About John Davis

Domestic Fuel welcomes our newest blogger, John Davis. John is a 20 years+ veteran of traditional news and is getting his first taste of this "new media." We've known John since Chuck hired him to work at the Brownfield Network in January, 2000 after he served an 11 year stint in the U.S. Air Force as a broadcast journalist. John lives in Jefferson City, Missouri with his wife, two sons, two dogs, a cat, a mouse, and a fish! You can read more about him and his thoughts at his own website John C. Davis Online.

Biodiesel Board Joins EPA, DOJ Against Big Oil

scalesofjustice1While the basketball national championship might have been decided on the court, it could be the courts that decide the future of advanced biofuels in this country. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) joined forces with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice to fight an attempt to dismantle the Renewable Fuel Standard (NBB).

In the current case, Monroe Energy, joined by the American Petroleum Institute and other groups, is challenging the EPA’s handling of the 2013 volume requirements. Among the arguments supporting the EPA’s position, NBB points out that that the petroleum industry’s challenge makes no argument that insufficient volumes of renewable fuels were available in 2013 and fundamentally misinterprets the EPA’s authority to waive volume requirements under the law. NBB maintains that the EPA’s 2013 standards achieved the directives of Congress.

“The renewable fuels industry is united in supporting the RFS to promote production of clean, alternative fuels,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “As the leading producer of Advanced Biofuels in the nation, the biodiesel industry has demonstrated that the Advanced Biofuel standard is working. The simple fact is that we have met or exceeded the Advanced standard in each year of the program, including in 2013 when the RFS delivered more than 3.3 billion RIN-equivalent gallons of Advanced fuels, made up mostly of biodiesel and renewable diesel.”

“Big Oil likes to say the RFS isn’t working, but what’s really broken is the decades-long stranglehold the petroleum industry has on our fuel supplies,” Steckel added.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is hearing the case, and NBB says the decision will have tremendous implications for the future of advanced biofuels and affirm the EPA’s obligation to maintain the statutory volumes.

Alaska Air Includes Biofuels in Sustainability Plan

alaskairAlaska Air Group announced some aggressive sustainability goals for 2020, and part of that includes aviation biofuels. This company news release says the goals and how to get there are outlined in a new report from the airline.

“We believe running our business sustainably—with an eye on the long run—is simply the right thing to do,” CEO Brad Tilden said. “By integrating sustainable practices and policies into our business, we’re making Alaska, and all of the people and communities we work with, stronger and healthier over time.”

Air Group signed an off-take agreement with Hawaii BioEnergy to buy sustainable aviation biofuels from the Hawaiian Islands beginning in 2018. The airline has set a goal of using sustainable biofuels at one or more of its airports by 2020.

Other sustainability measures being implemented by the airline include flying more efficiently to reduce overall fuel use.

Minnesota Biodiesel Mandate Faces Uncertain Future

mnstatelegis1A delay in Minnesota’s biodiesel mandate could have a ripple effect for more targets in the law’s future. This article in the Mankato Free Press says nearly three years ago, state regulators delayed implementing a B10 mandate scheduled for 2012. Now that officials in Minnesota believe they’re ready for the higher blend, it’s running dangerously close to another target, B20, scheduled for 2015.

That deadline would be extended by three years, to 2018, under a bill from North Mankato Rep. Clark Johnson.

The basic problem with the 2015 deadline is similar to the reasons for the earlier delays: The state just isn’t ready, he said.

The state’s soybean farmers association, Mankato-based Minnesota Soybean, supports the bill, said Mike Youngerberg, its senior director of field services. Another version of the bill, opposed by the association, would have delayed the 10 percent transition and eliminate the 20 percent move entirely. But it failed to pass a Senate committee last month.

Johnson’s bill, too, has an uncertain future — it didn’t pass through its House committees before a March 21 deadline — but he believes it can still pass this year.

Johnson’s bill would also change the summer mandate months from April – October to September. Another provision would allow companies that build generators to test them without biodiesel.

New Biodiesel Mandate Pleases Canadian Farmers

gfoThe new biodiesel requirement north of the border is pleasing farmers in that area. The trade group Grain Farmers of Ontario welcomed its province’s new 2 percent biodiesel mandate, expected to be a boon for soybean farmers.

“The creation of an Ontario Greener Diesel mandate will reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by the
transportation sector and will help build a market for made-in-Ontario soy biodiesel,” says Henry Van Ankum, Chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario. “Local fuel made from soybeans reduces greenhouse gas emission in vehicles up to 85 percent and the mandate will provide a potential market for 680,000 tonnes of soybeans.”

Creating new markets takes a commitment and collaboration between government and industry. “We were pleased we could work with our partners at the Ontario government and the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association to initiate this Greener Diesel mandate and grow this market for our Ontario farmers,” added Van Ankum.

The mandate started at 2 percent this week and moves up to 4 percent in 2017. It’s expected to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 280,000 cars per year off the road.

Biodiesel Tax Incentive Moves Out of Committee

cap pic1A measure that would renew the federal $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive has cleared a congressional committee. The credit, which expired at the end of 2013, passed the Senate Finance Committee as part of a package of tax provisions. The news was welcomed by the National Biodiesel Board, which still appeared miffed it expired in the first place, as Congress let happen in 2010 and 2012.

“This is the third time in five years that the biodiesel incentive has lapsed, making it incredibly difficult for biodiesel businesses to plan for expansion or build infrastructure,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, the industry trade association. “We applaud the Senate Finance Committee for taking the first step toward extending it and urge the House and Senate to continue the committee’s bipartisan work by acting quickly to extend this credit so the biodiesel industry can get back to work.”

“The U.S. biodiesel industry has plants in almost every state in the country, and this tax incentive is something Congress can pass today to stimulate growth and economic activity at all of them,” Steckel added. “This incentive is a job creator, and it also pays tremendous dividends in terms of reducing harmful emissions and strengthening our energy security.”

The measure calls for the incentive to be restored retroactively back to Jan. 1, 2014, and extended through the end of 2015.

Sustainability Ctr. Gets Springfield Biodiesel Refiner

springboardbiodieselA maker of biodiesel equipment has donated a processor to a center dedicated to sustainable farming practices. California-based Springboard Biodiesel gave the Center for Sustainable Energy Farming (CfSEF), a nonprofit research organization, its industry-leading biodiesel processor.

The processor, a BioPro™ 380, is an appliance that converts a wide variety of vegetable and animal oils into premium-grade biodiesel. This fully automated biodiesel processor is capable of producing 100 gallons (or 380 liters) of biofuel every 48 hours.

Springboard’s CEO, Mark Roberts, said in a statement: “We are impressed by the research that CfSEF is doing into alternative non-food-based seed crops that can be economically grown and converted into renewable fuels. We are hopeful their research, specifically with Camelina and Jatropha, will be enhanced by Springboard Biodiesel’s equipment and that American farmers will continue to benefit from their findings.”

“The Center is very pleased to receive this donation from Springboard Biodiesel,” says CfSEF’s President & CEO, Richard Palmer. “We are planning to use this equipment to demonstrate the effectiveness of local farmers growing, processing and utilizing biodiesel on their own farms. This unit has the potential to help farmers achieve true sustainability by eliminating their need for diesel fuel to power their farming equipment. They can grow their own non-food-based energy crops, such as Camelina sativa and Jatropha curcas, and process it on-farm for their own use.”

Springboard Biodiesel is known for its small-scale biodiesel production equipment.

Hemp-to-Biofuels Research Gets Green Light

vote-hempA crop that has had an undeserved stigma attached to it could now become a source for biodiesel and ethanol. The recently passed and signed Farm Bill contains a provision that would allow hemp to be grown for research purposes, including making it into the green fuels.

“Hemp is a great crop for biodiesel, and we’ve already started experimenting with [cellulosic ethanol made from hemp],” explained Ben Droz with Vote Hemp, a group trying revitalize industrial hemp production in the U.S., at last week’s National Agriculture Day in Washington, D.C. He pointed out that hemp goes back a long ways in this country’s history, including being grown by the Founding Fathers and the founder of our modern automobile industry. “Henry Ford was actually doing research on hemp fuels and hemp biocomposites. And now today we are looking back to see if we can grow hemp once again.”

Ben said the Farm Bill defined industrial hemp, not to be confused with marijuana despite its similar appearance, as having 3/10 of a percent or less of THC – the active ingredient in the drug. Even if you smoked a hemp joint the size of a telephone pole, Ben said you still wouldn’t get high. But it’s only legal to do the research at universities and state ag departments in the 10 states where hemp is already legal to grow. He’s hoping that positive results in those locations will allow the effort to go nationwide.

“Those results will then encourage lawmakers to change the law so farmers can grow this profitable crop. There’s literally thousands of uses for hemp.”

Listen to all of Cindy’s conversation with Ben here: Interview with Ben Droz, Vote Hemp

2014 Ag Day Photo Album

ASA Applauds Biodiesel Tax Credit in Package

ASAlogo1Soybean growers are welcoming news of a couple of important measures moved forward in legislation for biodiesel. The American Soybean Association says a two-year extension of the dollar-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive and a reinstatement of the pre-2014 expensing amounts for farm infrastructure and equipment under Section 179, both in the Senate Finance Committee Chairman’s Tax Extenders Package, are key issues for group’s members.

ASA First Vice President Wade Cowan, a farmer from Brownfield, Texas, issued the following statement on the committee’s proposal:

“The extension of the biodiesel tax credit is huge. Biodiesel blenders create a renewable and safe domestic energy source for our country and a valuable market for the soybean oil American farmers produce. The credit further encourages the development and sustained success of the biodiesel marketplace, and much credit goes to Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Hatch and specifically Sens. Grassley and Cantwell for recognizing the importance of the biodiesel tax incentive and including it in their proposal…

“The proposal’s Section 179 reinstatement is also important. This enables farmers and other small business owners to expense investments made in new technology, equipment and infrastructure in their operations. Given the land-based and capital-intensive nature of farming, not to mention the ever-advancing technology we need to farm sustainably and competitively, this program helps us to stay on the cutting edge of our industry.”

Cowan also pointed out the biodiesel industry has been operating without the credit since the end of the fiscal year in September and called on the full committee to take up the measures quickly and move them on to the full Senate and House for final approval.

ASA Concerned over Argentine Biodiesel for RFS

argentinaflagWhile Argentine biodiesel is having a hard time getting into Europe, its prospects to make it into the U.S. could be boosted. And that is worrying soybean growers in this country. This story from Agri-View says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering whether it should allow Argentine biodiesel to be eligible under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The potential for CARBIO, the trade association representing Argentine biodiesel producers, with its 1.3 billion gallons of biodiesel production capacity and export subsidies, prompted the American Soybean Association (ASA) to send a letter to EPA to register its concerns.

ASA believes that the far reaching impacts of this issue require an exhaustive review by EPA that includes a public comment period and input from the various stakeholders as well as other government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

EPA must be made aware of the fact that Argentine biodiesel is being heavily subsidized into world markets, and the European Union already has imposed anti-dumping duties on Argentine biodiesel imports due to the significant subsidies that Argentine biodiesel receives as the result of Argentina’s differential export tax system (DET).

ASA also says the CARBIO application needs to be done far in advance so EPA can figure in the amount of Argentine biodiesel when calculating the Required Volume Obligation (RVO) for Biomass-based diesel for that year.

BioFuel PR Launches to Tell Ethanol’s Story

The ethanol industry knows that if it is going to be successful in the current political climate, they need to tell their personal ethanol stories. But this is easier said then done with the role of ethanol employees to produce fuel, feed and fiber – not be savvy BiofuelPRlogocommunicators. With several requests for help last fall from ethanol plants to help tell the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) their stories as part of the 2014 proposed rules for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), ethanol veteran Joshua Morby and alternative energy veteran and ZimmComm New Media writer Joanna Schroeder teamed up to form a unique partnership: Biofuel PR.

The new communications firm is the first and only of its kind dedicated to the biofuels industry and according to Biofuel PR Partner Joshua Morby, brings together expertise from two decades of experience working with ethanol trade associations, key stakeholders and legislators to offer the biofuel industry a new communications solution.

JoshuaMorbyHeadshotDFMorby notes that there are a number of effective national trade and industry organizations that are doing a great job developing messaging, framing the issues and providing content. But while the associations allow their members to utilize their materials in the local market, many ethanol plants just don’t know how.

“The challenge that exists is the missing link at the local level. There’s no argument about the need for activity in communities across the country. The issue has always been who at the biofuels plant is tasked with telling the local story. That’s where we come in,” says Joshua.

Not only is enhancing a biofuel plant’s message in the local community important, but DF blogger and communications expert Joanna Schroeder notes that as a writer looking for new and intriguing angles, its hard to find great personal ethanol stories. But when she does, they receive great coverage around the world of the web.

SchroederheadshotDF“If there is one thing I understand, it’s that the role of a biorefinery is to produce renewable, cost competitive biofuels and byproducts – not to be communication experts,” explains Schroeder, Biofuel PR partner. “Our firm is able to serve in this role and take the lead on telling Americans the personal and often emotional stories about what the biofuels industry means to them, their families and their communities. Since I am always looking for the story, I know how to help biofuel plants better tell their stories and as a result, help gain awareness and support for ethanol around the country.”

Granite Falls Ethanol was one of the plants assisted by Biofuel PR during the EPA comment period.

“The team at Biofuel PR was helpful to us in our efforts to motivate local supporters and members of our community during the RFS comment period,” says Granite Falls Ethanol General Manager Steve Christiansen. “Biofuel PR understands our industry, the local communities were we live and operate as well as the world of communications.”

Corn Growers at Biofuels Beltway March

ace14-dc-corn-teamMore than 80 people turned out for the American Coalition for Ethanol Biofuels Beltway March this year, the most ever, and the diverse group included ethanol producers, retailers, bankers, truckers, cattle ranchers, students – and a whole bunch of corn farmers. The team here consisted of (LtoR) Missouri farmer Gary Porter, Missouri Corn Growers public policy director Shane Kinne, and Minnesota farmers on the board of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Dale Tolifson and Dave Thompson.

Cindy caught up with them as they were heading out of the Capitol after making their rounds and asked them each to give a brief impression of their visits.

Shane said the highlight of the trip was getting folks into meet with their lawmakers, telling the personal stories of farmers and fuel retailers and how ethanol is making a difference.

“They have a great story to tell, and it makes a huge difference when [lawmakers] hear it firsthand.” Shane said.

Gary said he appreciated the different points of view that he heard, such as viewpoints from folks not from the Midwest who aren’t involved in ag or ethanol.

“It’s interesting for me to talk to them and listen to what they say, and also for me to share with them the way I see it,” adding that since he’s a corn grower, cattle feeder and fuel retailer, he has a pretty well-rounded view and is willing to talk to even those he doesn’t agree with.

“That’s the ones we need to talk to,” Dave pointed out. “Even though they didn’t agree with us, they were very receptive to listening, they had good questions, and I think we have a great story to tell.”

Dale echoed those sentiments and was glad to tell his personal story.

“We tell about our experiences on the farm, how we helped grow the ethanol industry, and how that industry is not only important for clean air, but it’s important for jobs and the ag community,” as well as advancements in agriculture that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for ethanol, including boosting yields to meet all demands.

Listen to what they said here: Interview with Biofuels March team


2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Prospective Plantings Down, But Corn Stocks High

ncga-logo-newThis year’s corn plantings are expected to be down this year, but growers say there will be plenty of stockpiles for all needs, including ethanol. The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show that American farmers expect to plant 3.7 million fewer acres of corn this year, down four percent from 2013. But the National Corn Growers Association says, don’t worry, there are plenty of stocks going into the year, and it would still be the fifth-largest U.S. corn acreage planted.

“In 2013, U.S. farmers produced a record crop abundant enough to meet all needs and provide an ample carry over into 2014,” National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre said. “While it is still early in the season and many factors may change the reality on the ground as planting progresses, the public can rest assured that bountiful stockpiles and adequate plantings will ensure our corn security for the year to come.”

NCGA says the plantings will yield 13.37 billion bushels, and corn stocks stand at more than 7 billion bushels, up 30 percent from the same time last year.

Florida Biodiesel Delivers Refinery to Africa

Florida-Biodiesel1Biodiesel processor maker Florida Biodiesel, Inc. has delivered one of its refiners to Africa. This company news release says a B-500 biodiesel plant was sold to the Lorymat Corporation in the Ivory Coast.

The Lorymat Corporation has chosen the B-500 Biodiesel processor for their prime transesterification facility. The B-500 Biodiesel plant is economical to operate and will allow the Lorymat Corporation to safely produce 9000 gallons of Biodiesel each 24 hours. The B-500 will also be used as a hands-on educational tool to show students and government agencies how to make renewable energy. “We will process used cooking oil collected locally and from sustainably grown Palm oil into Biodiesel fuel,” says Guy Kouadio, of the Lorymat Corporation. “The B-500 is very user friendly, has a low carbon footprint, and will economically produce Biodiesel for us.”

Florida Biodiesel claims several innovations in biodiesel production equipment, including the safety external heat exchanger, cyclonic mixer, methanol recovery module, and the AUTOBIO Biodiesel plant automation system.

IRFA: Strong Plantings Report Calls for Strong RFS

IowaRFAlogoExpected big plantings of corn and soybeans underscore the need for a strong Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). New estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show a possible record amount of soybeans expected to be planted this year and the fifth largest corn acreage to be planted as well. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says these factors show why a strong and growing RFS is needed this year.

“The past eight years were prosperous for agriculture because the RFS was allowed to act as a sponge, soaking up additional corn and soybeans when needed,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “The vast amount of corn and soybeans expected to be planted in 2014 demonstrates the importance of a strong and growing RFS. If the EPA’s proposal to essentially gut the RFS is allowed to become final, we could see huge carryovers, crop prices plummet below the cost of production, and family farms placed in jeopardy.”

Nearly 92 million acres is expected to be dedicated to corn this year and a record 81.5 million acres for soybeans, a six percent increase from last year.

EPA’s Feeling About RFS? Depends Who’s Asking

epa-logoHow does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) feel about its proposal to cut the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply? Well, that depends on who the folks at the agency are talking to.

Speaking before the House Appropriations Committee last week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy seemed to backtrack on last January’s statements before biofuels advocates when she told them that her agency “heard loud and clear that we didn’t hit that right,” indicating the EPA could be changing its stance. But when grilled by Congressman David Valadao (R-CA) who represents California agriculture and oil interests, McCarthy had a different response.

“We’re going to make sure to take a reasonable approach that recognizes the infrastructure challenges and the inability at this point to achieve the levels of ethanol that are in the law,” she said.

It’s also interesting that McCarthy did not challenge part of the premise in Valadao’s original question that stated how consumers’ vehicles could not handle higher blends than being offered right now, specifically E10. Biofuels advocates have long made the claim that most vehicles can handle at least 15 percent ethanol blends (E15), and two years ago the EPA approved E15 for use in 2001 and newer vehicles.

You can hear for yourself what McCarthy said here: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Before House Appropriations Committee