota-based Al-Corn Clean Fuel, is the new Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).
Doyal’s plant located in Claremont, Minnesota opened in 1996 and now produces 50 million gallons annually. In this interview, he talks about some of the challenges and opportunities facing the ethanol industry in the immediate future. Challenges include the lack of certainty surrounding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and railway transportation problems, while the importance of ethanol as a higher octane fuel and increasing exports are rising opportunities.
Ethanol Report with New RFA Chairman
The inaugural Bioproducts Innovation of the Year awards were announced this week at the Bioproducts World 2014 Showcase and Conference in Columbus, Ohio and a co-product of renewable energy was named the consumer Bioproduct Innovation of the Year award at this first annual competition.
Cenergy USA of Little Rock, Arkansas won for the development of Magic Dirt, a recycled co-product of generating renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Cenergy specializes in the development and financing of renewable energy, distributed generation and energy efficient projects.
Magic Dirt™ is certified as a Premium Potting Soil by the Mulch & Soil Council, certified by USDA BioPreferred Program as 100% BioBased and approved for use in organic production by the State of Idaho. Each cubic yard of Magic Dirt™ is the end result of generating over 100 kWh of renewable energy and eliminating more than 1,800 pounds of greenhouse gases from the environment as a sustainable alternative to peat moss.
“Going Global” is the theme for the 20th annual National Ethanol Conference (NEC) from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).
The event is being held February 18-20, 2015 at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. With the U.S. leading the world in the production and exports of ethanol fuel and co-products, export markets are critical to the future of the industry. That will be explored in depth at the conference.
To find out more and get registered, go to NationalEthanolConference.com.
A new use for cellulosic ethanol has been announced by DuPont and Procter & Gamble.
The two global leaders in science and consumer products are planning to a first-of-its-kind use of cellulosic ethanol in North American Tide® laundry detergent.
Tide Cold Water will be the first brand in the world to blend cellulosic ethanol in a scalable and commercial way. Ethanol has long been a key ingredient in the Tide® formulation, allowing for stability of the detergent formula and better washing performance. The substitution of the current corn based ethanol with cellulosic is the latest innovation in the companies’ 30-year partnership, making it easier for consumers to make sustainable choices in their everyday lives.
DuPont will produce this renewable, cellulosic ethanol at the company’s new biorefinery, currently under construction in Nevada, Iowa. Once completed, the plant will be the world’s largest bioethanol refinery, producing 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year – a process with zero net carbon emissions.
According to the companies,Tide® Cold Water “powered by nature” will re-purpose over 7000 tons of agricultural waste a year. “As one of the world’s largest laundry manufacturers, we have a responsibility to lead renewable sourcing in products,” said Gianni Ciserani, Procter & Gamble Group President of Global Fabric and Home Care. “We do this by ensuring consumers still get the great Tide® laundry performance they want, while further reducing the impact on the environment. In January, we committed to removing phosphates in our laundry products. This partnership on renewables is one more step in our journey.”
“With this collaboration, DuPont is also taking the first step to diversify its markets for cellulosic ethanol beyond fuels. As we build on our integrated science capabilities, we will continue to seek out new opportunities and new collaborations to transform value chains with more sustainable solutions,” said James Collins, Senior Vice President, DuPont.
Both Collins and Ciserani will be speaking at the World Conference on Fabric and Home Care in Montreux, Switzerland this week.