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.

NTSB Holds Rail Transportation Safety Forum

ntsbOutgoing National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman says “regulators are behind the curve” when it comes to the transport of hazardous liquid, whether ethanol or crude oil.

“Those shipments have increased by over 440 percent (since 2005) but our regulations have not changed,” Hersman said at the National Press Club prior to the start of a two day forum on Safety of Rail Transportation of Crude Oil and Ethanol. She says accidents are happening “far too often, safety has been compromised” in oil train shipments.

Some of the concern brought about by recent accidents involving both oil and ethanol shipments revolves around the rail tank cars themselves, particularly the DOT-111, which she says is not safe enough for hazardous liquids. “Carrying corn oil is fine, carrying crude oil is not,” said Hersman.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen testified at the NTSB forum about the safety record of ethanol shipments via the DOT-111A railcar, the intense focus of the RFA on safety training and best practices within the ethanol industry, and the need for the NTSB to focus on the root cause of recent derailments, including track conditions and human error.

RFA-logo-13Noting that 70 percent of ethanol travels to the marketplace via rail and has done so for over 30 years, Dinneen gave credit to the railroads that since 2012 have successfully shipped 99.997 percent of hazardous material carloads. “From 2006–2013, the U.S. ethanol industry moved over two million shipments of ethanol,” Dinneen testified. “However, during that period only 226 cars derailed with only 91 releasing product.”

Dinneen further testified that in each of the ethanol derailment incidents that have occurred, the NTSB determined the derailment to be the result of rail operation, such as substandard track integrity, switching failures, inspection errors, maintenance problems or lack of communication between train crews. “Keeping the cars on the track by eliminating the root causes of these DOT-111A tank car derailments is the only way to achieve a perfect safety record,” said Dinneen.

Renewable Fuels Fuel Jobs and Economy

A new industry report released today shows how the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is creating jobs and significant economic impact.

fuels-americaThe Fuels America coalition released an economic impact study by John Dunham & Associates showing that the industry supports more than 850,000 American jobs and drives $184.5 billion of economic output.

Renewable fuels now represent nearly 10% of America’s fuel supply and have helped reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil to the lowest level in years. The analysis takes into account the entire supply chain for renewable fuels and quantifies the impact to the U.S. economy, including:

• Driving $184.5 billion of economic output
• Supporting 852,056 jobs and $46.2 billion in wages
• Generating $14.5 billion in tax revenue each year

The full analysis is publicly available on the Fuels America website, including localized reports for every state and every congressional district in the country.

Fuels America held a telephone press conference introducing the report results featuring comments from Jon Doggett, National Corn Growers Association public policy; Adam Monroe, Novozymes; Larry Ward, POET; and John Dunham, report author.

Listen to or download here: Fuels America new economic report

Forbes Flubs Ethanol Facts

forbes_logoA Forbes article by a contributing editor proclaiming that “corn ethanol is of no use” contained such blatant fact errors that the author had to change it.

“Thanks to … commenters for pointing out some errors, especially my failing to mention the tax credits and tariffs have expired,” wrote author James Conca after removing that reference from the story.

Not changed is the manipulation of corn usage data in the story to avoid comparing apples to apples.

In 2000, over 90% of the U.S. corn crop went to feed people and livestock, many in undeveloped countries, with less than 5% used to produce ethanol. In 2013, however, 40% went to produce ethanol, 45% was used to feed livestock, and only 15% was used for food and beverage (AgMRC).

What those simple statements do not say is that:
1. Production in 2000 was 9.968 billion bushels, 40% less than the record 13.9 billion bushel crop harvested last year.
2. The 90% in 2000 included exports.
3. In 2013, 36% of corn usage went to “ethanol and by-products” which includes the equivalent of about one third of that amount returned as distillers grains for livestock feed.
4. Adding in exports, the total usage in 2013 outside of ethanol and by-products is 63%. If you add in about a third of the ethanol number (8.4% according to the source cited by Conca), that would be over 75% going to livestock feed, food uses, seed and exports.

Conca claims he is not “pro-oil” in one of his comment responses about the facts in the article, yet he states as a fact a statement that is blatantly false. “The grain required to fill a 25-gallon gas tank with ethanol can feed one person for a year, so the amount of corn used to make that 13 billion gallons of ethanol will not feed the almost 500 million people it was feeding in 2000.” Only livestock eat the field corn that produces ethanol and while exports of U.S. corn have declined some in recent years, global production continues to increase.

In response to a very well written comment pointing out some of the facts omitted from the article, Conca writes that he “did not know that China was importing so much Distillers Grain, that’s wonderful and does change the economics. And thank you for pointing out the taxes and tariffs have expired.”

He adds that he thinks the United States needs to “proceed full-steam on all fronts, including biofuels, and that all technologies should be supported thoroughly.” Unfortunately, articles like these perpetuating misinformation and flat out falsehoods make it difficult for biofuels to compete against detractors.

Ethanol Groups Fight Back with “Oil Rigged”

fuels-americaA coalition of biofuels organizations is fighting back against the oil industry by launching a new campaign called “Oil Rigged.”

Members of Fuels America today unveiled the details of its new “Oil Rigged” television and digital ad campaign and OilRigged.com designed to “expose the many ways the oil industry is rigging the system to protect their profits and block the transition to clean, American renewable fuels.” The announcement included representatives of member organizations Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Growth Energy, and Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

“They’ve rigged Washington,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, noting the oil industry has spent $855 million on lobbyists and campaign contributions over the past five years “more than a million dollars for every member of the House and Senate.” He added that the oil industry has also rigged the market “by refusing to invest in the infrastructure” to sell higher blends of ethanol, rigged the tax code and rigged the debate over renewable fuels.

oil-rigged“They are trying to rig the debate with misinformation, junk science and misleading ads all designed to scare consumers and Congress about ethanol to protect their market share,” said RFA president Bob Dinneen.

The group chose Earth Day for starting the campaign to make the point that biofuels are making a positive difference for the environment. “What we’re really talking about here is doing the right thing for the planet,” said Brent Erickson, BIO Executive Vice President. “Of everything the United States is doing from a policy standpoint to reduce carbon pollution, the Renewable Fuel Standard is making the biggest impact by far.”

Listen to all the comments from Buis, Dinneen and Erickson here: Fuels America Oil Rigged Campaign

Green Gadgets for Earth Day

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with some new gadgets?

Got an email this morning from an industrious PR person touting a book called “Fool’s Return” by Lynda Chervil, “a thought leader and green technology advocate.”

Chervil, who studies the science behind green technology, says environmental awareness has ramped up production of affordable goods that can shrink individuals’ carbon footprints. She shares four devices she says would make a nice gift for Mother Earth on her day.

hybrid-lightAmong her suggestions is the HybridLight Solar Flashlight that never needs batteries, “can be charged from any light source, and they always work.”

There’s also the Bedol Water Alarm Clock. “Imagine a water-powered alarm clock that’s loud enough to scare you out of bed! Bedol’s water clocks run strictly on tap water – no batteries, no nothing else.” And the Pama Eco Navigator Satellite Navigation system that helps save gasoline by providing you with the most energy-efficient routes to your destinations, and feedback on your car’s performance.

Last but not least, the iGo Green Power Smart Wall that helps “cut the suck” of the power “vampires” that use electricity whether we’re using them or not – everything from coffee pots to laptops.

Go on – give your Mother Earth a hug today and get a green gadget!

Advanced Biofuels Group Questions Corn Stover Study

aeclogoA new study about the climate impact of using corn residue for biofuel production raises more questions than it answers, according to Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC).

“In reality, the study confirms what we already know; that excessive agricultural residue removal is bad for the soil and has negative impacts on climate,” said Coleman in a statement, adding that the study uses corn stover removal rates far exceeding those used in the field. “The analysis also models a one-size-fits-all approach to managing soil carbon that, by definition, ignores how farmers manage their land.”

The study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln used a supercomputer model to estimate the effect of residue removal on 128 million acres across 12 Corn Belt states. Researchers reported that “removing crop residue from cornfields generates an additional 50 to 70 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule of biofuel energy produced.”

Total annual production emissions, averaged over five years, would equal about 100 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule — which is 7 percent greater than gasoline emissions and 62 grams above the 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as required by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.

“Our industry is more than willing to engage in important discussions about the climate impacts of using agricultural residues to make fuel, but the headline-chasing strategy of trying to sell extreme modeling assumptions as the norm does not facilitate that process,” commented Coleman. “If you look at the full spectrum of peer-reviewed work, cellulosic biofuel is the lowest carbon fuel in the world.”

RFA-logo-13Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen believes the study is “fundamentally flawed and its conclusions are highly suspect. The results are based on sweeping generalizations, questionable assumptions, and an opaque methodology. The authors offer no robust explanation for why their findings contradict other recent, highly regarded research. Ultimately, this paper should be seen for what it truly is – a modeling exercise of a hypothetical scenario that bears no resemblance to the real world.”

Biofuel Groups Oppose RFS Delay Request

Leading biofuel industry groups are opposing a delay requested by petroleum industry in a 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard case.

Dont Mess with RFSThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and Growth Energy together filed a joint response yesterday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in opposition to the American Petroleum Institute’s and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers’ motion to “sever and hold in abeyance their challenge to the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard” that was filed on Friday. The case is Monroe Energy, LLC v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, which was argued before the Court on April 7.

As the groups explained in their response to the motion, “Respondent-Intervenors Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy, and Renewable Fuels Association oppose the motion to sever API and AFPM’s petitions and place them in abeyance. The petitions have been fully briefed, responded to, and argued. No purpose is served by pulling API and AFPM’s petitions back a week after argument, to hold them indefinitely and consolidate them with hypothetical later-filed petitions.”

Central Texas Marks 20 Years of Alternative Fuels

lone-star-20The Lone Star Clean Fuels Alliance in Austin, Texas this week celebrated 20 years of being green, starting before being green was cool.

The LSCFA recognized the achievements of many leaders who helped Austin cut 10 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in one year alone, and attendees had the opportunity to drive renewable energy vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and a stand-up electric police mobility vehicle.

The LSCFA, formerly known as Central Texas Clean Cities, is a non-profit coalition dedicated to reducing petroleum consumption through alternative fuels. Over the past 20 years the association has helped to clean up City of Austin fleet vehicles as well as other fleet and personal vehicles in five Central Texas counties counties. In 2012 alone, its stakeholders reduced petroleum consumption by 1.6 million gallons. Clean Cities helps to advance the alternative or renewable fuels of propane, biofuels: ethanol/E85 and biodiesel, natural gas, electric and hydrogen. It was the sixth Clean Cities coalition started in the U.S. where there are now about 90.

EIA Identifies States with the Windiest Energy

single wind turbine Photo Joanna SchroederTwelve states produced 80% of the total wind energy generated last year, according to preliminary data released from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in the March Electric Power Monthly report.

Number one on the list is Texas, which generated nearly 36 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity in 2013. Iowa was second, with more than 15 million MWh, followed by California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Iowa ranked first in proportion of wind to total electricity generated with 27.4% of net electricity production coming from wind turbines.

These 12 states produced a combined 134 million MWh of electricity from wind. Nationwide, 167 million MWh of power came from wind in 2013, a 19% increase from 2012. Wind power increased its share of U.S. total electricity generation in 2013 from 3.5% to 4.1%. All but 13 states reported to EIA some generation from wind, and 23 states increased their wind generation more than 10% above 2012 production levels. California’s wind generation exceeded geothermal generation for the first time in 2013.

Farm Group Agrees with Climate Change Report

NFUlogoThe National Farmers Union (NFU) agrees with the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that renewable energy must play a significant role in climate change mitigation.

“The working group’s report complements NFU’s long-held, member-led policy positions by recognizing the need for a comprehensive renewable energy strategy,” said NFU vPresident Roger Johnson. “Tripling or even quadrupling the share of zero- and low-carbon energy supply from renewables, as the report recommends, will require significant investments in energy technologies that utilize rural America’s renewable and human resources. These investments would pay off not only by helping to mitigate the effects of climate change but by driving significant rural economic development.”

WGIII_AR5_Cover_webThe IPCC third working group report released this week finds that climate change is occurring at a rapid rate, but mitigation strategies such as scaling up renewable energy production could substantially reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

According to the report, total anthropogenic GHG emissions have continued to increase over 1970 to 2010 in spite of a growing number of climate change mitigation policies. Total anthropogenic GHG emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010. Without additional efforts to reduce GHG emissions beyond those in place today, emissions growth is expected to persist, driven by growth in global population and economic activities.

USDA Rural Development Supports Biofuel Investment

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno went on a three-state Midwest tour last week to highlight USDA investments that are helping expand business opportunities in the bio-economy, including biofuels.

usda-salerno“Creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity for rural small businesses are top priorities for the Obama Administration,” said Salerno, who visited companies in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. “The new Farm Bill expands the potential for economic growth in rural America by maintaining momentum for the emerging bio-based industry and the more than 3,000 bio-based companies across the country.”

Salerno’s tour started with a visit to Quad County Corn Processors near Galva, Iowa where they are working on a process to turn corn kernel fibers into cellulosic ethanol and as a result boost the plant’s ethanol production. “It’s a co-op, so all the farmers around there have a vested interest in making this processing unit work,” she said. The company has received nearly $22 million in USDA Rural Development loan guarantees since it opened 13 years ago.

Salerno noted that the United States has the capacity to provide one billion tons of biomass per year by 2030. “This has a possibility of hundreds of thousands of jobs – actually 1.7 million estimated,” she said.

EPA Chief Discusses RFS With Ag Journalists

epa-mccarthyEnvironmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke to the North American Agricultural Journalists meeting in Washington DC on Monday and expressed confidence that the final rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will be different than the proposed rule that reduces volume requirements for biofuels in 2014.

According to Agri-Pulse McCarthy said EPA is in the process of reviewing more than 200,000 comments on the RFS proposal and plans to issue a final rule in late spring or early summer.

She stressed that EPA has to make sure the final rule is implementable. “And that means taking into realities of the fuel market. One of those realities is the fuel blend wall.”

Agri-Pulse reports that McCarthy expects the final rule will “almost certainly” be different than the one that was proposed. “Gasoline demand had an impact in the proposal and it will also be reflected in the final rule,” she said.

She also said that EPA expects legal challenges to any RFS standards. “We need to be able to justify it in court,” McCarthy said. With current the current infrastructure, the industry this year would not be able to “get anywhere near” the levels required in the original RFS. “But we think that the industry is stepping up to that challenge,” she said. “We’re going to try to work toward these goals the best we can, but we need to be realistic.”

Read the entire article from Agri-Pulse here.

Extenders Package Picks up Wind

After quite a bit of back and forth, the Senate Finance Committee finally included wind energy in the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) tax extenders package out of committee this week.

AWEA1“We’re grateful to all the supporters of renewable energy on the Senate Finance Committee,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “This provides a critical signal for our industry, which has created up to 85,000 jobs and has a bright future ahead, as we grow from 4 percent of the U.S. power grid to an expected 20 percent and beyond, so long as we have a predictable business climate.”

The PTC and the alternate Investment Tax Credit were added overnight to a modified “Chairman’s mark,” after an earlier draft released Monday left them and several other provisions for further negotiation.

They prevailed on a critical 18-6 vote during the committee markup late Thursday morning, on a motion by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to strip them out. Five Republicans joined the committee’s Democrats in voting down that amendment: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and John Cornyn (R-TX).

Advanced Biofuels in Tax Extenders Bill

aeclogoThe cellulosic biofuels industry was very pleased to see the Senate Finance Committee markup of a package of tax extenders that includes the Producer Tax Credit (PTC) and the special depreciation allowance for advanced biofuels.

“The cellulosic biofuel industry is just breaking through at commercial scale. Today’s markup sends a clear signal to the marketplace that Congress is making progress on extending its support for one of the most innovative, low carbon industries in the world,” said Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC). “It will be very important to move this package along quickly, as executives in our industry are weighing the pros and cons of developing the next wave of projects here or abroad.”

Advanced-Biofuels-Association-Logo“We applaud the Finance Committee and Chairman Wyden for supporting the advanced biofuels tax incentives included in the extenders legislation,” added Advanced Biofuels Association president Michael McAdams. “These extenders send a significant signal to the advanced and cellulosic industry and to the markets regarding the sustained support at the federal level, and our members appreciate the certainty of a two-year extension.”

Companies like Novozymes that are members of these organizations are very happy with the action. “When you’re on a road trip, you don’t stop every 10 minutes to put in one gallon—you fill up for the long haul. That’s what these tax credits and renewable fuel policies like the RFS need too: Fuel for the long haul to drive investment, create jobs and move our economy forward.” said Adam Monroe, Novozymes President, Americas.

The Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit all expired at the end of 2013. This package extends them through 2015 adding certainty for the advanced biofuel industry and its investors.

Retailers Tell Ethanol Story at ACE Fly-in

Fuel retailers in ethanol producing states had compelling stories to tell at the American Coalition for Ethanol Biofuels Beltway March last week in Washington DC. Several of them sat down with reporters during the event to talk about their success selling higher ethanol blends, as well as the hurdles they had to overcome to do so.

ace14-dc-badenhopGlenn Bedanhop is a third generation farmer who is also president and CEO of American Freedom Energy in the small town of Liberty Center, about 30 miles west of Toledo, Ohio. “It’s rewarding knowing the value you’re putting back in your local community,” said Badenhop, who became the first retailer in Ohio to offer E15 in January because he believes in consumer choice. “It’s their choice,” he said. “We’re not mandating that they buy Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper – it’s just like the fuels.” Interview with Glenn Badenhop, Ohio fuel retailer

ace14-dc-goodCharlie Good has been in the fuel retailing business for 34 years as a convenience store operator and auto mechanic and he started offering higher ethanol blends at his Good and Quick store in Nevada, Iowa last August despite his supplier’s objections. “I had to de-brand because the oil company didn’t want that under their canopy,” said Good. “My sales are up 20-25% a month and of the gallons that they’re up, virtually all of it is the ethanol fuels.” Interview with Charlie Good, Iowa fuel retailer

ace14-dc-vollanBruce Vollan started using blender pumps at his rural Baltic, South Dakota convenience store six years ago. “My experience has been pretty incredible,” he said. “You see a lot of people actively seeking out blends.” Vollan has seen his small business has grown to 13 full and part time employees and he says the negative publicity about ethanol doesn’t bother him because he believes he’s on the right team. He was happy to take time away from his business to take his story to Washington DC and let lawmakers and bureaucrats know what is really happening. “That’s what the ethanol industry is all about,” he said. “It’s about telling the truth.” Interview with Bruce Vollan, South Dakota fuel retailer


2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels