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.

Ag Secretary Stresses Biofuels Support at AFBF

afbf15-vilsack-stallmanReal farmers from around the country had a chance to ask Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack questions during an informal town hall-style meeting at the American Farm Bureau convention this week in San Diego.

The last question he took was from a South Dakota farmer who asked about continuation of strong biofuels policy in the United States. Vilsack detailed his continued support for the industry, particularly in the area of exports. “I am a firm believer in the future of the biofuels industry,” he said. “Ethanol production is at record levels…we’re now beginning to see great interest in the export market, not just for ethanol but also for dried distillers grains.”

Beyond the Renewable Fuel Standard, Vilsack said USDA is working hard to encourage the Defense Department to use more biofuels. “They are scheduled this year to begin a process of buying hundreds of millions of gallons of biofuels for jets and ships,” he said.

The last point the secretary made was on the need to update the research on ethanol in particular, especially when it comes to indirect land use. “A lot of the push back to the industry is based on studies that took place 15 years ago, 10 years ago, and there have been enormous increases in productivity of American farmers, that basically suggest the indirect land use calculations are not as accurate as they need to be,” he said.

Listen to the secretary’s comments on biofuels here: Secretary Vilsack at AFBF on biofuels


2015 AFBF Convention photo album

Oregon Moves Forward with Clean Fuels Program

or-deqThe Oregon Environmental Quality Commission this week approved phase two of the Oregon Clean Fuels Program, which seeks to cut greenhouse gases by lowering the carbon content in Oregon transportation fuels. The new rules, developed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, will go into effect February 1.

RFANewlogoThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is pleased that the commission decided to exclude indirect emissions when calculating the carbon intensity of various fuels regulated under the state’s Clean Fuels Program (CFP). “Oregon officials used common sense and good judgment in proposing and approving the framework for Phase 2 of the CFP. All fuels have indirect carbon effects,” said RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Oregon did the right thing by taking a careful approach to indirect effects and not putting the policy cart in front of the science horse. We hope other jurisdictions considering LCFS-like policies will follow the lead of Oregon and British Columbia when it comes to carbon intensity scoring.”

In its recommendations to the Commission, Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reported that “Recent data has shown that both food (human and animal) and fuel production has increased while the amount of land farmed has stayed constant.” Thus, DEQ proposed to exclude ILUC emissions for now and resolved to “…continue to monitor the status of technical work on this issue and will determine whether to recommend including ILUC and other indirect effects in a subsequent rulemaking, as appropriate.”

The Oregon CFP is similar to the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) in that both programs aim for a 10 percent reduction in the carbon intensity (CI) of transportation fuels used in the state over a 10-year period. However, Oregon’s approach bases CI estimates only on verifiable, direct emission while the California LCFS uses predictive economic modeling scenarios to penalize certain biofuels for theoretical “indirect land use change” (ILUC) emissions, while assuming no other fuels induce any indirect GHG emissions at all, according to RFA.

Dinneen also pointed out that new real-world global land use data is casting doubt on scenarios used by California for the LCFS that penalize biofuels like ethanol.

Bill Introduced to Re-test E15 – Again

Anti-ethanol legislation has already been introduced this very first week of the brand new 114th Congress.

sensenbrenner-2On Tuesday, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced legislation to require additional testing for 15% ethanol blended fuel (E15), a bill he has repeatedly introduced over the past four years.

Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen says the bill would hinder the growth and expansion of E15 and would simply repeat extensive studies that have already been done on the higher-level fuel blend. “The study Mr. Sensenbrenner seeks has been done. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy undertook the most exhaustive analysis ever conducted prior to approving the 211(f) fuel waiver. But even more significantly, E15 has been driven more than 100 million miles by consumers without a single reported case of engine failure or performance problems,” said Dinneen. “The rest of the world has moved beyond the hyperbolic angst about E15 and has accepted the fact that higher level ethanol blends are good for consumers, good for air quality, and good for energy security. Mr. Sensenbrenner should as well.”

A recent RFA report found that nearly 70 percent of all new vehicles are approved by automakers for use of E15.

ACE Sets Dates for DC Fly-in

ACElogoAs the 114th Congress is sworn-in today, the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) is confirming plans to visit for the 7th annual grassroots fly-in on March 24-25, 2015.

“With more than seventy new members in Congress and concerns over EPA’s implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), there is no better time for people who have a stake in the success of the ethanol industry to join fellow grassroots advocates for ACE’s fly-in,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings.

At the 2014 “Biofuels Beltway March,” eighty people from all walks of life, including farmers, fuel retailers, students, and bankers, joined ethanol producers to meet with representatives from the White House, EPA, and USDA. The group also met with 160 congressional offices.

“In addition to a large crop of incoming freshmen, just a small fraction of current lawmakers were in office when the original RFS was enacted in 2005 and modified in 2007 by Congress. Our fly-in is an important opportunity to highlight how America is benefiting from the RFS, the successful development of cellulosic ethanol, and the reliability and progress of E15 and higher ethanol fuel blends,” said Jennings.

Click here for more information.

Corn Growers Consider Growth Options for Ethanol

ncga-logo-newThe Ethanol Committee of the National Corn Growers Association met in St. Louis recently to discuss options to continue increasing demand for corn-based fuel.

“Ethanol has been a huge success story for agriculture and rural America because of the economic stimulus it has created through increased corn demand and new jobs. For the general public it provides reduced greenhouse gas emissions, better performance and fuel choice,” said Committee Chair Jeff Sandborn, a farmer from Michigan. “Despite all of our success educationally and legislatively, what we have created is a great start not final destination. We have 10% ethanol in virtually every gallon of fuel sold today but it will take a multidimensional approach to continue to grow the market for ethanol.”

The Ethanol Committee is investigating options to grow the ethanol market on many fronts including integrating higher ethanol blend compatibility into plans to update the nation’s aging fuel infrastructure; continuing to expand public acceptance and support for ethanol outside the corn belt; and evaluating the benefits of a national ethanol brand to aid in consumer identification at the pump.

“Fuel access is a high priority issue for the ethanol industry and corn farmers,” Sandborn said. “If we are going to continue to grow ethanol markets and realize the economic benefits of our ability to produce corn we will need to redouble our efforts to bring higher ethanol blends like E15 and E85 to the marketplace.”

Input from the committee will be relayed to the NCGA Corn Board for their consideration and for broader organizational discussion and policy development at Corn Congress in March.

California Governor Outlines Energy Goals

cal-gov-brown-2015Sworn in for his second, second term as Governor of the state of California on Monday, Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown, Jr. outlined three energy-related goals he would like to see the state accomplish within the next 15 years.

“First, increase from one-third to 50 percent our electricity derived from renewable sources,” said Gov. Brown in his inaugural address. “Two – and even more difficult – reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent; three, double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.”

He continued: We must also reduce the relentless release of methane, black carbon and other potent pollutants across industries. And we must manage farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands so they can store carbon. All of this is a very tall order. It means that we continue to transform our electrical grid, our transportation system and even our communities.

I envision a wide range of initiatives: more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles.

Brown was sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term as California governor this week, with his second and third terms separated by over 30 years.

Ethanol Report Looks at Year Ahead

ethanol-report-adUnfinished business and much of the same old attacks on the RFS are likely to dominate 2015 for the ethanol industry.

In this edition of “The Ethanol Report,” Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen takes a look at what he expects to be some of the big issues for ethanol in the year ahead.

Ethanol Report on Industry Outlook for 2015

Top Domestic Fuel Stories for 2014

2014-dfDomesticFuel.com is now in its 10th year bringing news and information about all types of renewable energy.

This year’s top stories, based only on Word Press statistics, shows the diversity of energy sources available that are making a difference today. What do you think were the top renewable energy news stories for 2014?

Hemp to biofuels research
Dupont “future fuel” ethanol here today
Ethanol on the road to Sturgis
Advancements in Algal biofuels – year in review
Advanced Ethanol here at last
Congress in no hurry to renew biodiesel tax credit
First Magma-enhanced geothermal system
EPA Admin visits FuelCell Energy
Advanced biofuels group questions corn stover study
Patriot Renewable Fuels signs cellulosic deal

Ethanol Report 2014 Year in Review

ethanol-report-adEvery year is interesting for the ethanol industry and 2014 was no exception.

Some of the highlights included record production and sales, healthy exports, and the commercial reality of cellulosic ethanol. The low point of the year was definitely the inability of the federal government to set volume obligations for 2014 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), leaving the industry in somewhat of a limbo.

In this Ethanol Report, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen takes a look back at some of the good news and bad news for the ethanol industry in 2014 and wishes us all a very happy new year.

Ethanol Report on 2014 Year in Review

PacificAg Can Help Ethanol Plants Go Cellulosic

pacificag-logoThe largest and most experienced biomass harvest company in the country wants to help ethanol plants develop or expand operations into the production of cellulosic ethanol by saving time and money on supply chain development. PacificAg, which is already supplying biomass for plants in Iowa and Kansas, enables cellulosic biorefineries the ability to source cost-competitive biomass for biofuel and biochemical production.

PacificAg started in the residue management business nearly 20 years ago harvesting forage crops for feed in Oregon and CEO Bill Levy says they have expanded to meet the needs of the growing biofuels industry in the Midwest.

pacificag-harvest“We can save an ethanol plant the time and money in developing a supply chain,” says Levy. “It’s a very specific supply chain with very specific challenges and I think we have a lot of experience overcoming these challenges and developing these supply chains quicker than anybody else.”

Biomass products include corn stover, wheat straw and milo stover products because of their abundance and supply. “What we’ve found in the Midwest is that not all growers are accustomed to removing this supply,” says Levy, stressing that a major component of their suite of services includes a balanced residue management program.

There are two critical elements an ethanol plant must consider when ramping up cellulosic ethanol production: year round biomass supply and sustainability around biomass residue harvest.

Harrison Pettit, a company partner who works with ethanol plants to help them get their biomass programs off the ground, notes that market needs for advanced biofuels industry are long-term and year round. “Ethanol plants are built to operate for more than 30 years.”

How does a grower know if he or she should participate in a biomass residue harvest program? Pettit says the first question to ask is, Are you within 100 miles of a cellulosic ethanol facility? “If you are a corn grower, wheat grower or milo grower, then you really ought to give us a call,” says Pettit. “If you really want to learn about how a residue management program can benefit your ground and benefit your bank account, then we want to talk.”

Learn more about PacificAg and the services they offer for both farmers and ethanol plants in these interviews with Levy and Pettit.
Interview with PacificAg CEO Bill Levy
Interview with PacificAg partner Harrison Pettit

China Approves Imports of Biotech Corn

syngentaSyngenta announced today that it has received approval for the Agrisure Viptera® trait (event MIR162) from China’s regulatory authorities, formally granting import approval. The approval covers corn grain and processing byproducts, such as dried distillers grains (DDGs), for food and feed use.

The Agrisure Viptera® trait is a key component of Syngenta’s insect control solutions, offering growers protection against the broadest spectrum of above-ground corn pests and enabling significant crop yield gains. Agrisure Viptera® has been approved for cultivation in the USA since 2010 and has also been approved for cultivation in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Syngenta originally submitted the import approval dossier to the Chinese authorities in March 2010. In addition to China, Agrisure Viptera® has been approved for import into Australia/New Zealand, Belarus, the European Union, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan and Vietnam.

China May Reopen Market for U.S. DDGs

distillers_grains_ Photo US Grains CouncilNews out this week that Chinese officials committed to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack that the ban on imports of U.S. distillers grains (DDGs) containing the MIR 162 trait will be dropped is being met with optimism by the ethanol industry.

“While we are still awaiting the official regulatory announcement from China regarding the approval of this policy, it is welcome news for America’s ethanol industry,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “I would like to personally thank Secretary Vilsack for his leadership and steadfast commitment to ensuring a resolution to this issue. Additionally, the many hardworking professionals of the USDA and the USTR deserve praise for their dedicated work behind the scenes and for their persistence in working with their Chinese colleagues to re-establish market access for U.S. DDGs.”

“China has always been somewhat schizophrenic with our protein feed,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen in an interview today. “There are times when they desperately want it and can’t get enough of it, there are times when they will erect these mysterious trade barriers so that we can’t get our product in there … We think we may be getting through it now.”

According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative
, one of the outcomes of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meetings was in the area of agricultural exports related to biotechnology traits. “China announced that it would approve the importation of new biotechnology varieties of U.S. soybeans and corn ­… and also that it would pursue a regular dialogue with the United States focused on the benefits of the increased use of innovative technologies in agriculture, for both the United States and China.”

Ethanol Report on RFS Anniversary

ethanol-report-adToday, December 19, marks the seventh anniversary of the signing into law of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which expanded the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In this Ethanol Report, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen remembers that day seven years ago and talks about its accomplishments so far and how EPA needs to move ahead with the law as written. He also comments on the report out this week from the Bipartisan Policy Center recommending changes to the RFS.

Ethanol Report on RFS Anniversary

Happy Anniversary RFS!

rfs-7Friday marks the seventh anniversary of the signing into law of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) which expanded the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as we know it today.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has compiled a report that examines the successful impact of the RFS over the past seven years on the economy, job creation, agriculture, the environment, fuel prices, petroleum import dependence, and food prices.

Among its findings, the report notes that “Renewable fuel production and consumption have grown dramatically. Dependence on petroleum—particularly imports—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 stem from the construction and operation of a biorefinery.”

“The RFS was always intended to be a marathon and not a sprint. Results were never intended to come overnight, but over the past seven years America has reaped vast economic, environmental, and national security benefits due to the increased use of home-grown, renewable fuels,” noted RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “The only hiccup in the unprecedented success of the program is a consequence of EPA’s recent failure to implement the program as designed by Congress. As we blow out the candle on the RFS’ seventh birthday cake, we do so with a wish that EPA would quickly restore the RFS to a trajectory that will enable continued investment in advanced biofuels, drive the market beyond the blend wall, and provide consumers with meaningful options and savings at the pump.”

Read more from RFA.