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.

Biofuels Supporters Heading to Beltway

ACE Biofuels Beltway LogoEthanol advocates from around the country are marching on Capitol Hill this week with the message that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is working.

It’s the 6th annual Biofuels Beltway March organized by the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE). “We have more than 80 people registered to attend, which is our highest attendance yet,” said Director of Strategic Projects Shannon Gustafson. “Those attending the event are fuel retailers, farmers, ethanol producers, bankers, and business owners representing 15 different states.”

The event officially kicks off on Tuesday when attendees will hear from representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, USDA, and the White House. After that, the marchers will be split into groups to attend meetings on Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday. “So far we have meetings scheduled with more than 130 offices on Capitol Hill,” said Gustafson, who anticipates they will have even more before they begin.

In addition to carrying the message that the RFS is working, supporters will also be telling lawmakers how ethanol benefits consumers, decreases our dependence on foreign oil, and plays a critical role in the future of our nation’s energy independence.

Domestic Fuel will be there to bring it home to those of you who are unable to attend. Thanks to ACE and Patriot Renewable Fuels for making that possible.

Iowa RFA’s Shaw Has Ag Support for Congress

shaw-congressIowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw is one of several Republican candidates vying to replace the retiring Tom Latham as Iowa’s representative in the Third Congressional District, but he may have more grassroots agricultural support than most of them.

Shaw has just announced the formation of his Iowa Agriculture Team, which includes key ag leaders from across the district. “It takes more than just great land and good weather to make Iowa the leading agricultural state – it takes great leaders,” Shaw said. “As a farm boy, I’ve still got the dirt under my fingernails and with the help of these experts I will be up to speed on the challenges facing Iowa’s farmers. I also appreciate their willingness to take our message out to the countryside and the city. Folks connected to and interested in agriculture will play key roles on our path to victory in June and November.”

Among the members of his team are Grant Kimberley of Ankeny, a 6th generation corn and soybean farmer who was just named executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, and Julius Schaaf of Randolph, chairman of the United States Grain Council and a 4th generation farmer.

Shaw officially launched his campaign for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District last month. He intends to remain in his position with Iowa RFA during the campaign with the full support of the organization’s board of ethanol producers.

Watch his campaign announcement below.

Ethanol Industry Takes LCFS Fight to High Court

The nation’s ethanol industry has decided to take its fight against the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) to United States Supreme Court.

rfagrowthThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy today filed a joint petition with the U.S. Supreme Court for “certiorari to make a final determination relating to the constitutionally flawed LCFS.” The action follows a decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January to deny rehearing en banc in the litigation regarding the California law.

A joint release from the two ethanol groups stated, “California, through adoption of the LCFS, has violated the most basic, structural features of interstate federalism. LCFS not only discriminates against out-of-state commerce, but it seeks to regulate conduct in other States in direct contravention of our constitutional structure and at the direct expense of Midwestern farmers and ethanol producers.”

The January decision by a divided panel of the the Ninth Circuit Court reversed a previous District Court finding that the California LCFS violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and is therefore unconstitutional. The ethanol groups note that California officials admit the LCFS seeks to regulate greenhouse gas emissions occurring in other states “by rewarding and punishing industrial and agricultural activity taking place outside California” and in doing so systematically favors California, which they contend is unconstitutional.

Iowa Biodiesel Board Gets New Leader

The new executive director for the Iowa Biodiesel Board started his new job on National Biodiesel Day.

ibb-kimberlyThe Iowa Biodiesel Board named Grant Kimberley, formally Iowa Soybean Association director of market development, as its new executive director. Kimberley succeeds Randy Olson, who accepted a position earlier this year with the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

Kimberly was pleased to start his job today on National Biodiesel Day. “Biodiesel has been a passion of mine for the last decade,” Kimberley said. “Since the early 2000s, I’ve seen tremendous growth and change in the biodiesel industry, hitting a record 1.8 billion gallons last year. I look forward to working more closely with all aspects of Iowa’s thriving biodiesel industry.”

The IBB’s mission is to promote the commercial success of biodiesel in Iowa. In this expanded role, Kimberley will develop and implement strategic plans for the organization, including critical policy efforts. His duties will include overseeing the day-to-day operation of the organization, and collaborating with the board for the future of the organization.

Celebrating National Biodiesel Day

rudolf-diesel_3946456981091095575Yesterday we celebrated the patron saint of Ireland – today it is the patron saint of biodiesel.

National Biodiesel Day is celebrated on March 18, which is the birth date of Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the engine that bears his name. He would be 156 years old today, but he died a century ago last September, disappearing from a ship in the English Channel in an apparent suicide, despite his many accomplishments.

Diesel was only 39 when he introduced the first high-compression prototype engine in 1897, designed to run not on petroleum but on peanut oil. Today, diesel engines are responsible for moving the majority of goods, including electronics, from manufacturer to consumer. But, more than ever those engines are being run on the type of fuel their inventor envisioned.

“National Biodiesel Day is a reminder that diversity in fuel supply means more stable prices and less dependence on a global oil cartel. That benefits the economy, the environment and leaves more opportunities for our future,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to have a choice in transportation fuel, and that’s where biodiesel – America’s first Advanced Biofuel – comes in.” With plants in almost every state, biodiesel production amounted to nearly 1.8 billion gallons in 2013.

Jobe notes that the EPA proposal to lower the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this year would be a step backward for production, setting the volume requirement at just 1.28 billion gallons. “The biodiesel industry is asking the Administration to revise the biodiesel proposal so that it is at least consistent with last year’s production,” he said. Rudolf would probably agree.

UNICA Pleased With CARB Proposal

UNICAThe Brazilian sugarcane ethanol industry is pleased with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) proposal last week to revise Indirect Land Use Change (iLUC) numbers for biofuels.

Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association UNICA applauded CARB for “once again declaring that sugarcane ethanol is one of the most environmentally friendly biofuels supplying today’s market.”

UNICA North America Representative Leticia Phillips notes that the CARB staff proposal to revise ILUC estimates under the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard shows the Brazilian sugarcane biofuel generates about half the indirect emissions that CARB originally suggested during its rulemaking process in 2009. “If implemented, these revised ILUC estimates will confirm what numerous other studies have shown: sugarcane ethanol is one of the most environmentally friendly biofuels supplying today’s market,” she said in a statement.

Phillips adds that UNICA looks forward to providing detailed comments to this CARB proposal as they have done in the past.

Rail Problems Impacting Ethanol Supplies

snow-trainOne impact of the long, cold winter across the nation has been weather-related rail disruptions that are taking a toll on ethanol supplies and production.

The record winter weather patterns that have caused repeated snowstorms have resulted in stalled trains, frozen controls and increased demand for rail cars. All that has made it difficult to move ethanol to the Northeast.

The Energy Information Administration reported last week that stocks of ethanol stood at 15.9, down 2.4% from the previous week, the lowest level of the year so far. Stocks are well below the 20-day supply mark for the second week in a row and on the East Coast stocks of ethanol fell to their lowest level on record last week, at 4.6 million barrels compared to 6.4 million this time last year.

“Naturally, limited regional mobility leads to limited regional supply which can impact prices, but market observers believe this is a temporary situation that will soon be corrected,” said Renewable Fuels Association Executive Vice President Christina Martin.

The backlog in transportation is causing ethanol plants to slow production somewhat. According to EIA data, ethanol production averaged 869,000 barrels per day (36.50 million gallons), down 25,000 barrels from the previous week and the lowest in eight weeks.

The backups have also been delaying grain shipments from last year’s record crop but rail company officials, including BNSF and CSX, say they are working hard to get everything back to normal.

New Budget Would Roll Back Oil Subsidies

2015-budgetThe recently proposed Obama administration Fiscal Year 2015 Budget includes $4 billion a year in cuts to oil industry subsidies, notes Americans United for Change (AUFC), which calls that “a big win for taxpayers and consumers.”

Under the Department of Energy section, the budget calls for elimination of “Unnecessary Fossil Fuel Subsidies” stating that as “the Nation continues to pursue clean energy technologies that will support future economic growth, it should not devote scarce resources to subsidizing the use of fossil fuels produced by some of the largest, most profitable companies in the world.” The proposed budget would repeal “over $4 billion per year in tax subsidies to oil, gas, and other fossil fuel producers.”

americans-change“We are elated that the President has renewed his commitment to doing away with billions of dollars in pointless subsidies for big oil that shortchange investment in cleaner burning, cheaper renewable fuels of the future,” says AUFC executive director Caren Benjamin, adding however that the EPA proposal to cut the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) at the same time is inconsistent. “It’s a proposal that runs totally counter to the President’s strategy to address climate change by supporting clean energy — because a weak RFS means less incentive for innovation in cleaner burning, next generation renewable fuels and guarantees a greater use of dirty fossil fuels.”

AUFC also points out that there seems to be some bipartisan consensus building in Congress against special tax treatment for the oil industry. The draft tax reform proposal circulated by Republican House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), for example, would eliminate some of the accounting tactics that allow oil companies to report lower net profits and pay less taxes.

AUFC encourages House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to follow that lead and hold a hearing on “why an industry that made $100 billion in profits last year can’t do without billions of dollars in subsidies every year courtesy of the taxpayers.”

Editorial from Father of Ethanol

merle-andersonThe man who is known as the “Father of Ethanol” in the United States is still busy advocating for the industry at the well-seasoned age of 93.

Merle Anderson, one of the founding members of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), just recently penned an excellent editorial for the Grand Forks Herald about his favorite subject and his observations are just as sharp as ever when it comes to the fuel he has been promoting for decades. Here’s some excerpts his letter entitled “Government ‘myths’ limit ethanol’s full use” that he wrote with input from his friend and fellow ethanol advocate Orrie Swayze from Watertown, S.D.:

First, we must remember that Henry Ford favored E30 for his Model T. After that, what could go wrong, did go wrong as government teamed with oil, and — in a joint effort to keep ethanol out of gasoline markets — created misleading myths that E30 was illegal and would ruin engines…

Merle debunks several of those myths, including that higher ethanol blends void car warranties and that gas station pumps are unable to handle higher blends such as E30. “I really chuckle at that one, because standard gas station pumps were the only pumps available when E85 was introduced nearly 20 years ago, and they still are safely pumping E85.”

Merle concludes – My dream is every American and all of agriculture — including our sugar beet industry — would have access to an ethanol market that is not limited by EPA and big oil’s nonsense or the ethanol blend wall that has been in place since the first Model T was built.

Read Merle Anderson’s entire editorial here
.

Biodiesel Board Pleased with CARB Findings

nbb-advancedThe National Biodiesel Board (NBB) is pleased with the preliminary Indirect Land Use Change (iLUC) values presented by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) at a workshop on Tuesday.

“We applaud the Air Resources Board for recognizing the need to reduce carbon from transportation and fossil fuels to mitigate climate change,” said Don Scott, National Biodiesel Board Director of Sustainability, who was present at the workshop. “Since America’s Advanced Biofuel, biodiesel, is among the most effective tools for carbon reduction this represents a major step forward. We are hopeful the agency will continue on this path to use the best science to quantify the benefits of biodiesel.”

According to NBB, the proposal “recognizes biodiesel’s sustainability and environmental benefits, takes a notable step in the right direction, and will open new avenues for biodiesel use in the state.”

During the workshop, Scott made several comments and observations about the preliminary findings presented by CARB. “I think CARB is on the right track with improving these models to quantify those economic impacts that ripple through the world and impact food production,” he said at one point in the meeting. “The biodiesel industry was not thrilled initially about the idea of indirect land use change because our goals have always been to do what we can domestically without impacting food, either in prices or availability.” But, he says the iLUC models actually show that is true when it comes to biodiesel. Don Scott, NBB comments during CARB Workshop

CARB Stresses ILUC Update is Preliminary

carb-14-2California Air Resources Board (CARB) staff spent four hours on Tuesday afternoon detailing reviews made of Indirect Land Use Change (iLUC) models and analysis for the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), strongly stressing that their results are preliminary.

“This is a work in progress,” said Air Resources Engineer Anil Prabhu as he began his power point presentation detailing the history of the iLUC analysis used by the agency, recommendations by the Expert Work Group (EWG), and much technical scientific information. Staff also stressed repeatedly that CARB is seeking feedback from all stakeholders on the preliminary conclusions presented.

carb-workshopThe 84 slide presentation of details on how CARB arrived at the values they are proposing for corn ethanol, sugarcane ethanol, soy biodiesel, canola biodiesel and sorghum ethanol was interspersed with dozens of questions from stakeholders and scientists present or listening in on the webcast.

Among those challenging the CARB results several times was Steffen Mueller with the University of Illinois-Chicago and Genscape, a member of the original CARB EWG. “There’s a lot of basic information missing (here) to engage in a productive discussion,” Mueller said, noting that the Agro-Ecological Zone – Emissions Factor (AEZ-EF) model presented was from 2011 and wondering when they would be able to see the updates CARB made to the model. “There’s been a lot of republications since 2011,” he said, to which CARB staff responded it would be updated “probably within the next week or two.”

Much of CARB’s data was presented based on Purdue University’s GTAP (Global Trade Analysis Project) work, including some research done by agricultural economist Wally Tyner, who called in to set the record straight. “What’s been presented today is really CARB’s work and not Purdue’s work,” said Tyner, who mainly called to dispute the Yield Price Elasticity assumptions made in the CARB presentations, which he says is “basically incorrect.” Wally Tyner comments and CARB staff response

Tyner also noted that there “is a lot of uncertainty in emission factors” as well as a great deal in land use change, and that seemed to be the theme of the entire meeting with nearly a quarter of the power point presentation being devoted to “Evaluation of Uncertainty” and “Why Results Vary Between Studies.” While the CARB staff repeatedly reminded those present that they welcomed any new or updated data that could be supplied, it was overwhelmingly clear that there is no scientific consensus whatsoever on the topic of indirect land use change. Continue reading

Ethanol Exports Start 2014 Higher

Exports of U.S. ethanol started 2014 at the highest level seen in over two years.

rfa-annAccording to U.S. Census Bureau data, ethanol exports in January totaled 86 million gallons, which is the highest monthly volume since December 2011. “Exports were up a third from December 2013, while imports remained sparse, meaning the United States was a net ethanol exporter by the widest margin in over two years,” according to Renewable Fuels Association research analyst Ann Lewis, writing on the E-xchange blog.

Brazil was the top customer for U.S. ethanol, beating out Canada for the number one spot, importing nearly 23.9 million gallons, the largest monthly volume to Brazil in two years. Exports to Canada dropped 36% from December to 18.8 million gallons (mg). Rounding out the top destinations were the United Arab Emirates (12.4 mg), India (10.7 mg), the Philippines (5.5 mg), and Mexico (3.3 mg).

Meanwhile, exports of the ethanol co-product distillers dried grains (DDGs) were lower in January, down 9% to 903,827 metric tons (mt). Lewis notes that China was again the leading destination with 344,147 mt. “However, China’s market share scaled back to 38%, in contrast with its majority stake (56%) of U.S. DDGs exports averaged over the second half of 2013,” writes Lewis. Mexico (140,664 mt), South Korea (77,977 mt), Vietnam (48,514 mt), and Japan (44,505 mt) rounded out the top five DDGS markets in January.

POET-DSM Joins Advanced Ethanol Council

aeclogoPOET-DSM Advanced Biofuels is the newest member to join the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC).

“As cellulosic ethanol becomes a growing force in fulfilling biofuel requirements in the U.S., it’s important for POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels to work with other industry leaders to help shape policies that ensure consumer understanding of – and access to – its environmental, economic and energy-security benefits,” said Steve Hartig, General Manager – Licensing for POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels.

The joint venture between ethanol production company POET and Royal DSM, a Netherlands-based bio science company, is nearing completion of a 25 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol biorefinery called Project LIBERTY, located in Emmetsburg, Iowa. The technology developed for the facility is available for licensing to develop other low-carbon, cellulosic ethanol production plants.

“As a key player in the industry that has the proven know-how to scale up its advanced technology to commercial scale, POET-DSM is a strong, strategic addition to the Council’s ranks as cellulosic ethanol moves from the development stage to full-scale commercial production in 2014,” said Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the AEC.

CARB Considers Small ILUC Change for Ethanol

carb-14-2The California Air Resources Board (CARB) today is proposing potential changes to indirect land use change (iLUC) penalties under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) which some scientists and the ethanol industry say are a start, but don’t go far enough.

Based on a review of materials made available by CARB prior to the workshop, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen said, “CARB appears to be taking a small step in the right direction, but the science shows a much larger reduction to the iLUC penalty for corn ethanol is warranted.”

RFA-logo-13Dinneen notes that a group of 14 well-known scientists, including five members of CARB’s own expert work group, sent a letter to CARB last week recommending that the penalty should be lowered by 50-80 percent, rather than the 20 percent CARB is proposing. “The larger issue here is that in the five years since the LCFS was adopted, there have been no indications that the policy has caused—or will cause—any kind of land use change,” said Dinneen. “Amazon deforestation has fallen to its lowest rate on record, U.S. cropland area continues to shrink, and U.S. forested area continues to increase. All of this suggests the iLUC hypothesis needs to be critically re-evaluated.”

Dinneen believes that California consumers will be negatively impacted if CARB maintains the iLUC penalty for corn ethanol. “Under CARB’s apparent proposal, grain ethanol—the lowest-cost renewable fuel used in the California market today—will ultimately be replaced with higher-priced imported fuel,” said Dinneen.

The CARB workshop on the proposed Indirect Land Use Change values and how they were determined by staff will be webcast today beginning at 1:00 pm Pacific time. During the webcasts, CARB will also be accepting feedback and questions sent via email to sierrarm@calepa.ca.gov.

Iowa Farmers Oppose RFS Changes

iowa-soyA vast majority of Iowa farmers in a recent poll oppose changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

agri-pulseThe Agri-Pulse Farm Opinion Poll, launched last month in partnership with the Iowa Soybean Association, found that 92% of farmers polled oppose the Environmental Protection Agency proposal to lower of the amount of corn-based ethanol and biodiesel required to be blended in the nation’s fuel as part of the RFS.

In addition, almost three out of five farmers responding (58 percent) said that, of several national issues including the Farm Bill, trade, tax codes and immigration, the RFS is most important to the future profitability of their farms.

The poll also found that farmers expect to see weaker financial returns in 2014 and will adjust their expenditures – spending less on fertilizer and equipment but more on crop insurance. The new poll was taken February 23 and included more than 130 Iowa farmers responding to 12 unaided questions.