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.

Ethanol 2015 Outlook and Pocket Guide Available

rfa-outlook-2015at the 20th Annual National Ethanol Conference, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) released the updated Ethanol Industry Outlook and Pocket Guide to Ethanol for 2015.

RFA’s two most popular publications touch on every core issue facing the ethanol industry today, providing readers with the most up-to-date information available. New data and statistics give a sense to the incredible progress the industry has made and where it is headed with in-depth looks at key topics that include the Renewable Fuel Standard, energy security, the environment, impacts on the economy, U.S. agriculture, international trade, transportation, and cellulosic technology.

The 2015 Ethanol Industry Outlook and Pocket Guide to Ethanol are available in print and online at www.EthanolRFA.org.

Ethanol Conference Going Global Panel

nec15-global-panelThe theme of the 20th National Ethanol Conference was “Going Global,” and the title panel featured five international experts to discuss building ethanol demand in new markets.

Moderated by Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) general counsel Ed Hubbard, the panel included Pedro Paranhos of Eco-Energy; Lakeview Energy CEO Jim Galvin; Henrique Pacini of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Mike Dwyer with the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service; and Robert Wright with ePure.

Hubbard started off the conversation, pointing out that while the U.S. ethanol industry hit record-breaking levels of ethanol exports to the world – 836 million gallons in 2014 – there’s still room for growth.

“As long as U.S. made ethanol provides a valuable, cheaper and cleaner alternative to petroleum-based gasoline, it will continue to be sought all over the globe. This panel’s goal is to help you identify some opportunities, new and expanded, to address some of the challenges we face as we move forward,” Hubbard said.

Paranhos echoed those sentiments, as he broke down how Brazil has seen its overall ethanol market grow over the last 10 years but has plateaued in the last few. Part of that is some of the same issues U.S. ethanol producers are facing: economics and regulatory, in America’s case, the blend wall. The panel talked about how export markets are helped the most by mandates, which help fuel growth of ethanol. Presenters pointed out that producers need to consider sustainability and environmental factors to meet certain countries’ and regions’ requirements to get into those markets, which also, in turn, return better profits for ethanol plants.

Dwyer told those attending that ethanol has made tremendous global gains over the past few years – impressive when you consider the green fuel had to overcome the “food-versus-fuel” debate and a 54-cent-per-gallon tax on ethanol exports.

“In 2008, when I took over this job, if I had told you that the U.S. would become the world’s largest exporter of ethanol, you would have thought I was drinking that ethanol,” he said, pointing out how while gasoline consumption has dropped in the U.S., it’s growing worldwide, making American ethanol competitive on the global market. “A lot has happened in five years.”

The panel members said, even when you consider where ethanol has been and the obstacles ahead, there still is great potential for growth worldwide.

Listen to the panel’s complete remarks here: NEC 15 Going Global Panel

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

South Dakotan Wins E85 “Post Your Price” Contest

rfa-sd-e85-2During the National Ethanol Conference last week, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) announced the winner of the E85 “Post Your Price” contest.

Scott LeBrun of South Dakota was chosen at random to receive one year of free E85 in the contest, which was announced last October and concluded last Tuesday, asking individuals to submit photos of E85 prices nationwide. The photos received will assist RFA in gathering data on E85 prices to determine how the higher-level fuel blend is being priced in markets across the country.

In addition to the overall winner, RFA also awarded free E85 for a month to the individuals participating in the contest that submitted pictures with the largest and smallest disparity between the E85 price and the price of regular unleaded gasoline. Michael Scholl submitted a photo of a station in Hartford, Michigan, that had E85 at $1.64/gallon and regular unleaded at $2.89/gallon. Additionally, Douglas Cochran identified a station in Albany, Georgia, listing E85 at $1.94/gallon and regular unleaded at $1.68/gallon. The price disparity at the Georgia station goes to show there are still marketers not passing through the real savings of E85 to consumers.

RFA Chairman Pleased with 20th Ethanol Conference

nec15-doyleRenewable Fuels Association (RFA) chairman and Al-Corn Clean Fuel CEO Randy Doyal was pleased with this year’s turnout at the 20th National Ethanol Conference in the “heart of oil country.”

“This has been a really great conference,” said Doyal, whose farmer-owned cooperative plant in Claremont, Minnesota is about 20 years old as well. “Twenty years ago when we were starting the plant we had, for the first time, five dollar corn,” he said. “It was perfect timing because we got up and running when a lot of the industry was ceasing because of that price and because of our co-op nature we were able to do that.”

Doyal is a firm believer in the RFA and what they are able to accomplish as an organization for the entire industry, and he wishes all producers were members. He compares it to the co-op structure of his plant. “There’s a reason why co-ops work,” he said. “It’s because people join together and work hard to achieve common goals and that’s what RFA is all about.” Interview with RFA Chairman Randy Doyal, Al-Corn

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Political Insiders Provide Ethanol Policy Perspective

nec15-insiders-panelRenewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen welcomed back veteran Washington Insiders panelists at the 20th National Ethanol Conference last week, kind of like a Saturday Night Live reunion, he joked.

The panelists were National Corn Growers Association Executive Vice President Jon Doggett, John Eichberger with the National Association of Convenience Stores, Bob Greco of the American Petroleum Institute, Shane Karr with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman. Each offered their views on a number of policy and political topics from what Congress may do regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to who the presidential candidates will be in 2016.

NEC 15 Washington Insiders Panel

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Where RFA and EPA Disagree

nec15-dinneen-grundlerEPA Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality Chris Grundler was sincere and apologetic during his appearance at the National Ethanol Conference last week, but he admits to having areas of disagreement with Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen.

“E15 will never realize its full potential until there is parity with regard to EPA volatility regulations for E10 and E15,” said Dinneen in his State of the Industry speech at the 20th annual ethanol conference. “To date, the Agency has rejected our efforts to secure parity, thereby ensuring that E15 is at best a seasonal fuel, a huge disincentive for marketers to adopt E15 at their stations.”

Asked about this issue by DomesticFuel, Grundler said, “That’s one of the areas that Bob and I have vigorous debates on, because I’m questioning how big a factor that is in terms of the slow uptake in E15.”

Grundler said parity is not an issue in regions where reformulated gasoline is required. “That accounts for between 30 and 40 percent of our fuel supply …. including places like Chicago,” he said, adding that governors have the ability to petition EPA to remove this one pound RVP waiver for their states but they “have received no such petitions.”

I also asked Grundler what he thought about Dinneen’s criticism of the EPA in his speech. “I didn’t think it was too harsh (but) I didn’t agree with everything he had to say,” said Grundler, adding that he thinks all stakeholders in this issue seem to overestimate EPA’s authority. “That’s where (Bob) and I differ. He thinks we can do some things that I don’t think we can,” he said.

Listen to Grundler’s answers to my questions here: EPA's Chris Grundler press questions

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

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