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.
House Energy Committee member Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) is leaning toward a legislative fix for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
“The reality is the 2007 bill…was not a good bill in that it said there would have this supply (of cellulosic ethanol) which never materialized,” Shimkus said during an interview at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur Tuesday. “Because of this we have this mechanism to identify what’s being put in the market, called a RIN, and there’s volatility in that RIN pricing.”
Shimkus represents both sides of the issue in his district on the Eastern side of Illinois. “I’ve got corn growers, I’ve got renewable refiners and I’ve got petroleum refiners,” he said. “We’re going to try to fix the volatility of the RINS … but the RFS is not going away.”
The congressman expects his committee will approve and the House will move something to address the volatility and the Senate will be having a hearing on the RFS next month.
The newly confirmed head of the Environmental Protection Agency visited the Iowa State Fair last week where she spoke to farmers and met with environmentalists.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stressed her goal of building a better relationship with farmers. “My commitment to you is that at the end of my term, we will have a stronger, more productive, more trusting relationship between EPA and the agriculture community,” she said during her brief remarks.
In an interview with USDA Radio from Iowa, McCarthy was positive about the role of renewable fuels going forward. “We’re at a pretty exciting time,” she said. “We are seeing a lot of activity, especially here in Iowa where they have advanced ethanol plants. We’re working closely with the farming community and we’re looking at new feedstocks all the time, new ways of producing biofuels.”
Earlier this month, the EPA published the final 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumetric blending requirements, or Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO), and McCarthy says they support the RFS. “We see that the Renewable Fuel Standard is operating effectively, that the law gives us plenty of tools and flexibility that we can move this forward,” she said.
McCarthy was just confirmed as the administrator of EPA last month.
Despite a wet spring causing a challenging start to the season, the 2013 corn crop is still looking to break new ground this year, according to the latest USDA production estimate out today.
Corn production is forecast at 13.8 billion bushels, up 28 percent from 2012. If realized, this will be a new record production for the United States. Based on conditions as of August 1, yields are expected to average 154.4 bushels per acre, up 31.0 bushels from 2012. If realized, this will be the highest average yield since 2009. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 89.1 million acres, unchanged from the June forecast but up 2 percent from 2012.
Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) CEO Bob Dinneen says the average yield, which would be the third-highest yield on record, is significant considering farmers had one of the slowest, wettest planting seasons on record. “After the disappointment of last year’s drought-stricken crop, farmers have responded by producing what is likely to be the largest crop of all time,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “By rapidly adopting new seed and equipment technologies over the past decade, this country’s corn growers have distinguished themselves as the most productive in the world.”
Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President for the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), says the quick recovery from last year’s devastating drought shows that the Renewable Fuel Standard is able to work as intended. “The RFS provides an economic incentive for scientists and farmers to innovate and sustainably deliver more corn, enabling the total U.S. corn supply to reach 14.5 billion bushels this year and making room in the market for adequate and affordable food, feed, and fuel,” Jennings said. “Since the RFS was originally enacted in 2005, these advancements have driven U.S. farmers to produce around 20 bushels more corn per acre than before.”
A first-of-its-kind joint trade mission to Brazil has been scheduled to “improve and enhance biofuels trade by matching businesses seeking greater trade opportunities in ethanol and other biofuels as well as green technology designed to expand and enhance biofuel production.”
The trade mission, which will be held Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, will focus on introducing importers and exporters of biofuel and biofuel technology, in an effort to enhance bilateral relationships and enhance trade opportunities. The effort was engineered through a partnership between the aforementioned biofuel advocates, and the Brazil-U.S. Business Council (BUSBC), which represents key businesses from the United States and Brazil that have interests in promoting free trade between the two countries. The BUSBC, which is a part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is helping to administer the matchmaking mission as part of its Export Green Initiative, which was created through funding from the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce to promote U.S. exports of renewable and green commodities and technologies.
Learn more about the mission here.
The answers echoed CEO’s Tom Buis’ testimony on the RFS during the stakeholder hearing this week.“The RFS was enacted nearly six years ago – it is time for the petroleum industry to move to higher biofuel blends and comply with the law,” said Buis. “The easiest way to comply is to simply blend E15 and higher ethanol blends.”
Buis also noted that moving to higher blends of ethanol would address RIN costs as well, stating: “The easiest way to bring down RIN prices and reduce compliance costs is to increase market access for higher blends of biofuels. If the major oil companies stop erecting artificial hurdles to E15 and midlevel ethanol blends, there would be ample RINs available to meet obligations under the RFS.” Tom Buis RFS testimony
Questions answered by RFA in the paper include: Does EPA’s annual (Renewable Volume Obligation) setting process work well or are there concerns?
Are the cellulosic biofuel provisions in the RFS working well or do they need to be changed?
How can EPA improve its enforcement of the RIN credit trading program?
What is responsible for the rise in ethanol RIN prices in 2013?
Are increases in RIN prices likely to affect the production or marketing of renewable fuels?
RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen touched on most of these issues during his testimony to the committee this week. “Congress did an excellent job crafting the RFS and building in a great deal of administrative and market flexibility,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with the RFS that can’t be fixed by what is right with the RFS.”
On the subject of RINS (Renewable Indentification Numbers), Dinneen had this to say. “RINS are free!” he said. “Ethanol producers are required to give RINS to refiners and gasoline marketers when they purchase a gallon of ethanol. Buy a gallon of ethanol, get a RIN for free.”
The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee this week unanimously approved the nominations of Krysta Harden to serve as deputy secretary of agriculture and Robert Bonnie to serve as under secretary for natural resources and the environment.
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) congratulated Harden on her confirmation. “Krysta Harden is the right person for the job,” said Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the RFA. “Her years as Chief of Staff at USDA, her work on Capitol Hill, and her vast understanding of value-added agriculture gleaned from years working for farmers and biofuels have all given her the knowledge and insight needed to fill this very important position as Deputy Secretary at USDA. Just as she has been confirmed in the past, we are eager to see her sweep through the approval process and look forward to her full confirmation by the U.S. Senate.”
Harden has been nominated to succeed Kathleen Merrigan in the second-highest post at USDA Bonnie, while Bonnie, who has been a senior advisor to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, would succeed Harris Sherman in the post of natural resources under secretary.
This inaugural event was held at one of the world’s most iconic dirt tracks, Eldora Speedway in Ohio. The race, which was the first NASCAR-sanctioned national event held on a dirt track since 1970, brought American Ethanol to the forefront as Dillon finished in front in the No. 39 American Ethanol Chevrolet truck.
Dillon detailed his journey from Chicago to Ohio, and the role ethanol played, in a blog, providing a look at how flex fuel vehicles, E85 and E15 can help consumers save money as gas prices rise faster than the summer temperatures.
Dillon will race next in the NASCAR Nationwide Series™ race to be held in Indiana this Saturday followed by an appearance in the Sprint Cup Series™ race on Sunday. American Ethanol will be on site promoting the benefits of the biofuel all weekend.
Increased ethanol production has been good for corn growers, bad for poultry producers, but has overall helped increase farm income to record levels according to some testimony given in a House hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this week.
National Chicken Council (NCC) Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Bill Roenigk said at the hearing that poultry producers have struggled with rising feed costs. “Since the RFS was implemented in October 2006, the feed costs for chicken, turkey and eggs have gone up $50 billion,” he said. “More troubling than the higher costs is the volatility and trying to outguess the market.” Bill Roenigk Testimony
Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt told the hearing that farm income and land values have risen dramatically since implementation of the RFS. “Higher farm incomes on crop farms benefited rural communities as that higher income spread through local purchases of farm and consumer goods and services,” Hurt said. “In addition, expansion of the ethanol industry in rural communities added some employment and related economic activity.” While feed costs have increased and the crop sector has done better than livestock, Hurt said the livestock industries appear to in a recovery phase. Dr. Chris Hurt Testimony
There may be some issues with the Renewable Fuel Standard that need to be addressed, but they could be done at the administrative level, rather than repealing the entire law or having Congress make changes. That according to a Senior Scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists Clean Vehicles Program.
Dr. Jeremy Martin testified at a House Energy subcommittee hearing this week that they believe the RFS is an important policy tool and should remain in place and no legislative changes should be made to it. “Fortunately the RFS was designed with a great deal of flexibility,” Dr. Martin said. “We’re not moving forward as fast as we hoped to be in 2007 but the RFS is still pointing us in the right direction.”
Martin noted that the real goal of the RFS is to move beyond corn-based ethanol into advanced and cellulosic biofuels, but that can only be achieved if the law remains in place. “The RFS is based on smart goals, not just more biofuels but better biofuels,” he said, noting that repeal or legislative changes “would lock in place the status quo of 90% gasoline and 10% corn ethanol and chill investment in cellulosic biofuels just as the first commercial facilities are starting up.”
Some lawmakers during a House Energy subcommittee hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) attempted to work toward getting some compromise between the two sides of the debate.
One side, represented by the oil industry, wants to see the RFS completely repealed. The other side, represented by the biofuels industry, would prefer no change to the law. Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) expressed his frustration with both sides digging in their heels on the issue. “We could have had this hearing in January and I would have gotten the same freaking answers out of you all,” said Shimkus. “We got your sides, we know what they are, that’s not really being constructive because we’ve got some issues we need to address.”
The congressman then asked the first panel, consisting of two oil industry representatives and two biofuels representatives and one scientist, if they would be willing to compromise somewhere between repeal and status quo on the RFS. As Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, started going into why he thought the law should be repealed, Shimkus cut him off. “We’re back to the same thing now,” he said. The rest of the panel agreed they would work with Congress, with certain caveats, leading Shimkus to conclude “If you keep these positions, no one’s going to be happy and nothing’s going to get done.”
Two days of hearings featuring 16 witnesses representing a wide variety of stakeholders impacted by the Renewable Fuel Standard are being held this week by the Energy and Power subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Testimony will be presented by representatives of oil, automotive, ethanol, biodiesel, advanced biofuels, corn farmers, poultry, environmental and restaurant organizations, among others. “I give the House Energy Committee credit for creating a process that is designed to come to a clearer understanding of the impact of the RFS,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen, who is on the first witness panel starting Tuesday morning. In written testimony submitted prior to the hearing, Dinneen stated, “By virtually any measure, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has been an unmitigated success.”
Scheduled on the second panel is Tom Buis, president and CEO of Growth Energy. “We certainly look forward to that opportunity to be able to tell the facts,” said Buis, adding that Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) both indicated they want “to get the facts out on the table” and “if Congress is doing its job they will take this seriously.”
The first part of the hearing begins at 9:45 am on Tuesday and will continue at 1:30 pm on Wednesday.
Fuels America coalition members today announced the launch of a new ad campaign with the theme of choice when it comes to our energy future. The campaign is targeted to policy makers in Washington DC and focused on supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) which is under continued attack by the oil and food industries.
“We’re talking about the fundamental choice America is facing when it comes to our fuel mix – do we want alternatives to oil or not?” asked Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “We’re about choice, we’re about market access.”
Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis stressed the importance of energy supply diversity. “Just as you wouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket in any business, we shouldn’t do it as a nation in our fuel choice,” he said. “Oil has tried everything they can …and now this desperate attempt to change the (RFS) because they’re afraid of competition.”
Novozymes North America president Adam Monroe said the RFS has helped increase investment in advanced biofuels. “We’ve developed the technologies, we’re building the plants, so why are the opponents attacking us as we’re crossing the finish line?” he asked. “Like most disruptive technologies and alternatives, they’re very serious threats to an existing monopoly.”
Representatives of the renewable fuels industry, including Dinneen and Buis, will be among those taking part in a House subcommittee hearing this week about the RFS.
“Making Sustainability Work” was the theme of the 2013 Southern Peanut Growers Conference this past week and one of the sessions was devoted to energy efficiency, including the use of solar on the farm.
Peter Marte with Hannah Solar of Atlanta, Georgia says solar energy is getting to be more popular for farming operations because costs have come down. “It’s no longer expensive, the price has dropped 80% over the last three years,” he said. For that reason, Marte encourages farmers to take another look at the possibilities for their operations. “If you haven’t gotten a quote for solar this week – not last month, not a year ago, this week – you don’t have a quote for solar.”
Marte says Hannah Solar has completed a number of agricultural projects around the state of Georgia and many that have benefited from utility company buy back programs. “We’ve done a lot with peanut farmers,” he said, highlighting one example of an irrigation pivot offset system. “So in the winter months when he’s not using the irrigation pivot … he’s still getting compensated for that energy at a fair rate.”
Other projects include the American Peanut Growers shelling plant, which is one of the biggest rooftop solar arrays in the state, solar barns and more. Find out more in this interview with Marte from the peanut growers conference – Interview with Peter Marte, Hannah Solar