UN Calls for Easing of U.S. Ethanol Mandates

The concern over the American drought and the impact that ethanol production is having on corn prices has gone global. Jose Graziano da Silva, the director-general of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, said that the easing of U.S. ethanol mandates could stave off another world food crisis.

In response, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance  (GRFA) wrote, “While the current drought in the US Midwest has placed tremendous pressure on farmers, any action to reduce or eliminate the RFS would be premature and have immediate consequences in lost jobs and an increased reliance on crude oil imports.”

GRFA cited that the flexibility embedded in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is an effective way of reducing demand for corn during difficult time. U.S. ethanol production is down nearly 14 percent and refiners are holding an estimated 2.6 billion RFS credits that can be used to meet their compliance requirements.

Total grain output globally is expected to drop by 2.9 percent this year; yet, it is still estimated to be the second largest in history. Estimates show grain ending stocks 4% above the 10 year average.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Garry Niemeyer thanked farmers for having done so much to increase the corn supply. This year’s corn acres paralleled that in 1937; however, this year with advanced agronomic practices, new seed technologies and improved genetics, corn is able to withstand extreme conditions, such as heat and drought, better than ever before.

.”..we remain hopeful that above average yields in some areas will further augment the crop. At the same time, we recognize that it will not fully cover yield concerns.” Without these advanced technologies, said Niemeyer, the production losses would be much greater.

“As prices and emotions rise, so does the temptation to take action that might actually hurt us all in the long run,” added Niemeyer. “Right now, farmers, ranchers, ethanol producers and much of the country is suffering through this historic drought. Yet, we suffer together. We have all seen our investments, be they of time, hard work or resources, wither under the unrelenting heat. With empathy and a strong spirit of cooperation, we will come through these difficulties stronger for the experience and with renewed vigor to build a brighter future for ourselves, our industry and our country.”

Setting the Record Straight On Drought & RFS

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is setting the record straight on the truth behind what would happen if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allowed a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2). Garry Niemeyer, NCGA president sent a letter to every member of the House of Representatives along with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, that included corrects inaccuracies.

“Unfortunately, the letter sent to EPA Administrator Jackson did not provide accurate information about the amount of corn used to produce ethanol or livestock feed,” Niemeyer stated in the letter. “Furthermore, it lacks a comprehensive description of the “burden of proof” required under the RFS waiver provisions. The letter relies on long discredited claims that opponents of the RFS have continued to reference in their on-going efforts to repeal the RFS.”

One of the pieces of misinformation according to Niemeyer is that research has shown that increased worldwide demand and the rising cost of oil and other inputs have had a much greater effect on the price of corn than the ethanol required by the RFS. NCGA believes it is premature for the EPA to waive the RFS at this point and until the harvest numbers are final, it is too early to determine how much corn will be available.

“It is important to remember that a Congressional majority wisely passed a renewable fuel standard that would work in both good and bad crop years,” Niemeyer said. “NCGA urges you to consider the benefits of the RFS to rural America, American energy security and the American farmer.”

Neimeyer also encouraged members of Congress to visit with farmers and community leaders to learn more about the important role they play for America.

10 Ways Ethanol is Helping Livestock Producers

Despite the lack of rain that is occurring across the U.S. this summer, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IFRA) has released a list of 10 ways ethanol producers are helping livestock farmers during the drought. IRFA says that although the drought is having a profound impact on crop production, because of ethanol production, there is larger corn crop and more flexible supply than ever available during other drought periods.

“Today’s USDA report confirms what we already knew – that the drought’s impact on supply and price will be felt by corn consumers around the world,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Yet, the ag sector has seen droughts before, and it will survive again. This is a time when all of agriculture should pull together. Unfortunately, national livestock trade associations have chosen to politicize the on-going drought as part of their multi-year effort to return corn prices to $2 per bushel. At times like this, it is important to look past the rhetoric to the facts.”

During the American Coalition for Ethanol 25th Annual Conference, Cindy Zimmerman sat down with Shaw to discuss the call for a waiver of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) with many of the calls coming from the livestock industry. They also discussed 10 ways ethanol producers are helping livestock producers during this tough time.

Monte Shaw interview at ACE

Ethanol helps all types of livestock producers. “We have a better price of corn. It makes them more competitive against the integrators,” explained Shaw. “But then we also have the distillers grains. And if you think about it, we planted 95 million acres of corn this year instead of 75 million because of ethanol. So yes, we’re taking a nasty hit from this drought and this is going to cause pain among all corn users, but we’re going to have a much bigger crop than we would have otherwise.”

“And then the ethanol industry returns that 20 million additional acres of protein goes straight to the livestock industry. So we have 20 additional acres of protein that would not be out in the market, the feed market, if it weren’t for the ethanol industry,” he added. Continue reading

Consumers Choosing Carbon Offsets at Pump

Consumers in California have been choosing to purchase carbon offsets when they fill up at the pump. Propel Fuels has been operating a pilot program with its flagship Clean Mobility Center in Fullerton, California. When a consumer purchases carbon emissions offsets it goes through the Carbonfund.org Foundation. Since Propel launched CarbonOffset in May, nearly 1,000 customers have spent $1.00 per fill and offset more than 160,000 pounds of CO2 at one station.

“It’s encouraging that, even during a period of high fuel prices, consumers are choosing to pay a little extra to offset their emissions, one tankful at a time, to help make progress toward our nation’s clean energy goals,” said Matt Horton, CEO of Propel. “By making carbon offsets convenient and cost effective, we’re helping consumers take part in the clean energy movement, even if their vehicles don’t run on renewable fuels.”

The program is not just for consumers driving cars and trucks. Fleet drivers can also participate and keep track of their efforts through the CleanDrive program. Members receive personalized emissions reports that include CO2 reductions, barrels of oil displaced and equivalent annual impact of mature trees.

When carbon offsets are purchased, Carbonfund.org Foundation uses the money to fund projects focusing on renewable energy, methane capture, energy efficiency, reforestation and other carbon emission reduction projects. CarbonOffset participants are currently helping to fund the Truck Stop Electrification Project, an initiative that provides truck drivers the ability to access heating, cooling, internet, TV and other amenities by plugging into electricity rather than idling their diesel engines.

Due to the early success of the program, Propel plans to expand the program to more locations. “The early success of Propel’s CarbonOffset program is strong evidence that consumers are ready and willing to support clean energy, especially if the cost and benefits are clear,” added Eric Carlson, President of Carbonfund.org. “Thanks to Propel, thousands of drivers can vote with their dollars to support clean energy and domestic, renewable fuels.”

Suntech Reaches 1 Gigawatt Milestone

Suntech Power has reached a major milestone: production and delivery of more than 1 gigawatt of solar panels. The company is one of the first in the world to achieve this feat. Globally, nearly 7GW of Suntech solar panels have been shipped to more than 1,000 customers in 80 countries. In total, Suntech solar panels have the ability to generate close to 9 terrawatt hours of electricity per year.

How much power is that? According to the CIA World Factbook, enough energy to cover the all the power needs of Costa Rica or Paraguay. As in yes, the entire country.

This is a great milestone for our team and, most of all, a tribute to our customers – their success is our success. Although it’s a highly-competitive period for solar manufacturers, there’s never been a better time to be a solar customer and that’s what matters most to our industry’s longevity,” said John Lefebvre, President of Suntech America. “Utilities from Arizona to Chile are recognizing solar’s unique value proposition and ability to deliver low-risk, long-term price stability in an energy era defined by fossil fuel price instability. Solar offers a brilliant value proposition today that will only improve with time.”

Founded in 2007 in San Francisco, California, in 2010, Suntech opened a 30MW solar module production facility in Goodyear, Arizona, which has since expanded to 50MW and now runs around-the-clock. Suntech employs about 180 people throughout the Americas and is continuing to grow.

Marine Exchange Goes Green

The Marine Exchange of Southern California has just completed a renewable energy project that included the addition of solar and wind power. The energy generated will power all the Marine Exchange electricity needs for its operations for tracking vessels entering and leaving all Southern California waters.

The $450,000 project was supported by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power along with the Port of Los Angeles. EcoMedia entered into an advertising partnership with the Port of Los Angeles, where a portion of the Port’s TV ad costs were provided by EcoMedia to support the project. With the help of city grants and rebates, the direct cost to the Marine Exchange was less than $200,000.

“With this project, the Marine Exchange gains its energy independence and Los Angeles takes another step forward to becoming one of the world’s cleanest big cities,” said Mayor Villaraigosa, who was at an event to showcase the new renewable energy project. “Government can’t do it alone, and we applaud the Marine Exchange of Southern California for teaming with us to create a winning project that makes our city a healthier place to live and work.”

The project took two years to complete. Built atop one of the highest points in San Pedro, there are 286 solar panels and four wind turbines generating 87 kW – enough to power the Marine Exchange’s 55-60 kW needs and feed the remaining electricity to the grid. The wind turbines were built with an experimental vertical generator to protect birds.

“We are the modern equivalent of a lighthouse that helps ships find their way safely,” added Capt. Richard McKenna, Executive Director of the Marine Exchange. “With this project, we are also a figurative lighthouse helping to guide the way to cleaner, greener operations in the San Pedro Bay.”

‘Clean Energy Victory Bonds’ Would Spur Alt Energy

U.S. Representative Bob Filner has introduced the “Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2012 (PTC)” that would allow Americans to invest billions of dollars to help develop clean energy technologies. The bill has good support: 10 co-sponsors, Green America and more than 40 other institutions have come out in support of the legislation.

The majority of the production tax credits for alternative energy and energy efficiency projects have either expired or are set to expire this year. The tax extender package has some two-year extensions for wind, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol, but not for other energy sources. While it has passed through the Senate Finance Committee, it must still pass the Senate and pass through the House.

This bill would extend all renewable energy and energy efficiency projects up to a decade and also give Americans the ability to help “choose” the projects they would like to support.  Similar to the Victory Bonds from WWII, Clean Energy Victory Bonds could leverage billions of dollars of public and private finance for development.

“The importance of a clean energy future for America cannot be overstated,” said Alisa Gravitz, president of Green America. “Just like Victory Bonds helped to ensure the nation’s victories in World War II, so, too, can Clean Energy Victory Bonds allow Americans to invest in a future that benefits our country economically, politically, and environmentally.”

Should the bill pass, with as little as $25, Americans could buy Clean Energy Victory Bonds from the U.S. Treasury. Over time, the bonds would pay the owner a competitive rate of return.

Algae for $2 Per Gallon

AFS BioOil has conducted initial tests on its algae production system, and the company states that they will be in the $2 per gallon range of production at commercial scale. For advanced biofuels, commercial scale is at least 1 million gallons per year of production.

“The next project for us is one to three million gallon/yr system,” said CEO Vadim Krifuks. “We are putting all our efforts in preparing to execute it.”

Krifuks said his company is looking for partners around the world to join them in their development. Most recently, the company partnered with a renewable electricity company that has the technology to convert waste heat into electricity at a cost of  6 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).  Krifuks believes they can reduce the cost by another 2 cents per kWh.

The next step in this project is for the two companies to combine electricity production with biodiesel production into one facility. The two companies are laying the plans for a 5 MWe renewable electricity and 1 to 3 million gallons per year of biodiesel project. The design stage is underway and the project scope will be released later this year.

MotorWeek Features Green Ice

Where else would you find a green Zamboni than in Minnesota? Not even sure what a Zamboni is? It’s the machine used  to resurface ice (think hockey rink). Well these creatures have gone green, and not just the paint color. Brooklyn Park has purchased two electric Zambonies featuring a lead acid battery pack. They, along with other greening efforts of the city, have been featured on MotorWeek’s long running series on PBS.

Other green features of Brooklyn Park? With a grant from the Department of Energy, in partnership with the Twin Cities Clean Cities Coalition, more than 100 police, fire and other various city vehicles are running on E85 and biodiesel.

You can learn more by watching the segment in full.

Ethanol Producers Adapt to Drought, Corn Prices

Nebraska ethanol producers are responding to a tough market.  With excessive drought conditions and nearly record high corn prices, ethanol producers have decreased their consumption in recent weeks. Latest estimates show the state’s ethanol plants operating at approximately 70 percent of capacity. This is a significant drop from 2011 when plants were running at 100 percent. In 2012, Nebraska ethanol plants produced more than 2 billion gallons.

“This slowing of production is a natural response to drought related market forces and will not preclude the industry from achieving Renewable Fuel Standard benchmarks,” said Steve Hanson, Chairman of the Nebraska Ethanol Board. “Higher than normal ethanol stocks and a large number of existing RIN credits for U.S. refiners combine to make RFS standards achievable well into 2013.”

Hanson has stressed what others in the industry have: that according to a study by Iowa State professor Bruce Babcock, a total waiver of the RFS would only reduce corn prices by less than 5 percent and cause only a 5 percent reduction in ethanol production. Livestock and poultry producers have been calling for a RFS waiver, but Hanson noted that dried distillers grains, a bi-product of ethanol production, are still an important and affordable feed option for animals.

“The RFS was created to reduce U.S. petroleum imports and it has done so very effectively,” continued Hanson. “In 2011, 14 billion gallons of domestically produced ethanol replaced 13% of oil imports and reduced the nation’s trade deficit by $50 billion. For the first time in decades, less than half of U.S. petroleum demand was imported. In addition, Nebraska motorists saved more than $50 million in fuel costs due to the lower price for ethanol fuels.”

Lastly, Hanson praised the ethanol industry for creating quality jobs and a more diverse tax base in small communities where many of the ethanol plants are located. A study conducted by Dr. Ken Lemke, chief economist at NPPD, says 7,700 Nebraskans are employed directly and indirectly as a result of the ethanol industry. State and local governments receive more than $50 million dollars in tax revenues and $250 million is added to household incomes in the state.

Novozymes & Fiberight Produce Biofuel from Trash

Fiberight has announced it has received key federal approval for its production process. The company, who has enlisted Novozymes as a partner, has developed technology to convert non-recycled municipal solid and industrial wastes into advanced biofuels. To achieve federal approval, the company proved its ability to separate recyclable paper, cardboard, plastics, rubber, textiles, metals and glass wastes from organic materials such as food waste.

“The days of waste ending in a landfill are gone,” said Craig Stuart-Paul, Fiberight Chief Executive Officer. “We are giving trash a new beginning – firing our plant and fueling cars and trucks – and providing a less expensive, domestically-made energy source for the country.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to Fiberight to be one of the first cellulosic biofuels producers to begin producing fuel at commercial scale. According to a company statement, Fiberight is nearing commercialization of advanced biofuels, spurred by the mandates required by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2).

The company’s first plant online will be in Lawrenceville, Virginia in which $20 million has been invested. Once running at full production, the facility will produce nearly 1 million gallons per year. The plant is currently focused on putting the enzymes to work to break down the trash.

The next step is to bring a larger-scale commercial facility online in Blairstown, Iowa with a target date of 2013. The Blairstown facility will have capacity to produce six million gallons per year.

Midwest Governors Calls for More B20 Use

In a letter, the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA) has asked diesel engine and vehicle manufacturers to support the use of B20 (20 percent biodiesel + 80 percent diesel) in all diesel run equipment. The call is joined by the Iowa Biodiesel Board along with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who is the Chair of MGA.

“As Governors, we see increasing the use of biodiesel as an important part of diversifying our nation’s energy portfolio,” the MGA said in the letter sent to 23 automakers and Original Equipment Manufacturers. “We will continue to encourage policies that will expand consumer access to higher blends of biodiesel…It is our firm belief that companies that support B20 will capture market share from those companies that choose not to support B20—especially in the Midwest.”

As states pass policies mandating the use of higher blends of biodiesel, equipment manufacturers will need to produce equipment that is designed for higher blends of biodiesel. Today, more than 65 percent of engine and equipment manufacturers support B20.

The letter outlines several other key reasons why supporting use of B20 is the correct action to take:

  • More than 13 states are encouraging use of higher biodiesel blends from B2–B20 through a variety of state policies.
  • The use of biodiesel reduces emissions as well as reduces the need for imported oil.
  • The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) calls for the use of 1 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in 2012 (biodiesel is categorized as an advanced biofuel) and increased the use up to 5 billion gallons per year by 2020.
Randy Olson, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board added his organization’s support greater use of higher blends of biodiesel. “This united call to action from 10 governors is an extraordinary show of support for B20, and we commend them for their bold leadership.”

New Ethanol Plant Opens Amidst Drought

Despite raging concerns about the effect the worst drought of 50 years on the corn harvest, the former Bionol ethanol plant in Pennsylvania is back up and running after being purchased by Zeeland Farm Services (ZFS). Production began last month at the now named Pennsylvania Grain Processing LLC and is producing ethanol, dry distiller’s grains and other products.

Nearly all of the former employees of the plant were brought back and there are plans to hire additional employees. Cliff Meeuwsen said the plant is up and running at full capacity. ZFS also owns and operates corn and soybean processing plants in Nebraska and Michigan and is no stranger to operating agricultural businesses in times of challenges.

Even when corn prices are not through the roof and various industries (i.e. livestock, ethanol, etc.) are competing for corn, not much corn is grown in the state; therefore, the plant, as well as producers, must ship corn to the state to meet needs.

Yet Meeuwsen said there’s ample corn to meet both the ethanol plant’s needs as well as other needs. “We’ve gotten a good corn supply from the farm people around here,” Meeuwsen said in an interview with Pittsburg Business Times. Meeuwsen has been in the industry for 60 years. He noted this is the worst drought he has experienced since 1988.

“Ethanol has seen its ups and downs before, and although this time frame is going to be very tough on it and the margins are very bad, a great many of them will survive,” he said. “And when there is corn aplenty again, ethanol will continue to make sense. I think the industry will then go forward.”

Carrots Go From Orange to Green

If carrots go green will they still help your eyesight? You bet. Grimway Enterprises, the largest carrot grower in the U.S., is going solar with plans to install 3.4 megawatts of solar energy. Grimway will be installing solar projects at five of its production sites located throughout San Joaquin Vally in California. Construction is underway at three of the sites and when completed each facility should generate 1.15 MW of energy. A total of 4,760 Conergy PM 240 Watt solar modules will be used.

“Conergy is as committed to quality standards and environmental sustainability as we are and that’s one of the reasons we chose Conergy as a partner,” said John Noland with Grimmway. We are very happy with the team of Conergy and their local Construction Management partner SC Anderson, their professional attitude, attention to detail and expertise. I expect the additional solar plants to be as successful as the first – completed on time and in budget.”

GROWMARK Picks Up 1st Truckload of Biodiesel at Ohio Terminal

GROWMARK’s network fuel supplier Trupointe Cooperative Inc. picked up the first truckload of biodiesel at the new New Lebanon Ohio Terminal owned by the Renewable Energy Group (REG). The facility is located outside of Cincinnati. The facility is producing REG-9000 branded biodiesel produced from natural oils, fats and greases and meets or exceeds ASTM quality specifications for biodiesel.

“GROWMARK and Trupointe Cooperative Inc. have been advocates for biodiesel utilization for many years,” said Gary Haer, VP of Sales and Marketing at. We look forward to growing our relationship with GROWMARK and its other cooperatives in the future. This Ohio terminal offers great opportunity for blenders like GROWMARK and Trupointe to expand their biodiesel offerings in preparation for harvest or to meet summer over-the-road diesel demand.”

Brigette Harlan, Renewable Fuels Product Manager for GROWMARK said they are pleased to take the first truckload of biodiesel from the new facility, and REG has been a valuable partner for many years. “REG is dedicated to quality and to the best possible customer experience which is very important to our customers like Trupointe Cooperative who are receiving this truckload. We appreciate and share that commitment as we all grow and help the marketplace understand the benefits of using biodiesel.”