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.

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.

Iowa RFA Pleased with Election Results

branstad-ernstThe Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) is pleased with the results of Tuesday’s election in the state and the strong support for renewable fuels among the winning candidates.

“It’s not surprising that ethanol and biodiesel enjoy broad, bipartisan support in Iowa,” stated IRFA PAC Treasurer Walt Wendland. “It’s also encouraging to see that renewable fuels will remain in good hands in Iowa. We look forward to working with all of the 2014 election winners for state and federal offices to continue to preserve and advance Iowa’s leadership in renewable fuels production, agriculture and environmental stewardship.”

In the races for federal office, Iowa elected Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate, and David Young and Rod Blum to the U.S. House. Iowans also re-elected Governor Terry Branstad, and Reps. Steve King and Dave Loebsack. Each winning candidate reported strong support for renewable fuels and the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in IRFA’s renewable fuels candidate survey.

Two-Thirds of New Vehicles Approved for E15

E15-americasAuto manufacturers explicitly approve the use of E15 (15 percent ethanol blend fuel) in approximately two-thirds of new vehicles, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

RFA’s analysis of model year (MY) 2015 warranty statements and owner’s manuals finds that nearly 63 percent of MY 2015 vehicles will have E15 approval from their manufacturers. E15 is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for all 2001 and newer vehicles — accounting for roughly 80 percent of the vehicles on the road today. When coupled with expected MY 2015 flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) production, it is estimated that E15 will be allowed in close to 70 percent of MY 2015 vehicles. Manufacturers approve the use of up to 85 percent ethanol blends in FFVs.

The RFA analysis revealed several interesting trends:

After approving the use of E15 in some of its 2014 Honda and Acura models, Honda Motor Company has extended E15 warranty coverage to all models in 2015.

All Toyota models in 2015 include explicit E15 approval, up from just a fraction of Toyota models in 2014. Just as in 2014, E15 is approved for use in most, but not all, 2015 Lexus models.

For the fourth year in a row, General Motors approves the use of E15 in all models. Similarly, E15 is approved in all Ford models for the third year in a row. Vehicles from these two automakers alone account for roughly one-third of sales in the United States.

Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche, and Volkswagen also expressly approved the use of E15 in their 2015 models.

The analysis also found that the Chrysler Group failed for the fourth year in a row to approve the use of E15 in owners’ manuals for its models. Despite that, a significant share of Chrysler output is expected to be FFV-capable, meaning E15 is approved for use in those vehicles.

Growth Energy Staffer on Advisory Committee

growth-energy-logoU.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has appointed Jim Miller, Growth Energy’s Vice President and Chief Economist, to a position on the Department of Commerce’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee. The departmental committee was established to advise the Secretary on programs and policies to expand U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency exports.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help increase awareness of the importance of renewable fuels as well as expand markets across the globe to help export clean, sustainable energy that will help create jobs right here at home, while improving the environment around the globe and reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels,” said Miller.

Miller previously served as the Senior Policy Advisor on the Budget Committee under Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). Prior to his service on Capitol Hill, Miller was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Also appointed to the committee was Kelly Davis of the Renewable Fuels Association.

RFA’s Davis Appointed to Advisory Committee

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis has been appointed to the Department of Commerce’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee.

According to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the function of the committee is to “provide consensus advice on the development and administration of programs and policies to expand U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency exports.”

“It is truly an honor to be selected by Secretary Pritzker to serve on the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee,” said Davis. “I look forward to having a seat at the table and helping Secretary Pritzker ensure that our global trading partners understand and appreciate the benefits of U.S. produced ethanol in reducing consumer gasoline prices, improving energy diversity and security, and addressing climate change.”

Davis recently participated in a trade mission to China, led by USDA Under Secretary Michael Scuse, to promote U.S. ethanol and co-products and strengthen the trade relationship between the two countries. Last year, she joined a similar trade mission, led by the U.S. Grains Council, to South Korea and Japan. The RFA board of directors has made opening new markets for ethanol and distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) abroad a top priority, and Davis’ appointment to this prestigious advisory committee reflects that commitment.

Simplifying Propane Autogas Dispensers

2014 World LP Gas Forum Photo Album

perc-wlpgf14-superiorOne of the keys to getting more propane-powered vehicles on the road is getting more propane autogas fueling infrastructure and making it safe and simple for users.

Superior Energy Systems offers a whole line of autogas dispensing systems and during a Propane Education & Research Council event at the World LP Gas Forum, Mike Walters talked about how they are making it so easy your grandmother can use it. “The whole idea is to get autogas fueling to the point of being so similar to gasoline that people aren’t afraid of it,” said Walters, showing off what they nicknamed the Granny Nozzle. “It’s so simple that granny can pull into the C-store and fuel up her SUV without having to have personal protective equipment.”

“What we’re talking about here is low emission transfer versus no emission transfer,” Walters said.

Listen to Walters here and watch the video below to see the system. Mike Walters, Superior Energy Systems

PERC Names Top Propane Autogas Green Fleet

alpha-bakingChicago-based Alpha Baking Company received this year’s Propane Autogas Fleet award from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) at the annual Green Fleet Conference & Expo in Schaumburg, Illinois this week.

The award honors one public or private fleet every year for leadership in sustainability by switching to clean, American-made propane autogas. Alpha Baking, a national bakery products distributor and home to the iconic S. Rosen’s brand, developed and implemented 22 Ford E-450 bread delivery trucks in 2012 with the help of Roush CleanTech.

“Alpha Baking’s primary reason for adopting propane autogas was because it was the right thing to do. Propane autogas reduces harmful emissions, it’s made in the U.S., it reduces our dependency on foreign oil, it’s efficient, and it keeps our communities clean,” said Bob McGuire, Alpha Baking’s vice president and director of logistics, who accepted the award during the Green Fleet Awards ceremony. “Choosing vehicles that run on American-made propane autogas has also allowed us to lower fuel costs without sacrificing performance.”

Hear more about Alpha Baking’s experience with propane autogas in PERC’s latest Straight Talk video at propanestraighttalk.com.

Promoting American Ethanol Texas Style

American-Ethanol-and-NASCAR-LogoThey say that everything is bigger in Texas so it’s appropriate that one of the largest E15 promotions of the year will be held this weekend about the benefits of American Ethanol for NASCAR fans at the Texas Motor Speedway.

“We have done 12 major promotions this year and have exposed millions of NASCAR fans to the performance and environmental benefits of Sunoco Green E15, but there is a lot of excitement surrounding this event,” said Jon Holzfaster, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s NASCAR Advisory Committee. “American Ethanol will be everywhere at this race, on the track, on the Midway, in the campgrounds and even on Big Hoss.”

big-hossBig Hoss is the world’s largest, high-definition LED video board, stands 218 feet wide by 94.5 feet tall and features 20,633.64 square feet of high-definition display. The 108 ton beast of a screen will be showing an American Ethanol video throughout the race.

American Ethanol partners Growth Energy and NCGA are joining forces with the Texas Corn Producers to make sure E15 fuel is prominently promoted at this high profile race.

The contest for the NASCAR Championship is now in its third round, and results in Texas and Phoenix will trim the field to only four drivers who will be eligible to win the Sprint Cup Trophy on November 16. As a result, tens of thousands of fans are expected to flock to the full weekend of races, with millions more tuning in on Sunday for the marquis Sprint Cup duel. Every car will be fueled with E15, and will sport the green American Ethanol fuel port as they have all season.

PERC Debuts New Videos at World LPG Forum

perc-wlpgf-willisThe Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) released a series of online videos with leading U.S. equipment manufacturers highlighting their investment in developing and commercializing new propane technologies. The videos debuted to an international crowd at the 2014 World LP Gas Forum in Miami, where they ran continuously on screens in the PERC showcase at the event.

Companies featured in the series include Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Generac, Kohler Engines and Power Systems, Marathon, Origin Engines, Power Solutions International, and Roush CleanTech. “These world-class companies continue to build and commercialize new equipment that runs on propane for good reason: Propane is a smart investment. It’s clean, economical, and it performs,” said Roy Willis, PERC president and CEO. “On top of that, these companies stand behind propane because it’s an American-made fuel that supports American jobs and our domestic energy independence.”

At the LPG forum, Willis spoke to members of various industry publications that focus on different sectors where propane is used – from agriculture and on-road, to commercial landscaping, building and residential. PERC is an industry checkoff program which has been in existence since 1998, and Willis explained how they have transitioned in recent years from a focus on marketing and advertising to developing new technologies. “The industry recognized that to grow our industry we needed to expand beyond our existing customer base and to do so we needed propane technology that customer base could use,” said Willis.

Listen to Willis’ comments here: Roy Willis, PERC president and CEO

2014 World LP Gas Forum Photo Album