As the Senate and House Agriculture Committees begin to mark up a new farm bill this week, big changes are expected in the next farm bill when it comes to farm programs and ethanol is helping to make that happen.
At the annual National Association of Farm Broadcasting Washington Watch issues forum on Monday, Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen said the dramatic changes in farm programs expected are actually being made possible by the increased use of biofuels that has taken place under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “It used to be that the price of corn was far less than the cost of production and it was government farm programs that would make up the difference,” said Dinneen. “And one of the things that Congress intended with the value-added ethanol industry was creating a value for farmers that would allow them to reduce farm program costs and it has done exactly that.”
Dinneen said the Senate farm bill proposal, which is being marked up this morning in committee, does include an energy title, the farm bill is not a real focus for them but they do hope that the farm bill will include funds for USDA to support blender pump installation and the development of advanced biofuels.
Interview with Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association
In the wake of a bill passed by the Florida Legislation to repeal a law calling for the use of 10% ethanol blends in the state, automotive technician and talk show host Bobby Likis had an op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal over the weekend calling on the governor to veto the bill.
“What could be more devastating than ditching 35 years of progress? If the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is repealed, we will haplessly relinquish the fast track to the future while fellow states and countries worldwide embrace strategic biofuels production and use,” wrote Likis.
Who among us foolishly says, “We don’t care about what ‘they’ are doing. We care about Florida?” Well, we’d better care. Because of “them,” more efficient, better-mpg engines, cleaner air, national security and lots of dollars — in Florida — are at stake.
So whose agenda is behind repealing the RFS anyway? Can’t be those who have the economics of the state at heart or interest in lower emissions, lower gas prices and optimized engine performance. All these are attributes of the renewable fuel, ethanol.
And yet, the Florida Legislature would put all of this in our rear view mirror.
Governor Scott, now is the time for one good man to come to the aid of his state—by vetoing HB4001/SB320.
Florida’s Renewable Fuel Standard Act, which requires that all gasoline sold in Florida contain 9-10 percent ethanol, or other alternative fuel, by volume has been in effect for five years. The legislature passed a bill to repeal the act last month but it has not yet been signed by the governor.
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) today announced that Dawn Schueller Moore has joined the staff as Communications Director. Moore served as Press Secretary to U.S. Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin for nearly three years and has publicized issues and events ranging from agriculture, rural development, Supreme Court Justices Sotomayor and Kagan’s nomination hearings and Senator Kohl’s “No Oil Producing & Exporting Cartels Act” antitrust legislation to help decrease the cost of gasoline.
“I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact ethanol has had in my home state and I know all too well the fight that ethanol has ahead of it in Congress as oil interests bear down to desperately protect their monopoly,” Moore said. “I’m anxious to put my press and social media skills to work telling the amazing story of this industry and the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
“Dawn is a great addition to our team. With her Midwestern roots and Washington political experience, she has rural America in her blood and politically savvy instincts,” said RFA CEO Bob Dinneen. “Besides her valuable Senate experience, she is high energy and enthusiastic about the value-proposition that U.S. ethanol brings to agriculture, economic development, and our country as a stronger, more energy independent nation.”
Moore rounds out RFA’s communications team led by Christina Martin, Executive Vice President. Moore will be the point person for day-to-day press activities including media inquiries, interviews, and press conferences. She will be actively participating in social media. Look for Dawn Moore on Twitter at @RFADawn.
It’s time for National Association of Farm Broadcasting members to gather in Washington, DC for their annual Washington Watch program.
Activities this afternoon with the Issues Forum, sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association. Among the topics sure to be discussed will be what a new farm bill may hold for renewable energy and the latest on attacks to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Tomorrow morning the farm broadcasters meet up at USDA and will be speaking with a number of department heads including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. It looks like Wednesday morning will be all about the Farm Bill with input from various members of the Senate and House where their versions of the new legislation are going through mark ups this week.
Legislation has been re-introduced in Congress that would give investors in renewable energy projects access to a corporate structure currently only available for fossil fuel-based energy projects.
The Master Limited Partnerships (MLP) Parity Act modifies the federal tax code by helping additional energy-generation and renewable fuels companies form master limited partnerships, which combine the funding advantages of corporations and the tax advantages of partnerships.
“The bipartisan Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act levels the playing field to help clean and renewable energy projects compete fairly with traditional energy projects,” said bill co-sponsor Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “This market-driven solution supports the all-of-the-above energy strategy we need to power our country for generations to come.”
In addition to Coons, the Senate bill is co-sponsored by Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The MLP Parity Act was also introduced in the House on Wednesday by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX-02), Mike Thompson (D-CA-05), Peter Welch (D-VT-AL) and Chris Gibson (R-NY-19).
According to FaegreBD Consulting, an MLP is a publicly traded partnership that is largely measured by the predictability and sustainability of its cash flow. As a partnership, the MLP is not subject to taxation at the MLP or corporate level, but instead is taxed as a pass-through entity. As such, MLP cash flows are enhanced, and tax savings from this single level of taxation contribute to a cost of capital advantage over competitors organized or taxed as a corporation. In the late 1980’s, legislation was passed restricting the use of MLPs to the energy and natural resource industry, excluding renewable sources of energy. As a result, MLPs have been largely limited to the ownership and operation of midstream oil and gas assets such as pipelines and storage terminals, and more recently the exploration and production of oil, gas and coal.
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association reports that Sperry One Stop in Coon Rapids is the sixth Iowa retailer to offer 15% ethanol as a registered fuel for all 2001 and newer passenger vehicles and all flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs).
“This is a new station and we want to be offering the fuels of the future, and that’s cleaner-burning, American made E15,” stated Sperry One Stop Owner Kurt Sperry. “With the POET-Coon Rapids plant nearby, there’s a strong renewable fuels presence here in Coon Rapids, so offering a fuel like E15 just made sense.”
“The citizens of Coon Rapids will really benefit from renewable, less expensive options at the pump like E15,” said IRFA Managing Director Lucy Norton. “This station is offering a variety of ethanol blends as well as biodiesel, and we see that as a win for the consumer and a win for the local economy.”
Retailers interested in installing a blender pump to offer E15, E85, and other ethanol blends can apply for a grant from the Iowa Department of Agriculture. The IRFA provides assistance in the application process. For more information, please visit: http://www.iowaagriculture.gov/agMarketing/IRFIP.asp.
The Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) has sent a letter to the White House expressing concern about ongoing delays in the approval process for advanced biofuel pathways pursuant to the implementation of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The letter calls for the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to prioritize and approve a number of these pathways to facilitate the program.
“While we understand that the White House and U.S. EPA must be thorough in their analysis when it comes to which advanced biofuels qualify for the RFS, we have gotten to the point where administrative delays are causing project developers to look to other countries to build their facilities,” said AEC Executive Director Brooke Coleman. “The private sector has stepped up to the plate when it comes to advanced biofuels and the RFS, but developers rightly expect resolution on the pathways to start construction on these projects. There is a point where too much delay and uncertainty drives these innovative projects to Brazil and China, and that’s where we are for some of the more critical pathways.”
The AEC points out that some pathway deliberations have been ongoing for three years without any clear timeframe for resolution. “It is absolutely critical for the private investment marketplace to have a transparent, expeditious and predictable resolution process for all proposed pathways, or we face the prospect of losing these projects to other countries, ” the letter states.
The National Corn Growers Association recently submitted comments on the impact of the Renewable Fuel Standard to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in response to their second white paper, “Agricultural Sector Impacts.” In these comments, NCGA addressed how the RFS affects commodity products including corn, agricultural output and economics, RFS flexibility, food prices, cellulosic feedstock and global impacts.
The comments began by noting that corn farmers have responded to the increased demand of ethanol from the Renewable Fuel Standard by producing more corn and doing so in a more environmentally friendly manner. “In the last 30 years, corn production has improved on all measures of resource efficiency, by decreasing per bushel: land use by 30 percent, soil erosion by 67 percent, irrigation by 53 percent, energy use by 43 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 36 percent.”
Comments also noted the energy security and environmental benefits attributable to the RFS. “RFS has increased national energy security by creating a market for renewable fuel as a substitute for non-renewable petroleum-based fuel, thereby accelerating the nation’s progress toward a low greenhouse gas emissions economy. In addition, the RFS has contributed to the reduction of petroleum imports.”
The remainder of the comments directly addressed questions posed by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce about impacts of the RFS. Topics of particular interest included impacts attributable to the RFS on corn prices, food prices, job creation, economic growth and land use change. NCGA comments provided a detailed look at the myriad of factors involved in each area that are often overlooked in discussions about this standard including: the impact of export demand for soy from China; the direct impact of the drought on beef production; alternative models and theories concerning the idea of indirect land use change; the impact of rising global labor and diesel costs on food cost; and the inherent flexibility of the standard.
In ethanol-related news over the past week or so we have seen senators request a probe into the European Union’s anti-dumping duties on ethanol, comments to the House energy committee on the RFS, and legislation introduced for an energy title in the next farm bill.
To find out more about all of those stories and more, we caught up with Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen to get his comments in this new edition of “The Ethanol Report.” We’ll be hearing more from him and others in the nation’s capitol next week when we attend the annual National Association of Farm Broadcasting Washington Watch.
Listen to or download the Ethanol Report here: Ethanol Report on Current Events
Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.
Legislation to reauthorize the Farm Bill energy title was introduced in the Senate Monday.
Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Rural Energy Investment Act to “help farmers, ranchers, and rural communities by encouraging the growth of agricultural energy technologies, including advanced biofuels, biogas, biomass, and renewable energies.”
“These energy programs are essential for expanding clean energy supplies, which also spur rural economic development and job creation,” said Harkin. “The tradition of providing strong support for an energy title in a farm bill must continue today, so for that reason I am hopeful that this measure will serve as a marker as the 2013 bill moves through the U.S. Senate.”
“Advancing our agricultural energy technologies is good for our farmers and economy, and it improves our overall energy independence and security,” added Franken. “This legislation will create jobs and play a critical role in cutting costs for our farmers and producers and will help them with the adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.”
The Agriculture Energy Coalition supports the legislation and thanked the senators for introducing it. Last week, the coalition joined more than 100 national, state and regional organizations in a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, urging them to adopt a new Farm Bill with robust mandatory funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
Since ethanol production has grown under the Renewable Fuel Standard over the past six years, government farm program payments for corn growers have declined to their lowest levels in recent history, which is saving taxpayer dollars.
In a new E-xchange Blog post, Renewable Fuels Association VP for Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper shows how the RFS has helped boost corn prices above cost of production since 2007, which decreases program payments. Prior to 2007, going back to 1990, the market price for corn exceeded the cost of production only once (1996) between 1990 and 2006. In some years (e.g., 1993, 1998-2000, 2005), the cost of production was nearly $1 per bushel higher than the harvest price paid to the farmer.
Between 1990 and 2006, producing corn was a losing business proposition. In all but one of those 17 years, the average farmer’s cost of producing corn was higher than the returns earned from selling the corn. In other words, corn cost more to produce than it was worth. As a result, U.S. grain farmers became increasingly reliant on government payments as a source of income—and as a means of survival. Due in part to the emergence of the ethanol industry and the certainty provided by the RFS, this dynamic has changed.
Cooper notes that since passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) and expansion of the RFS in 2007 corn prices have been above the cost of production, and government payments have fallen. “Though not reflected in the above figures (due to lack of 2012 cost of production data), government payments to corn farmers in 2012 are forecast to be their lowest in 18 years and less than one-quarter of 2006’s outlays,” Cooper writes. “As a consequence of the grain sector’s economic resurgence, Congress is now considering sweeping changes to the Farm Bill that would further reduce the program’s impact on taxpayers and the federal budget.”
A new study indicates that ethanol production is continuing to reduce its energy and environmental footprint.
The study, entitled “2012 Corn Ethanol: Emerging Plant Energy and Environmental Technologies”, found that recent innovations in corn ethanol production have resulted in increased yield per bushel even as less energy is required for production.
In this edition of “The Ethanol Report”, study co-author Steffen Mueller, PhD with the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center, talks about the findings and Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen comments on the significance.
Listen to or download the Ethanol Report here: Ethanol Report on Efficiency Study 3:39
Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.
A bipartisan group of senators are asking for an investigation into a recent anti-dumping decision made by European Union regarding ethanol imports from the United States.
Fourteen Democratic and Republican Senators have joined together to sign a letter sent to the Acting United States Trade Representative (USTR), Demetrios Manatos and Acting Secretary of Commerce, Rebecca Blank, calling on them to review and consider a World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge to the European Union’s controversial and unprecedented anti-dumping duty recently imposed on U.S. ethanol producers.
The letter was co-authored by Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and cosponsored by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tim Johnson (D-SD), John Hoeven (R-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Roy Blunt (R-MO).
In a joint statement, Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen and Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said they are pleased to see the senators take action in the matter.
“The EU Commission failed to make any particular finding of dumping by any producer or marketer investigated in connection with the case,” said Dinneen and Buis. “The EU’s recent actions are unprecedented and we believe that the World Trade Organization (WTO) will nullify this blatantly protectionist country-wide anti-dumping duty on exports of ethanol from the United States.”
Read more here.
A new study indicates that ethanol production is continuing to reduce its energy and environmental footprint.
The study, entitled “2012 Corn Ethanol: Emerging Plant Energy and Environmental Technologies”, found that recent innovations in corn ethanol production have resulted in increased yield per bushel even as less energy is required for production. Thermal energy use at a typical dry mill ethanol plant has fallen 9% since 2008, the study found, meaning the carbon footprint of corn ethanol continues to shrink.
The authors, Steffen Mueller, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center and John Kwik, PE, of Dominion Energy Services, LLC wrote in summary, “Our work includes an assessment of over 50% of operating dry grind corn ethanol plants. On average, 2012 dry grind plants produce ethanol at higher yields with lower energy inputs than 2008 corn ethanol.”
“Furthermore, significantly more corn oil is separated at the plants now, which combined with the higher ethanol yields results in a slight reduction in DDG production and a negligible increase in electricity consumption,” the authors concluded.
Listen to an interview with Steffen Mueller here: Steffen Mueller, study author
Read the study here.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack today renewed a historic agreement with U.S. dairy producers to accelerate the adoption of innovative waste-to-energy projects and energy efficiency improvements on U.S. dairy farms, both of which help producers diversify revenues and reduce utility expenses on their operations. The pact extends a Memorandum of Understanding signed in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009.
USDA support for agricultural and waste-to-energy research has played a key role in the agreement’s success to date. Since signing the MOU, USDA has made nearly 180 awards that helped finance the development, construction, and biogas production of anaerobic digester systems with Rural Development programs, such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, Value Added Producer Grants, amongst others. These systems capture methane and produce renewable energy for on-farm use and sale onto the electric grid. Additionally, during this period, USDA awarded approximately 140 REAP loans and grants to help dairy farmers develop other types of renewable energy and energy efficiency systems at their operations.
Anaerobic digester technology is a proven method of capturing methane from waste products, such as manure, and converting into heat and electricity. The technology utilizes generators that are fueled by the captured methane. Dairy operations with anaerobic digesters routinely generate enough electricity to power hundreds of homes per year.
The Secretary was joined on a conference call to make the announcement by The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy CEO Tom Gallagher and Doug Young, a farmer from NY who has benefited from this MOU.
Listen to that call here: USDA/Dairy MOU press call