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.

NASCAR Starts 5th Year on American Ethanol

american-ethanol-fuelFuel with 15 percent ethanol, known as E15, has been approved for sale by the Environmental Protection Agency since January 2011. Two months later Sunoco Green E15 debuted at the 2011 Daytona 500.

American Ethanol
celebrated the start of the fifth year of its partnership with NASCAR at the Great American Race this weekend. “They’ve put over six million hard-earned miles at high RPMs on these race cars,” said Tom Buis of Growth Energy at the race on Sunday. “They got better performance, they didn’t lose mileage and they haven’t had a single problem.”

Interview with Tom Buis, Growth Energy, at Daytona 500

NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar says the partnership with American Ethanol has been very positive for them. “What we love about ethanol is not only is it a great renewable but it’s a great racing fuel, higher octane so it’s great performance for the drivers,” he said. “It’s also great for the environment, reduces greenhouse gases, homemade here in America …. it’s a win-win-win and in car races we’re all about winning!”

Dewar lived in Brazil as that country was moving to higher ethanol blends and he hopes to see it grow here in the United States as well. Interview with Brent Dewar, NASCAR, at Daytona 500

Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association, New Holland and POET-DSM are partners in American Ethanol with NASCAR.

Ethanol Conference Scholarship Winner

nec15-scholarshipThis year’s National Ethanol Conference scholarship winner hails from Brazil where she received her master’s degree in international relations in 2012 from San Tiago Dantas, a graduate program supported by three of Brazil’s premier universities.

Lais Thomaz, pictured here with Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen, was pleased to be able to attend the conference to learn more first hand about the U.S. ethanol industry that will help in her research. Her dissertation, which focused on the role of advocacy groups in the shaping of ethanol trade policies, was published as a book by Brazil’s Editora UNESP. Her research previously won the Top Ethanol Award promoted by the Brazilian Sugarcane Ethanol Industry Association (UNICA). She is currently a Ph.D. candidate and a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Government at Georgetown University.

Listen to my interview with Lais here: Interview with NEC 15 Scholarship Winner

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

#NEC15 Wrap Up

nec15-globalRenewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen wrapped up the 20th annual National Ethanol Conference on Friday as optimistic as ever.

“The atmosphere in the room, the attitude of the producers that I talked to, the confidence that they continue to show in their industry,” said Dinneen. “They are braced for whatever comes their way and we’re not going away.”

Dinneen gives an overview of the convention last week and some of his takeaways. NEC15 Wrap up with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Panel Explores Progress of RFS and LCFS

nec15-panel1A diverse group of stakeholders gave a diverse set of opinions on the progress to date of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper moderated the panel which featured (L to R) Jeremy Martin with the Union of Concerned Scientists, Chris Highsmith of Eco-Energy, Derek Regal of oil refiner Tesoro, Pacific Ethanol president Neil Koehler, and Michael Rensing with the British Colombia Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Cooper called the RFS “a remarkable success to date…by any metric that you choose” and said despite efforts by California to eliminate corn ethanol “the LCFS has succeeded so far because of grain-based ethanol” but they still have concerns about the program going forward.

Listen to the panelists viewpoints here: NEC 15 Panel on RFS and LCFS

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Former USTR Praises Ethanol for Going Global

nec15-kirkFormer U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk was the keynote speaker at the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) National Ethanol Conference this week where the theme was “Going Global” with an emphasis on exports.

“I want to thank you for your very strong and vocal support for a very smart trade policy for our country over the years,” said Kirk, who served under President Obama in his first term. “You understand the importance of going global.”

Kirk lamented that too many Americans have “gone sour” on international trade, citing a poll that found twice as many Americans said they believe in the existence of UFOs than believed international trade was good for America. “We have got to go out and tell the story of the real benefits of trade,” he said.

Listen to Kirk’s remarks here: Former USTR Ron Kirk at NEC 15

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

RFA Presents Ethanol Industry Awards

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) honored industry leaders during the 20th annual National Ethanol Conference in Grapevine, Texas this week.

nec15-awardBob Reynolds, president of Downstream Alternatives, received a Lifetime Appreciation Award for his role in the expansion of ethanol in today’s transportation fuel market.

Presenting the award, RFA CEO Bob Dinneen said Thompson spent his entire professional career working on fuel quality issues. “When he founded Downstream Alternatives, he did so to make sure that as renewable fuels, like ethanol, were introduced to the market, consumers would see no degradation in product quality,” said Dinneen.
2015 RFA Lifetime Award, Bob Reynolds

During his career, Reynolds authored numerous studies on the transportation and logistics of oxygenated fuels and was deeply engaged in projects involving fuel blending, product quality assurance, and terminal operations. In his nearly three and a half decades of working with the RFA, Reynolds had a hand in nearly every aspect of the downstream portion of the fuels industry. The ethanol industry continues to benefit from his work in developing fuel standards and technical guidelines for auto manufacturers and his ability to find common ground within the oil and automotive industries.
Interview with Bob Reynolds, RFA Award Winner

nec15-quad-awardIn recognition of their achievements in advancing the use of cellulosic ethanol technology, RFA presented Delayne Johnson and his Cellerate team at Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) with the 2015 Industry Award.

“Delayne and his team have worked tirelessly toward making the production of cellulosic ethanol a reality,” said Dinneen. “The company helped officially kick off a new era, not only for the company but for the entire biofuel industry, when it opened its 2-million-gallon cellulosic bolt-on facility in Galva, Iowa, last September. Their breakthrough technology reflects their leadership in the industry and their commitment to innovation.”

Cellerate process technology is a collaborative effort between Syngenta and QCCP’s subsidiary company Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies LLC that QCCP licenses to other ethanol plants. Cellerate, which was previously known as the Adding Cellulosic Ethanol process, was invented by QCCP plant engineer Travis Brotherson.

2015 RFA Industry Award, Quad County Corn Processors

Cellerate process technology is a collaborative effort between Syngenta and QCCP’s subsidiary company Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies LLC that QCCP licenses to other ethanol plants.

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

EPA Official Apologizes to Ethanol Industry

nec15-grundlerLast year at the National Ethanol Conference, EPA’s Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality told the ethanol industry that the agency intended to finalize the volume requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by the end of spring 2014.

As everyone knows, that never happened and today EPA’s Chris Grundler began his remarks to the ethanol conference with an apology. “I wanted to come to Texas and personally tell you all how sorry I am that we did not get our work done,” he said. “We did not finalize a standard in 2014 that I promised we would when I appeared before all of you in Orlando.”

Gundler offered no excuses but pledged to get the RFS back on track with a three year standard for 2014, 2015 and 2016 that they hope to have done by the end of this spring. “Obviously implementing the RFS has been very challenging for us,” he said, noting that finalizing annual rules has been a “tall order.”

Listen to all of Grundler’s remarks here: EPA's Chris Grundler at NEC 15

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

RFA CEO Unveils 10-Point Ethanol Industry Plan

nec15-dinneen-sotiDuring his traditional State of the Industry speech at the National Ethanol Conference, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen today unveiled a 10-point plan for the future of the ethanol industry.

“The state of the ethanol industry is strong,” Dinneen declared, highlighting last year’s success despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) indecision and proposed cuts to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), pointing to the expansion of the ethanol market globally, and highlighting the emergence of cellulosic ethanol.

But, Dinneen says “there is much work left to do” and “RFA is committed to an aggressive 10-point agenda that will move the industry forward and assure continued growth and evolution.”

1. Get the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) on a growth trajectory that will crack the blend wall and motivate investment in new cellulose technologies
2. Grow market opportunities for higher-level ethanol blends including E15 and E85
3. Secure parity for E10 and E15 with respect to EPA’s RVP regulations
4. Expand export markets
5. Create a level playing field for cellulosic biofuels by securing a long-term tax incentive
6. Develop a roadmap for Renewable Super Premium (RSP)
7. Support low carbon fuels programs “done right” and developed with the best available science
8. Improve railroad service while prioritizing highly volatile crude oil for railcar safety modifications
9. Continue to promote safety practices and procedures both at the plant and in the transport of ethanol
10 Provide detailed technical guidance that establishes a solid foundation for the industry’s fuel marketplace and policy priorities

Read Dinneen’s remarks, see the video of the remarks, and download the audio here: RFA CEO Bob Dinneen Remarks at NEC 15

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

20th National Ethanol Conference Kicks Off

nec15-bob-kennyFootball Hall of Fame member Kenny Houston helped Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen get the early activities for the 20th annual National Ethanol Conference underway on Ash Wednesday in Dallas.

Houston is a former American football defensive back who played for the Houston Oilers and then the Washington Redskins between 1967 and 1980, but today he was on the golf course instead of the football field for the annual NEC golf tournament. While he was greeting golfers, two bus loads of conference attendees headed to downtown Dallas to step back in history and learn more about that fateful day in November 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Dinneen is excited to be celebrating 20 years of ethanol this year and happy to see so many from the industry making the trip to Dallas this week. “We’re coming off the single most profitable year in the industry’s history, but at the same time we’re looking at another tough year – it’s a commodity market,” said Dinneen. “But this is an industry that has been seasoned, that has seen tough times, that has seen good times, and is prepared for either.”

The theme of this year’s conference is Going Global and Dinneen says the program will focus on the future of the ethanol industry in the export market, which Dinneen says is already booming. “It was critical to the industry’s profitability last year,” said Dinneen, noting exports of 836 million gallons, or about six percent of production, to over 50 countries worldwide.

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Bob here and tune in at 8:10 am Central time tomorrow to hear his state of the industry speech live: Interview with Bob Dinneen, RFA

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

USGC Helped Move DDGS Exports in 2014

usgc-winter-grayThe U.S. Grains Council (USGC) held its winter meeting last week in Costa Rica where more than 250 delegates met to take a look back at last year and assess export opportunities.

Chairman Ron Gray says one of big issues of 2014 was with the ethanol co-product distillers grains (DDGS) and China. “At the end of the year, our exports were one of the highest years for DDGS on record,” said Gray. “The Grains Council was instrumental in mitigating that process so that trade can continue.”

Gray, who is a farmer from Illinois, believes it’s important for producers to be involved in trade policy. “I think combines would be easier to fix than trade policy,” he said. “We try to address the next problem so we can keep trade moving.”

Gray says U.S. sorghum picked up some exports to China last year to pick up the slack caused by the biotech trait issue with corn, which allowed them to remain active in the market, but ultimately it’s the growing demand for corn that is benefiting farmers back home.

USDA Secretary Returns to Commodity Classic

classic14-vilsack-stageU.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will visit the Commodity Classic next week for the sixth year in a row to address the annual convention and trade show for corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers. The secretary will deliver a keynote address to several thousand farmers and ag allies during the event’s General Session on Friday, Feb. 27, in Phoenix, Arizona.

“We’re thrilled to be welcoming Secretary Vilsack back to Commodity Classic,” said National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling. “With so much going on in our nation’s capital that impact their lives, the audience will be eager to get his report on the top issues facing our growers, such as trade and the farm bill. He always provides an experienced, deep-inside-Washington perspective.”

The 20th annual Commodity Classic takes place Feb. 26-28, 2015, at the Phoenix Convention Center.

The Andersons Grain Group Head to Retire

Dennis Addis (left) and Neill McKinstray

Dennis Addis (left) and Neill McKinstray

The Andersons, Inc. Grain Group President Denny Addis has announced plans to retire in May. According to the company, Ethanol Group president Neill C. McKinstray will assume leadership over both groups at that time.

“Denny has a stellar 43-year record with The Andersons and during his tenure has exhibited faithful service and exceptional leadership,” says Hal Reed, Chief Operating Officer.

Addis began his career with the company in 1971 bagging fertilizer and loading trucks as a part-time employee while a student at the University of Toledo. He spent all but three of his 43 years in the Plant Nutrient Group, ultimately serving as the group’s president for 11 years. He has served as the president of the Grain Group since 2012.

McKinstray is a 39-year veteran with The Andersons, including more than 30 years working at increasing levels of responsibility in the Grain Group. In 2011 he was named as President of the newly-formed Ethanol Group, which he has led with great success.

Golden Grain Marks Billion Gallons of Ethanol

Golden Grain Energy in Mason City, Iowa is celebrating the production of its one billionth gallon of ethanol this month.

gge-billion-shirts“This is a huge occasion for the plant, the staff, and the community as a whole,” said Chad Kuhlers, Chief Operations Officer of Golden Grain Energy. “I believe we are the first single location ethanol plant in the country to reach this production mark and it couldn’t have been done without the support from the shareholders, community and the great work from our employees over the years.”

The ethanol plant, which started production in December 2004, celebrated the milestone on Monday during its annual meeting with special guests including Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Plant employees wore special t-shirts to note the special occasion.

gge-grassley“This achievement represents a lot of work from farmer to producer to truck driver. Each stage of production leads to a tremendously beneficial final product,” said Sen. Grassley.

“This remarkable milestone by Golden Grain Energy is a great opportunity to celebrate the tremendous impact this plant and the 42 other ethanol refineries have had in reducing our dependence on foreign oil, protecting our environment and boosting the Iowa economy,” added Northey.

That billion gallons of ethanol represents over 351 million bushels of corn and a nice boost for the local economy, according to American Coalition for Ethanol Executive Vice President Brian Jennings. “Golden Grain Energy has … paid out more than $2 billion dollars to corn farmers, suppliers and service providers, and employees, and returned nearly $137 million dollars to its investors,” said Jennings in a congratulatory statement.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen was on hand at the company’s groundbreaking ceremony in 2003. “It has been a privilege to watch the company grow and thrive and I can’t wait to see where they will take it from here,” said Dinneen.

Golden Grain Energy has a nameplate capacity of 115 million gallons per year.

Midwest Governors Pen NY Times Op-Ed

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad have an op-ed piece in the New York Times today rebutting a recent controversial, oil industry-funded report from the World Resources Institute about renewable fuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

“The World Resources Institute’s report suggests that the world’s agricultural system can’t possibly meet future demands for food and bioenergy in a sustainable way,” the governors write. “We disagree, based on data and recent real-world experience. As governors of two states at the forefront of the nation’s bioeconomy, we have witnessed firsthand the sustainable development of robust and dynamic bioenergy industries.”

We recognize the need for future technological advancements and are optimistic that recent high-tech innovations in precision agriculture will continue to meet the future food and energy demands of a growing world population. Our agricultural system can — and will — continue to meet those demands in a way that is environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and economically efficient.

Read the whole op-ed here.

New President for POET-DSM Joint Venture

POET DSM logoPOET-DSM Advanced Biofuels has announced that Dan Cummings will serve as first president for the joint venture.

“Dan has more than 25 years of experience in the energy sector, and we’re excited to have him leveraging that knowledge to grow cellulosic ethanol production for the world,” said Jeff Lautt, Chairman of the POET-DSM Board. “We look forward to Dan taking the reins and leading this joint venture into 2015.”

cummingsCummings, who previously served as President and Director of INEOS New Planet BioEnergy, will oversee day-to-day operations of POET-DSM, represent the joint venture publicly, and coordinate functions between the parent companies. He will also act as the central point of contact for external relations, which includes all technology licensing activities for POET-DSM worldwide.

“This joint venture has already proven it can change the world, and I look forward to working with the individuals who helped make that happen,” Cummings said. “After two decades in the energy and clean tech sectors, I’m excited to start this new journey with POET-DSM.”

POET-DSM announced the startup phase in September for its 20 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant, which will later ramp up to 25 million gallons per year. The Emmetsburg, Iowa plant, dubbed “Project LIBERTY,” uses corn cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk to make renewable fuel. The joint venture is now marketing its LIBERTYTM Technology package to third parties for continued energy development.