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.

ACE President Optimistic About Ethanol Industry

ace14-alversonAmerican Coalition for Ethanol president Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol says there are lots of reasons to excited about the ethanol industry right now.

“We’re just super competitive,” Alverson said in his opening comments at the 27th annual ACE conference, showing a graph indicating the positive price spread between ethanol and gasoline. “I think we’re building new markets because of that.”

ace14-ron-billThe new theme for ACE is Power by People and Alverson kicked off the conference by presenting the President’s Award to someone he believes is “one of the finest ethanol advocates” in the industry. That award was given to Bill Couser of Couser Cattle Company in Nevada, Iowa. “He immediately struck me as a very passionate advocate for agriculture and ethanol both,” said Alverson. Interview with ACE president Ron Alverson, Dakota Ethanol

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Increasing Ethanol Yield

cutc-14-novozymesOne way enzyme technology can help ethanol plants is by yielding more ethanol per bushel of corn.

At the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference, Nathan Kreel with Novozymes talked about Olexa, a unique enzyme designed for oil recovery. “We developed it mainly to enhance corn oil extraction for the customer, but we are seeing there are a lot of other benefits,” he said. That includes an increase in ethanol yield, better yeast health, and more efficient fermentation.

“The most important thing is that we see back end process improvements with an average of 13% oil increase,” Kreel said. “It’s a simple drop-in product that is added right to the fermentation and you can see improvements right when it’s used.”

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Nathan Kreel, Novozymes

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Oxygenate from Ethanol and Corn

xfxF Technologies Inc. is an advanced biofuel company that has developed a chemical process to convert corn or biomass plus alcohol (especially ethanol or methanol) into an oxygenate that can be blended with gasoline and diesel.

cutc-14-rob-randle“It’s a completely chemical process – no enzymes, no bacteria, no fermentation,” said Bob Randle of xF Technologies, who spoke at the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference. The end products are furoates – from either ethanol, methanol or butanol – that can then be used as oxygenates for fuel transportation to improve mileage, reduce emissions, increase lubricity, and more.

Randle says the technology offers co-location and add-on opportunities for ethanol and corn wet milling plants. “Because our primary feedstocks are corn and ethanol, or biomass and ethanol,” he said. “We can also be co-located with a cellulosic ethanol plant as well.”

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Bob Randle, xF Technologies

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Grains Council Working on Ethanol Exports

usgrainscouncil1The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is working on promoting exports of U.S. ethanol through a partnership between USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

“We’ve been working since late March, early April to determine which markets we’re going to do market assessments in and then next year we’ll shift into market development activities,” said Ashley Kongs, USGC manager of ethanol export program. The Grains Council is planning three regional market assessment programs this year, going to Japan and Korea in September, Latin America in November, and southeast Asia in early December.

Earlier this year, USGC participated in a trade mission to China with USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse where they were able to discuss the possibility of ethanol exports to that country. “They visited with a Chinese ethanol plant and they had meetings with the National Energy Administration in China,” said Kongs. “Currently ethanol can only be sold in six designated markets in China for blending with fuel, but the group had discussions about the possibility of expanding ethanol use nationwide.” Kongs says while there are challenges in the Chinese market, the Grains Council sees great potential for the future to open the door for U.S. ethanol exports.

USGC continues to build on its success in promoting exports of the ethanol co-product distillers grains and will be again this year joining RFA in hosting the Export Exchange, an international trade conference focused on the export of U.S. coarse grains and ethanol co-products held every two years. Early registration for the event is open until July 31 and USGC and RFA members are eligible for discounted pricing.

EPA Hears Corn Grower Concerns About RFS

Members of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) meeting in Washington DC were able to share their concerns about the delayed rule on 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard with EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

epa-ncga“The number needs to be out, it’s really ridiculous,” said NCGA president Martin Barbre, pictured here on the right with Perciasepe. “He said ‘we’re behind time frame’ and we had some delegates stand up and say ‘you’re not behind time frame, you’re way late.'” The final rule was expected by the end of June but EPA officials say it is being delayed because of the massive volume of comments that need to be studied in order to make a decision.

Barbre says while they appreciate the fact that EPA is taking the time to make sure they make the right decision, delaying it until almost the end of the year causes problems in the market. “Sort of what has created this issue with RINS and that run up in the RINS price is the lateness of the oil companies getting the numbers,” said Barbre. “They’re supposed to have these number in the spring, they get them in the fall, and by the end of the year they have got to have met their obligations. So it puts them in somewhat of a bind.”

“We’re not usually on the side of defending the oil companies, but in this case they just need to get the numbers faster so they can get themselves where they need to be,” Barbre added.

Listen to Barbre’s comments here: Interview with NCGA president Martin Barbre

Ethanol Report on Cost Analysis

ethanol-report-adA new analysis by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) shows that over the past four years, ethanol has been the most economically competitive motor fuel and octane source in the world.

rfa-cooper-headIn this Ethanol Report, RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper gives some of the major findings of the report, talks about why it has particular relevance in the California market, and how the study suggests that the cost of producing ethanol in the US will continue to fall.

Ethanol Report on Cost Analysis

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

Mudsummer Classic Features American Ethanol

dillon-ethanolAmerican Ethanol will be in the spotlight today as driver Austin Dillon will be defending his crown at Eldora Speedway for NASCAR’s Mudsummer Classic World Truck series race in Ohio.

Last year, Dillon won the historic race driving his American Ethanol branded truck, his first truck race since winning NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series championship in 2011.

“Eldora is always an exciting race for NASCAR fans, but it is an exciting opportunity for corn farmers too,” said National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) NASCAR Advisory Committee Chair Jon Holzfaster. “With American Ethanol spokesman Austin Dillon firmly in the spotlight, Eldora provides a great platform to get our message about the environmental and economic benefits ethanol offers all Americans to a broader audience. The buzz continues to grow. Ethanol helps clean our air, improve our economic independence and benefits American consumers and farmers alike.”

American Ethanol is a partnership of Growth Energy and the National Corn Growers Association.

Ethanol Revving up for Sturgis Rally

sturgis-rfaFor the sixth year in a row, motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world will be able to learn more about ethanol, courtesy of the Renewable Fuels Association, at the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

About a half million motorcyclists will be converging on Sturgis, S.D., August 4-7 for the 74th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, presenting an ideal opportunity for RFA to dispel misinformation concerning ethanol use in motorcycles. Among the ways RFA does that is “Free Fuel Happy Hours,” offering a free tank of E10 93-octane fuel to riders at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip campground. RFA is a major sponsor at the popular campground where the message “Ride Safe, Fuel Right” will be seen everywhere, including the main stage where this year’s concert line up includes Lynyrd Skynyrd, Collective Soul, Zac Brown Band, John Mayall, Alice Cooper, ZZ Top and Cheap Trick.

RFA also proudly sponsors the annual “Legends Ride” where proceeds are donated to local charities, including the Black Hills Special Olympics. All “Legends Ride” participants receive free “Fueled with Pride” giveaways and informational materials on ethanol before they embark on the ride that originates in Deadwood, S.D.

DomesticFuel will once again be there to bring all the sights and sounds to you. Check out last year’s photo album here.

Corn Growers Keep Ethanol in Focus

Ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) were big topics this week as members of the National Corn Growers Association met in Washington DC.

ncga-ethanolMichigan farmer Jeff Sandborn, chair of the Ethanol Committee, said they spent the week talking with administration officials and members of Congress after being updated on the issues. “Right now, Congress faces rapidly evolving issues crucial to our members. The information and understanding coming out of these meetings will help each of our delegations make the strongest case possible for farmers.”

During the Ethanol Committee meeting, staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality provided an update on the regulatory issues facing the ethanol industry. On Thursday, the entire NCGA delegation heard from EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe about the status of the pending 2014 volume obligation rule under the RFS.

“We greatly appreciate the deputy administrator’s willingness to participate in an open, well-considered conversation,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre of Illinois. While Perciasepe mainly dealt with the proposed Waters of the United States rule, he also fielded questions from growers pertaining to both the reduction in volume, and the continued delays of final RFS rule.

Congressman Seeks Country Labeling for Fuel

braley-headshotCongressman Bruce Braley (D-IA) has introduced a bill that would give consumers the ability to know where their fuel is produced.

“America has a decision to make about its energy future. We can gut the RFS and move toward further reliance on Saudi Arabia, Venezula, and Nigeria for our energy needs—or we can continue our path toward energy independence by making investments in ethanol and other domestic energy sources,” Braley said.

Braley’s Country of Origin Labeling for Fuels Act would require gas stations to post the country of origin of the fuel right on the pump, letting consumers “know whether their fuel is coming from Saudi Arabia or from ethanol produced right down the road.”

The U.S. consumes more than 15 million barrels of oil each day, with nearly half of that total coming from other countries, including Canada, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela, Mexico, and Nigeria. Since the creation of the RFS in 2005, nearly 10 billion gallons of foreign oil per year have been replaced by renewable ethanol.

Brazil Airline Plans to Use Renewable Jet Fuel

gol-airBrazil’s GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes airline has signed a memorandum of understanding with Amyris that could pave the way for GOL commercial flights to soon use Amyris renewable jet fuel.

Amyris-logo (1)Under the memorandum of understanding, GOL and Amyris will work together to establish a framework for bringing Amyris renewable jet fuel produced from Brazilian sugarcane to GOL’s commercial flights following regulatory approvals and validation by standard-setting bodies, including ASTM International and Brazil’s Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANP).

The partnership, under of auspices of the Brazilian Biofuels Platform, an industry and government-supported initiative to encourage the use of renewable fuels in aviation, was announced at Brazilian Aviation Day celebration, which included participation of Brazil’s Secretary of Civil Aviation, Minister Moreira Franco, and a number of industry stakeholders including Brazilian Airlines Association (ABEAR), Brazilian Biodiesel and Biojet Association (UBRABIO), GE, and Boeing among others.

Report Shows Oil Companies Block Renewable Fuels

gasoline_pumpThe biggest names in the oil industry get failing grades when it comes to offering alternative transportation fuels like ethanol, according to a new report card released today by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

A new “Consumer Choice Report Card” grades the nation’s largest retail gasoline chains based on whether they are providing consumers with alternatives to regular gasoline that cost less, reduce pollution and are higher octane for better engine performance.

RFANewlogoAccording to RFA, the “Big Five” oil companies all scored at the bottom of the list — with fewer than one percent of stations offering American made, renewable alternatives like E85 or E15 — while a number of major independent retail chains received “A+” grades, with more than 25 percent of their stations offering E85 or E15. Those five companies are Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Shell. At the head of the class are independent chains such as Break Time, Meijer, Thorntons, Kum & Go, and Kwik Trip – all of which earned a grade of A+ for their support of renewable fuels. Among oil company affiliated brands, only Speedway/SuperAmerica and Cenex received high marks (“A-“ and “B,” respectively.)

The Consumer Choice Report Card is part of a new report from the RFA titled “Protecting the Monopoly: How Big Oil Covertly Blocks the Sale of Renewable Fuels” which exposes how the five largest oil companies, along with a number of leading refiners, are “engaging in strong arm tactics and covert practices to prevent and discourage the sale of renewable fuels, especially at stations carrying their brand name.” The report finds that oil company distribution contracts “routinely include provisions that make it difficult, needlessly expensive, or simply impossible for a retailer to offer consumers choices like E15 or E85.”

RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen and RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper held a media call to discuss the report and scorecard. “Cynically, oil companies frequently cite a shortage of fueling infrastructure as a reason why the EPA should lower the requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard. Yet, as demonstrated in this analysis, the oil industry itself has deliberately created this shortage by making it as difficult and burdensome as possible for retail gas stations to offer greater volumes of renewable fuels,” said Dinneen. “We have to enforce the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Cooper explains some of the tactics used by the big oil companies to prevent or discourage sales of renewable fuels. “Most of these contracts require supplier exclusivity meaning the retailer can only sell fuels made by supplier,” said Cooper. “So if the supplier doesn’t make E15 or E85 available at the terminal, the distributor can’t distribute it to the retailer.” Cooper says many agreements actually actively discourage retailers from promoting the availability of E85 and some have been fined for doing so.

Listen to or download the call here: RFA report on how oil companies block renewable fuels

EPA Chief Hopes RFS Rule Coming “Soon”

epa-mccarthyEnvironmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy held a conference call with media this morning in advance of her trip to Missouri this week to talk about the proposed Waters of the United States rule, or WOTUS.

I had the last question on the press conference and took the liberty of going off topic to ask about when the final rule on the volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would be released. “I’m hoping it will come out soon,” she said. Explaining about the delay in releasing the final rule, which was expected by the end of June, McCarthy said it has become clear that there is concern “not only about what the volumes of the fuels are but the way in which we are adjusting those volumes.”

McCarthy stressed that the administration “continues to have a strong commitment to biofuels” and they want to make sure the final rule “clearly reflects that interest.”

“My goal is always to make sure we get it right,” she concluded.

Listen to McCarthy answer the question here. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on RFS rule release

Railways Not Required to Report Ethanol Delays

stbA few weeks ago, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) directed Canadian Pacific Railway Company and BNSF Railway Company to report their plans to resolve the backlogs of grain car orders and to submit weekly status reports on grain car service.

However, the order failed to address rail service problems for the delivery of ethanol, and Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis has sent a letter to the STB asking why.

growth-energy-logo“With over 61 percent of all ethanol delivered by rail, it is imperative that these issues be directly addressed and given the same priority as grain shipments,” said Buis in the letter. “Earlier this year, we saw ethanol supply dwindle and prices skyrocket solely because of the inability to get rail cars to ship product – even to the point of having many plants reduce production. Ultimately, these service failures hurt the American consumer as these costs are borne in the form of higher gasoline prices, which impact every segment of the American economy.”

BNSF reported recently that they have been moving increasing volumes of grain and ethanol over the last several months and as of last month was “moving more year–to–date in 2014 than the same period in 2013.” In a statement, BNSF said they “have exceeded last year’s totals in ethanol…by 9% in latest year-to-date totals.”

The first report from the railroad companies was due to STB on June 27.

Export Exchange 2014 Registration Open

2014-export-exchangeRegistration is now open for Export Exchange 2014™, an international trade conference focused on the export of U.S. coarse grains and ethanol co-products.

Approximately 300 U.S. suppliers and agribusiness representatives and more than 180 international buyers are expected to attend Export Exchange 2014. The conference is being held Oct. 20-22 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel and is co-sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

“Export Exchange brings together a group of U.S. suppliers and international buyers in a unique event focused on the expansion of established export markets and the development of new markets for U.S. coarse grains, distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and other ethanol co-products,” said USGC Chairman Julius Schaaf.

“Over the past decade, the U.S. ethanol industry has emerged as a major producer of high quality animal feeds like DDGS and corn gluten feed,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “Export Exchange is the premier forum for connecting the producers and marketers of those co-products with customers around the world.”

Export Exchange is held every two years. The 2012 event broke records in attendance and attracted buying teams from 33 countries, including all of the top U.S. international coarse grains and ethanol co-products markets. Attendance at this year’s event is expected to set a new record, creating more opportunities for U.S. merchandisers to connect with buyers and build business.

Early registration discounts end July 31. USGC and RFA members are eligible for discounted pricing and should identify themselves as such at the time of registration.