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.

RFA Reports February Ethanol Export Record

The Renewable Fuels Association reports that U.S. ethanol exports reached a new record in February, based on an analysis of the latest government data.

RFANewlogoAccording to RFA Research Analyst Ann Lewis, U.S. exports of denatured and undenatured ethanol in February totaled 85.2 million gallons, up 24% from January, the highest February export volume on record. Year-to-date exports at 153.9 million gallons are in line with exports during the same period last year.

The biggest customer for U.S. ethanol remains Brazil, which received about one quarter (28%) of total U.S. ethanol exports in February, followed by India (20%), Canada (17%), and the United Arab Emirates (12%). The Philippines, South Korea, the Netherlands and Peru were other key destinations in February.

In addition, exports of the ethanol co-product distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) rose 13% to the highest monthly level in 5 months, as the Chinese market continues to recover. “However, exports to China remain at about half the level enjoyed prior to the market collapse,” said Lewis.

Fire Shuts REG Louisiana Refinery

reg-logoA Geismer, Louisiana renewable hydrocarbon diesel (RHD) refinery owned by Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group (REG) is closed after a fire on April 2 which injured two people, according to the company.

REG reports that the fire was contained within a few hours and the two injured employees were in fair condition. “An assessment and investigation into the cause of the fire and the damage to the facility is ongoing,” said a company statement. “The biorefinery will remain shut down until such assessment is complete and repairs can be made.”

REG just held a ribbon cutting in November for the facility which produces RHD using a process which converts a wide range of feedstocks, such as animal fat, inedible corn oil, used cooking oil and vegetable oils, into renewable fuel.

President Obama Announces Solar Efforts

obama-solarIn Utah on Friday, President Obama announced new growth efforts for the solar industry and support for veterans.

At Hill Air Force Base, Obama announced several actions, including a “Solar Ready Vets Program” to be launched by the Department of Energy in partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD), at 10 military bases across the country, including at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, which has already taken leadership by installing solar panels onsite.

The Solar Ready Vets program will train transitioning military service personnel to enter the solar workforce by joining with SunShot’s Solar Instructor Training Network and leveraging the DOD’s Skillbridge transition authority authorized by Congress in 2012.

In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs is committing to working with DOE and State Approving Agencies to achieve approval for GI Bill funding for DOE’s Solar Ready Vets initiative. And the Department of Labor (DOL), will work with DOD to ensure that transitioning service members are made aware of solar workforce training programs available to them in their last months of military service.

Read more from the White House.

Think Tank Ponders Cellulosic Ethanol Link

3rd-wayA new report from centrist think tank Third Way ponders the quest for cellulosic biofuels and concludes that the pathway is via corn ethanol.

This report confirms what the biofuels industry has been saying for some time now – that you cannot have cellulosic ethanol without the continued production and support of grain-based ethanol,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis.

One of the takeaways from the Third Way report is that, “proposals to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would discourage engagement from the corn ethanol industry” and thus delay commercialization of cellulosic ethanol and steer investment overseas.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen says the report highlights the importance of consistent policy for the continued evolution of biofuels. “Legislative efforts to undermine either will set the nation’s energy and economic future back generations,” said Dinneen. “Third Way should be commended for adding a thoughtful component to this ongoing discussion and I can only hope that it is read with interest by Senators Feinstein and Toomey.

“(T)he biggest point, coming from a thought leader in the space like Third Way, is that Congressional intervention on the RFS would be highly detrimental to the deployment of cellulosic biofuel,” said Brooke Coleman of the Advanced Ethanol Council.

“The success of the conventional ethanol industry has driven serious investment in the cellulosic industry and there is an important linkage between them,” says Adam Monroe, President Americas for Novozymes which produces enzymes used for cellulosic ethanol production. “Tinkering with the corn portion of the RFS now will only hurt both industries.”

The report also concludes that “companies with an extensive background in the corn ethanol industry are cracking the cellulosic code,” and continued investment from these companies in facilities and innovation is critical to growing U.S. cellulosic capacity.”

Editorial from Orrie Swayze

orrie-headshotPioneer ethanol advocate Orrie Swayze of South Dakota had the following op-ed published last week in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:

Like with lead, petroleum’s web of lies continues gaining permission from the masses to poison their children. Author Dresden James explains why: “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses … the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker, a raving lunatic.”

Too many Americans passively accepted oil industry lies like “lead octane is a gift from God.” And “E30’s octane ruins engines” These lies blocked ethanol’s octane market participation guaranteeing gasoline distributed lead poisoned our children and annually increased our medical costs plus oil industry profits many billions of dollars.

Oil’s lies again block ethanol octane’s meaningful market participation — guaranteeing gasoline distributed benzene octanes’ known human carcinogenic emissions (identical to those in cigarette smoke) daily poison our children: The annual associated billions of dollars in medical costs still make gasoline planet earth’s most subsidized commodity.

Do you own your thoughts or automatically think these truths are preposterous?
1. “Standard autos are flex fuel to auto manufactures’ endorsed premium E30.”
2. “Like E85 marketers historically, E30 marketers can safely use standard gasoline pumps.”
3. “Thousands of standard auto owners daily use blender pump’s cheaper, premium E30 to travel millions of trouble free miles annually without any legitimate warrantee denials.”
4. “They typically report “more power “and “can’t tell any mileage difference.”
5. “Increasing corn ethanol production sequesters carbon, lowers soybean prices, and enables E30’s market penetration to reduce benzene related octane emissions plus billions of dollars of medical costs 50 to 80 percent.”
6. Remarkably, corn/acre produces 450 gallons of ethanol plus the protein/meal/oil food equivalents (pounds) soybeans produce/acre.

Utterly preposterous, shout too many whose intellectual curiosity surrendered to oil’s propaganda long ago: Including too many corn and ethanol advocates, nearly all Americans, EPA officials, politicians, news media wise talking heads, etc. Little wonder oil’s basically gasoline monopoly poisons our children and destroys free enterprise’s role in liquid fuels markets.

Happy April Fuels’ Day!

april-fuelsIn honor of April Fuels’ Day, National Corn Growers Association CEO Chris Novak and Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen penned the following letter to Congress about the dangers of America’s growing dependence on renewable fuels from the troubled Midwest region.

Dear Members of Congress:

In recent years, Americans have become increasingly reliant on renewable fuels produced in agricultural states in the Midwest.

Some argue that greater use of renewable fuels like ethanol is a good idea merely because it costs 60-80 cents less per gallon than regular gasoline, offers higher octane and better engine performance, has fewer toxic emissions, and creates hundreds of thousands of American jobs. Sure, but what about the national security implications?

The fact is, the Midwest is a virtual tinderbox of conflicting allegiances.

The region is deeply divided, with factions loyal to the Packers, Bears, Vikings, Lions and Colts frequently at odds with one another. (Some analysts have questioned whether the Vikings are too weak to pose a serious threat to their neighbors, but Teddy Bridgewater had decent numbers last year).

Any resolution to the argument about “Duck, Duck, Goose” has proved elusive, with intransigent Minnesotans continuing to insist upon “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck” – a stance that has isolated the regime against the rest of the country. Tragically, these disputes often divide members of the same family who have lived for many years in a neighboring state … pitting brother against brother, cousin against cousin, Swede against Swede, at many a family picnic. Even the individual states themselves are not unified, including the intractable Cardinals vs. Royals divide and decades old disputes in Wisconsin between the dominant “drinking fountain” faction and the smaller but fervent “bubbler” faction. Then there is the whole “hotdish” vs. “casserole” question.

What would happen if, for example, Minnesota were to invade northern Iowa, seizing key ethanol refineries along the border and demanding the Iowa legislature pass a resolution declaring “Duck, Duck Gray Duck” the official waterfowl game of the Hawkeye State? The nation might have to learn to do without cleaner, less expensive, less toxic, higher performance fuel. Continue reading

GROWMARK Acquires MO Refined Fuels Terminal

growmarklogoIllinois-based cooperative GROWMARK, Inc. is acquiring the refined fuels terminal near St. Joseph, Missouri from Magellan Pipeline Company with an intent to offer ethanol blends in the future in addition to diesel.

Kevin Carroll, Vice President of GROWMARK’s Energy Division, says the acquisition will help them solidify the cooperative’s commitment to the energy business in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas, expand capacity and facilitate continued growth. “We currently have a reliable supply of refined fuels. However, with the addition of the St. Joseph terminal we will be able to more easily grow with our customers in the region,” he said.

Carroll said Magellan will continue to deliver refined fuels into the St. Joseph terminal via its Midwest pipeline system.

GROWMARK provides energy-related products and services, agriculture-related products and services, and grain marketing in the Midwest and Ontario, Canada.

Ethanol-Gas Price Difference Back to Normal

Ethanol and gas have settled back into a more normal price differential after three months of being nearly the same once gas prices started to plummet late last year.

RBOB - Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygen Blending

RBOB – Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygen Blending

Renewable Fuels Association 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.

Biodiesel Group Files Petition over Argentina Imports

nbb-advancedThe 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.

Another Successful ACE Fly-in

ACE executive VP Brian Jennings smiles as Sen. John Thune (R-SD) speaks at fly-in reception.

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 Supporters Counter Funding Request

houseEthanol 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.

Retailer Takes Ethanol Story to Hill

ace15-goodFuel 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

Motor Club Rep: No Ethanol-Related Claims

ace-flyin-15-hammondWhile 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.

Gene 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 Gene Hammond, AMCM and Travelers Motor Club


2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album

Appropriations Request Targets Corn Ethanol

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.

growth-energy-logoIn 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.

EPA Changes Cellulosic Waiver Credit Provisions

epa-150The 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.