About Cindy Zimmerman

Cindy has been reporting about agricultural topics since 1980 when she graduated with a degree in broadcasting from the University of Florida. She is an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters and 1991 Oscar in Agriculture winner. She and her husband Chuck started ZimmComm New Media in 2003. They have three beautiful daughters and live near white sand beaches of Pensacola, Florida.

Hear Biofuels Reps Talk About RFS Delay

epa-150Biofuels industry representatives spent Friday afternoon fielding calls from reporters to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency decision to put off finalizing 2014 volume standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard program until next year.

Domestic Fuel caught up with four of the industry groups, starting with Bob Dinneen with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), already posted previously.

Listen to the interviews below:

American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE)Interview with ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings

Growth Energy
Interview with Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis

National Biodiesel Board (NBB)Interview with NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel

On Monday, biofuels industry leaders will hold briefings for Capitol Hill staff and the media to discuss the implications of the decision and where we go from here. The Fuels America briefing will feature Buis, Dinneen, Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman, and Brent Erickson with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

Ethanol Report on RFS Delay

ethanol-report-adAs the Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it will be next year before 2014 volume standards can be finalized, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) offered comments on behalf of the industry on the development.

In this Ethanol Report, RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen talks about their reaction and what the continued uncertainty means for the industry going forward.

Ethanol Report on RFS Delay

EPA Delay Continues Uncertainty for Biodiesel

The biodiesel industry and soybean growers weighed in on the EPA decision today to delay 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

nbb-advanced“This Administration says over and over that it supports biodiesel, yet its actions with these repeated delays are undermining the industry,” said National Biodiesel Board Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “Biodiesel producers have laid off workers and idled production. Some have shut down altogether. We know that fuels policy is complex, but there is absolutely no reason that the biodiesel volume hasn’t been announced. We are urging the Administration to finalize a 2014 rule as quickly as possible that puts this industry back on track for growth and puts our country back on track for ending our dangerous dependence on oil. We also urge them to move quickly on 2015 so that we don’t repeat this flawed process again next year.”

ASAlogo1“The continued delays create great uncertainty for the biodiesel industry and soybean farmers and limits the industry’s ability to invest and expand,” said American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser. “The Proposed Rule was unacceptable and would have taken biodiesel backward from the amounts produced and utilized in 2013. However, ASA believes that EPA can and should finalize a 2014 rule that sets the biomass-based diesel volumes at or above the nearly 1.8 billion gallons that were produced and consumed in the U.S. in 2013.”

EPA Decision Impacts Advanced Biofuels

The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to hold off on issuing a final rule for 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) continues the atmosphere of uncertainty for the advanced biofuel industry, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

BIO logo“We appreciate that EPA will not be finalizing a proposed 2014 RFS rule containing a flawed methodology for setting the renewable fuel volumes,” said BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood. “Unfortunately, the delay in this year’s rule already has chilled investment and financing of future projects, even as first-of-a-kind cellulosic biofuel plants are right now starting up operations. The industry needs a final rule that is legally appropriate and continues to support our efforts.”

aeclogoAdvanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman says that pulling back on the 2014 RFS rule is “the right thing to do at this stage in the game when it comes to preserving the integrity of the program.”

“While the cellulosic biofuel industry will not get the policy certainty it needs from this decision, it does suggest that the Administration is listening when it comes to our concerns about giving oil companies too much power to avoid its obligations under the RFS going forward,” Coleman added. “This battle was never about the 2014 volumes for the oil industry, and we appreciate the Administration’s willingness to pivot in the right direction this late in the game. The key now for advanced biofuel investment is to move quickly to fix what needs to be fixed administratively so we can reestablish the RFS as the global gold standard for advanced biofuel policy.”

abfaThe Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) president Michael McAdams says the announcement was a surprise.

EPA hit the big reset button. Given the fact that we are already at the end of 2014, we appreciate EPA’s recognition that the real importance is to set the program on a clear glide path for 2015 and 2016. The numbers do matter, and utilizing the actual production will be a positive step from what was a proposed. We appreciate how EPA recognized that cutting requirements for advanced biofuels would be a mistake. This emerging industry deserves better considering it has already demonstrated the capacity to generate 3.2 billion gallons of advanced biofuel annually. But, at least EPA’s decision leaves the glass more than half full and allow us to get back on track next year.

Ethanol Industry Reacts to EPA Delay

The ethanol industry wasted no time today in reacting to the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement that final 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard will be put off until next year.

RFANewlogoRenewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen calls it “a cloud of uncertainty with a silver lining.”

Deciding not to decide is not a decision. Unfortunately, the announcement today perpetuates the uncertainty that has plagued the continued evolution of biofuels production and marketing for a year. Nevertheless, the Administration has taken a major step by walking away from a proposed rule that was wrong on the law, wrong on the market impacts, wrong for innovation, and wrong for consumers.

growth-energy-logoGrowth Energy CEO Tom Buis commended EPA and said it was the “appropriate decision” for the agency and is a win for the industry.

Today’s announcement is a clear acknowledgement that the EPA’s proposed rule was flawed from the beginning. There was no way the methodology in the proposed rule would ever work, as it went against the very purpose and policy goals of the RFS. The EPA wisely decided not to finalize the rule so they could fix the flawed methodology. Their initial proposal over a year ago was unacceptable and simply acquiesced to the demands of Big Oil and their refusal to blend more renewable fuels into the marketplace.

ACElogoAmerican Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive Vice President Brian Jennings credits ethanol supporters for helping the EPA reconsider the 2014 RVO obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Big Oil came close to bullying the Administration to completely rewrite the RFS this year so oil companies could escape their legal responsibility to blend more ethanol in gasoline. But thanks to thousands of comments from ACE members and other biofuel supporters, EPA wisely chose to reconsider their ill-advised proposal which would have legitimized the so-called ‘blend wall’. While we will reserve full judgment until they finalize the 2014 targets next year, it certainly appears the Administration recognizes their proposed RFS changes were inconsistent with legislative history and the Clean Air Act.

New Corn Growers CEO Wants to Grow Demand

ncga-novakNew National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) CEO Chris Novak talked about challenges facing the corn industry as he visited with members of the agricultural media during the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention last week in Kansas City.

“Lots of big challenges ahead for us,” said Novak, who just took over the CEO job for Rick Tolman who retired last month. “Looking at a record crop and lower prices than we’d like to see but that’s an opportunity as well.”

Novak sees increasing demand as the most important challenge and opportunity for the industry. “How do we ensure that with a second record crop in a row that we’ve got the demand that can keep our farmers profitable?” he said. The primary demand sectors – livestock, ethanol and exports – all offer new growth potential.

“Certainly EPA’s support and implementation of the renewable fuels law as passed by Congress is going to be important to us in the short term,” he added. “Longer term we’re looking to build consumer demand for a renewable fuel that increases our energy independence and helps reduce greenhouse gases.”

Chris Novak previously served many years as chief executive officer of the National Pork Board and prior to that, he was executive director of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, the Indiana Corn Growers Association and the Indiana Soybean Alliance.

In this interview, Novak also talks about NCGA’s comments on the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, and what he expects from the lame duck session of Congress and the new Congress in January. Interview with Chris Novak, NCGA CEO

2014 NAFB Convention Photos

NAFB Convention is sponsored by
NAFB Convention is sponsored by FMC

RFA CEO Talks Ethanol Issues with Broadcasters

Attending the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention in Kansas City last week, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen talked about all of the important issues facing the ethanol industry with farm broadcasters from around the nation.

Among the topics he addressed were the need for Congress to pass tax extenders for biofuels, first cellulosic ethanol plants going on line this year, how lower oil could be impacting domestic oil production, rail transportation issues, and of course, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

nafb-14-dinneenRegarding the lame duck session of Congress, Dinneen says it’s called lame for a reason but he does expect them to pass a tax extenders bill. “It will include the biodiesel tax credit and the cellulosic ethanol tax incentive, which will be good to have now that we finally have cellulosic ethanol production so they can take advantage of the tax incentive that has been there for them,” he said.

While the industry continues to expect a final decision from the EPA on the 2014 volume requirements any day, Dinneen says it could still be next week. “I fear for my Thanksgiving dinner because I suspect that the minute I carve into that turkey, I’m going to get an email that Gina McCarthy has just signed the rule,” he said. “I wish they’d get it out, let’s just be done with it.”

Seeing gas prices continue to drop nationwide, Dinneen agrees with some analysts that OPEC could be trying to cut U.S. oil production. “The Saudis, I think, have become annoyed that the U.S. is producing more (oil) and has decided that they want to try to break the back of these fracking operations,” said Dinneen, noting that those operations start losing money with prices below $80 a barrel. “Ethanol remains the lowest cost transportation fuel on the planet today and it’s unlikely that the Saudis will be able to break our back.”

Hear more in this interview: Interview with Bob Dinneen, RFA

2014 NAFB Convention Photos

NAFB Convention is sponsored by
NAFB Convention is sponsored by FMC

New CARD Study on Indirect Land Use Change

CARD LogoA new analysis of real-world land use data by Iowa State University raises serious concerns about the accuracy of models used by regulatory agencies regarding “indirect land use changes” (ILUC) attributed to biofuels production.

The study, conducted by Prof. Bruce Babcock and Zabid Iqbal at ISU’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), examined actual observed global land use changes in the period spanning from 2004 to 2012 and was compared to predictions from the economic models used by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop ILUC penalty factors for regulated biofuels. The report concluded that farmers around the world have responded to higher crop prices in the past decade by using available land resources more efficiently rather than expanding the amount of land brought into production.

cooper-headshot“There hasn’t been much land use change in terms of converting non-agricultural land into crop land,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper. “We’ve seen more double-cropping, we’ve seen triple-cropping in some parts of the world. And, very interestingly, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of planted acres that are harvested.”

Cooper says the study, which was funded in part by RFA, comes at a time when the California ARB is in the process of re-adopting its low carbon fuel standard, which includes revisiting their land use analysis. “So this paper, we hope, should inform that debate and bring some clarity and commonsense,” said Cooper. More importantly, this new analysis can provide input to states like Oregon and Washington which are currently working on developing low carbon fuel standards.

Cooper explains more in this interview: Interview with Geoff Cooper, RFA

Biodiesel Industry Waiting on RFS and Tax Credit

nafb14-nbb-kalebThe biodiesel industry is doing fairly well right now, but producers are anxiously awaiting some policy decisions that could improve the situation.

The two outstanding issues right now are the final 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the once again expired biodiesel tax credits, according to Kaleb Little with the National Biodiesel Board. “The delay in the volumes has really hurt production,” said Little. “Overall production, we’re still probably going to be around 1.28 billion gallons for the year, but certainly below 2013’s record production (of 1.8 billion).”

Little says that 2013 is an example of what stable policy could do for the industry, with both the biodiesel tax credit in place and the RFS volumes in line with production capability. “You get those things lined up right in the same year and – record production,” he said. “Producers were glad to see it after some rough years and some ups and downs.”

Policy issues will be at the forefront as always during the 2015 National Biodiesel Conference January 19-22 in Fort Worth, and Little says they will also have some good news about new support for biodiesel from manufacturers.

Listen to my interview with Kaleb here from the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention: Interview with Kaleb Little, NBB

2014 NAFB Convention Photos

Coverage of the NAFB convention is sponsored by
NAFB Convention is sponsored by FMC

RFA Pleased with E85 Potential

nafb14-rfa-whiteThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is pleased with a new report that shows the potential for growth in sales of 85% ethanol blends.

“There’s no doubt that E85 sales will double or triple over the next decade, but they also predict that the flex fuel vehicle count will continue to grow,” says RFA vice president for industry relations Robert White. “The flex fuel vehicles on the road today could use all the ethanol we produce if they used E85 more often.”

And that would be possible if there were more places for drivers to buy E85, which would happen if the Renewable Fuel Standard were allowed to work as it was intended. “If given its chance, it will create the market and this report clearly shows that more E85 would be sold,” he said.

At the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention last week, White also talked about RFA’s “Post Your Price” contest which has been getting lots of entries showing the price of E85 around the country. The contest will award free E85 for a year to a randomly drawn entry, but they are also awarding prizes for the largest and smallest price differentials between E85 and E10. “We’ve already got one sent in that E85 was higher than E10,” White said. The lowest price for E85 so far has been $1.64, compared to $2.84 for regular.

Listen to my interview with Robert at NAFB here: Interview with Robert White, RFA

2014 NAFB Convention Photos

Coverage of the NAFB convention is sponsored by
NAFB Convention is sponsored by FMC

More Corn for Ethanol

usda-logoIn the new World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate, USDA has increased the amount of corn forecast to be used to make ethanol and co-products such as the livestock feed distillers grains.

Corn used in ethanol production is projected 25 million bushels higher at 5.15 billion bushels for the 2014-15 marketing year. The reason is a reduction in expected sorghum use for ethanol and the strong pace of weekly ethanol production reported so far for the marketing year.

In the November crop forecast, USDA slightly lowered corn production this year to 14.4 billion bushels, with yields now expected to average 173.4 bushels per acre. If realized, this will still be the highest yield and production on record for the United States.

“This is positive news for the market overall as we’re expecting demand to rise to meet these record yields,” said American Farm Bureau Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson. “An estimated increase in ethanol production should also help to absorb this year’s bumper crop.”

The drop in the national production estimate for corn seems to be coming from traditionally high-yield states that are now seeing lower estimates this month, Anderson said. The Iowa yield estimate was shaved by two bushels per acre, and Minnesota’s came down by five.

The main reason for the slight drop in the corn forecast is a slow harvest and weather challenges, that are now including heavy snow in the upper Midwest. The latest crop progress report shows Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado and Indiana lagging behind the most in harvest, but significant progress was made in the last week so that the corn harvest nationwide now stands at the five year average of 80 percent.

RFA’s Geoff Cooper on Bobby Likis Show

likis-smallThe “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” featured Renewable Fuels Association Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper on show’s live globalcast this past Saturday, November 8.

Cooper addressed a variety of topics including the truth behind the fictional food vs. fuel argument, as well as the hot button issue of greenhouse gas – or GHG – emissions and the role ethanol plays in reducing their output into the ozone. Cooper will also share with Car Clinic audiences the benefits and the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol.

“RFA recently conducted a study that shows while corn prices have plummeted, food prices have remained steady or have risen,” said Cooper. “The petroleum industry would like to pin any increase in food prices on the ethanol industry when in fact it is oil that drives food prices.”

Listen to Cooper’s interview with Bobby here and watch the video below: Bobby Likis interviews RFA's Geoff Cooper

Ag Groups Urge President to Reject Biofuels Cuts

mess-rfsThe National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and several other agricultural sent a letter to President Obama this week asking him to intervene with the Environmental Protection Agency regarding its proposed cuts in the 2014 volume obligations for the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“The blending targets and the methodology in your administration’s proposed rule are already causing significant harm to the biofuel sector,” the letter states. “These impacts are reverberating throughout the U.S. agriculture economy, and we expect this trend to continue if the targets and the methodology in the rule are not corrected.”

The letter discusses how the ag sector has met its responsibility in growing sufficient feedstock for biofuels, but is also working with the ethanol industry on infrastructure and advanced fuels. The letter concludes: “The EPA’s proposed policy decision is driving one of our key economic engines – the biofuel sector -¬‐ overseas. We have invested in response to the signals in the RFS and are poised to deliver the very low carbon fuels you have sought for so long. Instead of reaping the economic benefits of this investment with a build-¬‐out of a domestic biofuel industry, the methodology proposed by EPA is offshoring the industry – and our market. This is a decision we cannot afford in America’s heartland.”

In addition to NCGA, organizations sending the letter included the Agricultural Retailers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Farmers Union and National Sorghum Producers.

Propane Power for UPS

2014 World LP Gas Forum Photo Album

perc-wlpgf14-upsEarlier this year, the delivery giant UPS expanded commitment to propane by adding 1,000 propane delivery trucks and 50 fueling stations at UPS locations.

“It was the easiest alternative fuel they’ve ever transitioned into their fleet…the easiest installation of infrastructure of any alternative fuel,” said Michael Taylor, Autogas Business Director for the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC). The only complaint was that drivers said the new vehicles are “too quiet.”

perc-wlpgf-pachlaPowertrain Integration (PI) was the company that designed the propane autogas V8 packages that are being used in the new brown trucks and president Bob Pachla says UPS adopted the new propane technology very quickly. “Typically what they’ll do is put units into a fleet and test it and you’ll hear from them two or three years later,” said Pachla. “In this case, we put the fleet into production, 20 units, the fall of last year and they made the announcement this year to build a thousand UPS step vans.”

Taylor and Pachla discussed UPS and the propane powered engines at the recent World LP Gas Forum in Miami. Listen to them here and watch the video below: Propane Power for UPS

Scholarships for National Ethanol Conference

rfa-nec-15Students interested in the ethanol industry have a chance to attend the 2015 National Ethanol Conference in Grapevine, Texas through a scholarship opportunity offered by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the Renewable Fuels Foundation (RFF).

The 20th annual National Ethanol Conference, titled “Going Global,” will offer college students a chance to hear key industry leaders and policymakers address topics such as the Renewable Fuel Standard, E15, international trade, next-generation ethanol, rail transportation, and more. In addition, they will have a unique opportunity to interact with key leaders of the U.S. ethanol industry.

“The National Ethanol Conference offers an excellent opportunity for college students to get their feet wet and gain an in-depth look into the ethanol industry,” said Mike Jerke, chairman of the RFF and CEO of Guardian Energy Management LLC. “Our goal is to educate the next generation of biofuel leaders and the conference is the perfect place for them to learn, ask questions, and network.”

Interested students are asked to submit a 500-word essay explaining how their attendance at the National Ethanol Conference will help them achieve their future goals. They are also asked to submit two letters of recommendation, a current resume, and a school transcript. The scholarship is only available to students attending a U.S. institution of higher learning or foreign students affiliated with the U.S. ethanol industry.

Applications must be received by Dec. 12 to receive full consideration. Application materials can be found here: www.NationalEthanolConference.com/pages/scholarships.