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.

President Signs Farm Bill

President Barack Obama traveled to Michigan State University to sign the Agricultural Act of 2014 at the alma mater of Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

fb-signing“Despite its name, the farm bill is not just about helping farmers,” President Obama told the small crowd invited for the signing. “Secretary Vilsack calls it a jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a research bill, a conservation bill. It’s like a Swiss Army knife.”

The president also gave a shout out to biofuels production in Michigan in his address prior to the bill signing. “I just got a tour of a facility where you’re working with local businesses to produce renewable fuels,” said Obama. “This bill supports businesses working to develop cutting edge biofuels, like some of the work being done here at Michigan State.”

Listen to the president’s speech here: President Obama farm bill signing

What do you think of the new farm bill? Which part is most important to you? Tell us in this week’s ZimmPoll.

Impact of Lowering RFS on Advanced Biofuels

ethanol-report-adThe comment period is now over for the EPA proposal that would lower the volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard this year, but it will be some time yet before a decision is made since the agency likely has tens of thousands of comments to read.

In this Ethanol Report, several representatives of the cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels industry comment on how the proposal would impact them. The report includes comments from:

Chris Standlee, Executive Vice President, Abengoa Bioenergy U.S. Institutional Affairs
Brian Foody, President and CEO, Iogen Corporation
Delayne Johnson, General Manager, Quad County Corn Processors
Brooke Coleman, Executive Director, Advanced Ethanol Council
Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO

Listen to or download the podcast here: Ethanol Report with Advanced Biofuels Producers

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

Biofuel Groups React to SOTU

Corn farmers and biofuels producers are questioning President Obama’s commitment to an “all of the above” energy strategy mentioned in the State of the Union address, considering the administration’s proposal to cut the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this year. The address Tuesday evening came just hours before the comment period on the EPA proposal ended.

sotu-2014“It was great to hear President Obama talk about the importance of an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy,” commented National Corn Growers President Martin Barbre. “And you can’t have such a policy without biofuels. So, we call on his Administration to back away from its irresponsible proposal to reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Fuels America released a statement echoing a similar sentiment, adding that they hope EPA will listen to those who will be impacted by changes in the RFS. “We hope the agency considers the thousands of comments from farm families, small business owners, labor groups and environmental advocates. These are the real people who will lose their livelihoods and their faith in this Administration’s commitment to a clean energy future if the EPA proceeds down its current path.”

The president mentioned agriculture in the opening minute of his speech, with an image of a farmer in a corn field as an example of the “citizens, who make the state of our union strong.”

President Obama did make note of progress made in solar energy during his address and called for an end to tax breaks for the oil industry. “Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar,” said the president. “Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.”

Nebraska Corn Collects 5,000 RFS Comments

ne-corn-newThe Nebraska Corn Board has received over 5,000 letters expressing opposition on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to lower 2014 volume requirements for biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In early January, the Nebraska Corn Board sent out letters to Nebraska farmers alerting them of EPA’s actions and included a letter to EPA that farmers could sign. These letters were returned to the Corn Board and the Board will forward the entire stack of letters to EPA before the comment period deadline of January 28. To date, just over 5,000 letters have been returned, many with personal messages expressing the need to keep a strong renewable fuel industry and stating corn farmers can provide enough food, feed and fuel to help America be less dependent on imported oil.

“This is the greatest grassroots response in the history of the corn checkoff program since its implementation in 1978,” said Nebraska Corn Board Executive Director Don Hutchens.

The Board also distributed nearly 10,000 postcards throughout Nebraska where the recipient was asked to write a personal message and mail to EPA. They also offered the option of commenting online through a link on the Nebraska Corn Board website.

Nebraska Corn Board chairman and farmer Tim Scheer said the letters are being sent to EPA today. “Other states have mounted similar efforts to send letters to EPA,” said Scheer, noting that 4,000 letters are being sent in from Minnesota Corn and over 1,000 from Missouri Corn.

New Analysis Shows RFS Lowers Gas Prices

CARD LogoA new independent analysis from the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University has found that increased ethanol production under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program has reduced gas prices, not increased them as opponents of the RFS claim.

“Our results should reassure those in Congress and the Administration who are worried that following the RFS commitment to expanding the use of renewable fuels will result in sharply higher fuel prices for consumers,” concludes the report, authored by economists Sebastien Pouliot and Bruce Babcock.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposal to lower the 2014 RFS volume obligations was based in part on concerns that volatile Renewable Identification Number (RIN) prices last year led to higher gas prices. However, the analysis found that higher RIN prices provide incentive to offer higher ethanol blends, which lowers the price of fuel by lowering the price of ethanol. “We find that feasible increases in the ethanol mandate in 2014 will cause a small decline in the price of E10. That is, even though increased mandates increase gasoline prices, the offsetting effects from a decline in ethanol price and movement by motorists to E85 from E10 are enough to result in a net decrease in the price of E10.”

Renewable Fuels Association
president and CEO Bob Dinneen says the analysis shows that the RFS is working as intended. “Many ethanol opponents have used higher RIN prices to scare people into believing that gas prices will rise if the RFS remains in place,” said Dinneen. “The new CARD analysis takes the gas price fear out of the equation.”

Read the analysis here.

Appeals Court Denies California LCFS Appeal

rfagrowthThe Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied rehearing en banc a ruling last year which upheld California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), leaving the ethanol industry and others challenging the law to consider the next move.

In a joint statement, ethanol producer groups Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) called the decision “a blow to California consumers” and said they will continue to evaluate all options moving forward “to assure that sound science and fair play ultimately prevail in this case.”

The two groups were pleased to note that seven judges strongly dissented from the Court’s decision believing it merited further review, stating that the majority opinion “upholds a regulatory scheme that, on its face, promotes California industry at the expense of out-of-state interests.”

Challenging the law with the ethanol industry is the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and General Counsel Richard Moskowitz says the decision will “have adverse consequences throughout the nation’s fuel supply chain far beyond California’s borders, and ultimately a negative impact on consumers.”

The ruling could be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Lowering RFS Impact on Advanced Biofuels

Cellulosic and advanced biofuels producers are very concerned that the EPA proposal to lower 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets will have a chilling effect on investment in the next generation of renewable fuels.

mess-rfs“Frankly, we have decided that we are placing a hold on our evaluations of future investment in bioenergy in the United States until we see what the final rule is and what impact it does have on the market,” said Chris Standlee with Abengoa Bioenergy during a media call today organized by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). Standlee added that the proposal has forced them to reconsider their business plan to license technology to other producers and look for “potential investments in other countries.”

Iogen Corporation president and CEO Brian Foody said RFS is the single most important driver of investment in advanced biofuels. “Cellulosic biofuel has the promise to deliver tens of billions of gallons of ethanol to the United States, but there needs to be a market for that,” he said. Iogen is building a cellulosic plant in Brazil using sugarcane bagasse and they are “actively seeking to develop projects in America” but that will depend on the future of the RFS.

Delayne Johnson, General Manager of the farmer-owned Quad County Corn Processors ethanol plant which broke ground in July on a bolt-on cellulosic ethanol technology, said that changing the RFS at this point is “going to create uncertainty” for other plants looking at adopting that technology. “We’re hopeful the EPA will consider getting back on course,” he said.

Listen to comments from Standlee, Foody, and Johnson, as well as RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen and Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman. RFS impact on Advanced Biofuels media call

Media questions and answers

Corn Stocks and Ethanol Use Increased

USDA-LogoThe newest supply and demand estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirms a record corn harvest in 2013 of just under 14 billion bushels and an increased in usage of corn for ethanol.

USDA’s World Agricultural Supply Demand Estimate for January 10 projects corn use for 2013/14 higher with feed and residual use projected up 100 million bushels based on September-November disappearance as indicated by the December 1 stocks estimate. “Corn used to produce ethanol is raised 50 million bushels reflecting continued strong weekly ethanol production, a reduction in expected sorghum use for ethanol, and higher forecast 2014 gasoline consumption in the latest projections from the Energy Information Administration.”

RFA-logo-13
Renewable Fuels Association
(RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen says the report’s numbers indicate that now is a bad time to reduce volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “Due to the expected corn surplus, corn prices have already dropped to nearly $4.00/bushel – half the price of corn in late summer 2012, below the price of corn when EISA was signed into law in 2007, and below the farmer’s cost of production,” Dinneen said in a statement, adding that farmers, small businesses and innovation in next generation biofuels would be adversely impacted by lowering the RFS in 2014. “It doesn’t have to be this way, there is still time for the Obama White House and EPA to do the right thing and restore the numbers for ethanol to their statutory levels.”

Senator Hopeful About RFS

thune-thumb-2Sen. John Thune (R-SD) is hopeful the Environmental Protection Agency will make some changes in the proposed volume requirements for biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard this year.

“I just hope that the EPA will work with us, work with the industry, in a way that is realistic and grounded in the view that this is an industry that’s here to stay and we ought to be looking at ways we can continue to grow it,” said Thune during a press call with reporters this week.

Thune was one of several lawmakers who met with EPA officials last month about the proposal to lower volume obligations for renewable fuels in 2014. “I think we’ll get some relief from the meeting we had, perhaps, with regard to the direction they were heading for this year,” he said. “I’m hoping that they will make a decision that … moves us back to what we think is a more realistic volume level for this year.”

Listen to Thune’s remarks in this audio provided courtesy of Agri-Pulse. Sen. Thune RFS comments

RINS Had No Impact on 2013 Gas Prices

gaspricesDespite all the “RINsanity” caused in early 2013 when gas prices spiked and the oil industry pointed fingers at volatile Renewable Identification Numbers, a report out today exonerates RINS from blame.

The detailed statistical analysis
conducted by Informa Economics and released today by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) finds that retail gasoline prices were “unaffected by the erratic surge in prices for Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits in 2013.”

“Changes in prices of renewable identification numbers (RINs) did not cause changes in retail gasoline prices in 2013,” according to Informa’s report. “Retail gasoline prices were driven primarily by movements in crude oil prices and secondarily by changes in the spread between domestic and international crude oil prices and the level of vehicle miles driven in the U.S., which varies seasonally.”

Overall, gas prices in 2013 average less than the previous year, at $3.49 per gallon according to AAA. That is the lowest price since 2010. The highest one-day national average was $3.79 per gallon on February 27.

RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen, Informa Senior VP Scott Richman and analyst Crystal Carpenter, and Geoff Cooper, RFA’s Vice President of Research and Analysis, held a press conference today to discuss the analysis. RINS report media call

Ethanol’s Story

The Missouri Corn Growers Association has produced a video that tells “the greatest story never told” – Quiet Revolution: The Ethanol Story.

Like the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and all state corn grower groups, the Missouri Corn Growers are urging their members and others to submit comments on the Environmental Protection Agency proposal made November 15 to cap corn-based ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply this year at 13 billion gallons. “This may be the most significant challenge to corn farmers in many years. Your community and your industry are counting on you to stand up and be heard today.”

The comment period on the proposal is open until January 28.

Happy New Year Ethanol Report

ethanol-report-adIt’s out with the old and in with the new year and on that occasion Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen takes a look back at 2013 for the ethanol industry and a look ahead to what 2014 may have in store.

dinneen-capitolDespite the continued assaults on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2013, Dinneen remains as upbeat and optimistic as ever about the future of the industry. “I can’t look at 2013 and see it as a complete failure,” he said. “There’s certainly challenges but the business is doing just fine and I’m looking forward to 2014.”

Among the topics Dinneen discusses in this end of the year Ethanol Report is the EPA proposal to roll back the RFS and the importance of industry voices during the comment period which ends on January 28. “If we get enough people to shake up EPA and remind them why this program is so important, we will get that changed.” said Dinneen.

Listen to Bob Dinneen reminisce about 2013 and anticipate 2014 in this interview: Happy New Year 2014 Ethanol Report with RFA's Bob Dinneen

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

Ethanol Celebrates Six Years of RFS

RFA-logo-13Six years ago today, President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), which greatly expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to become the RFS2. The goals of the new standard were to reduce our dependence on oil, confront global climate change, and expand production of renewable fuels for the security of future generations.

mess-rfs“Just six years later, tremendous progress has been made toward achieving the original objectives of the expanded RFS,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen today in a conference call marking the anniversary. “Renewable fuel production and consumption has grown dramatically. Dependence on petroleum—particularly imports of refined products—is down significantly. Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector have fallen. The value of agricultural products is up appreciably. And communities across the country have benefited from the job creation, increased tax revenue, and heightened household income that stems from the construction and operation of a biorefinery.”

RFA has released a report that compares today to six years ago in several areas, including renewable fuels production, economic activity, agricultural impacts, environmental issues, fuel prices, import dependence, and food prices. RFA Vice President of Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper outlined the findings during the conference call, concluding that “The RFS has indeed lived up to its promise in building out a renewable fuels industry, in reducing dependence on imported petroleum, in stimulating the agricultural economy – and at the same time the RFS has simply not had the impacts on the environment and food markets that detractors of the program have claimed.”

Among the more interesting points is the price of corn, a mere 20 cent difference from $4.20 season average in 2006 compared to $4.40 this year. Meanwhile, the price for a barrel of oil is up nearly 50% – up to over $108 compared to $72 in 2007.

Listen to or download opening comments and reporter questions below: RFA Celebrates Six Years of RFS
RFA RFS anniversary call QandA

Senate Energy Tax Reform Proposal

Baucus1Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) today unveiled a proposal to streamline energy tax incentives.

“It is time to bring our energy tax policy into the 21st century,” Senator Baucus said. “Our current set of energy tax incentives is overly complex and picks winners and losers with no clear policy rationale. We need a system of energy incentives that is more predictable, rational, and technology-neutral to increase our energy security and ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.”

The discussion draft released today focuses on reforming the current set of energy related tax preferences. Under current law, there are 42 different energy tax incentives, including more than a dozen preferences for fossil fuels, ten different incentives for renewable fuels and alternative vehicles, and six different credits for clean electricity. Of the 42 different energy incentives, 25 are temporary and expire every year or two, and the credits for clean electricity alone have been adjusted 14 times since 1978 – an average of every two and a half years. If Congress continues to extend current incentives, they will cost nearly $150 billion over 10 years.

aeclogoAdvanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman commended the proposal. “Senator Baucus has rightly put all existing policies on the table while proposing a new path that will achieve these goals and ensure that the United States leads instead of follows when it comes to developing new technologies and producing less carbon intensive energy,” said Coleman in a statement.

Coleman said they look forward to working with Chairman Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee to ensure that any new piece of legislation covers the critical bases when it comes to maximizing investment. He also called for immediate energy tax extenders in the context of the proposal’s 3-year extension of existing law. “The proposal admirably calls for a 3-year extension of existing law for cellulosic biofuels to provide a reasonable ramp to a new tax regime. We commend the Chairman for recognizing the hazards of frequent expirations and change of law. That said, tax provisions for cellulosic biofuels still come off the books in two weeks while those offered to the fossil fuel industry persist. We recommend that Congress invoke the ‘do no harm’ principle going forward and pass extenders in 2013.”

ICM Signs Canadian Ethanol Plant

ICMlogo1Renewable energy technology company ICM of Colwich, Kansas has signed a Letter of Intent with IGPC Ethanol of Ontario, Canada to be the first Canadian adopter of ICM’s Generation 1.5™ technology.

Adoption of the technology will enable IGPC Ethanol to produce corn fiber cellulosic ethanol. “Through our previous collaboration with ICM, we believed it was important to continue down the path of obtaining their critical platform technologies that are necessary for making a sustained impact on agriculture and economic development within our region,” said IGPC Ethanol CEO Jim Grey.

ICM’s Generation 1.5™ Technology introduces a cellulosic ethanol production capability by adding ICM’s Fiber Separation Technology™ (FST™) building block onto IGPC Ethanol’s current ICM Selective Milling Technology ™ (SMT™) platform. Once the FST™ and SMT™ platforms are in place, the Generation 1.5™ technology can be added. Development of ICM’s Generation 1.5™ technology was funded, in part, by a U.S. Department of Energy BioEnergy Technology Office contract that ICM was awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.