ACE Urges Support for STB Reauth Act of 2014

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) is urging leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee to support S. 2777, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Ace of 2014. In a letter, Brian Jennings, executive vice president for ACE writes U.S. corn-based ethanol is the most economical transportation fuel in the world. And when factoring in its favorable blending economics along with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), ethanol is capable of comprising more than its 10 percent share of the U.S. gasoline market.

ACElogo“But in order to do that, reliable and timely rail service is critical,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, during most of 2014, railroads have failed to provide reliable and timely service. Logjams built-up this winter due to extreme cold and snow which reduced the speed and size of trains, and all year long it has appeared that railroads have provided favorable service to crude oil shipments at the expense of ethanol and agricultural commodities….”

“Many of ACE’s ethanol producer members are captive shippers and have reported chronic rail service disruptions this year, such as delayed tank car arrivals, insufficient tank cars received for ethanol off-take, loaded cars parked and overdue for power to arrive, and turn-around times that have doubled. As a result, storage tanks at ethanol plants are full and many of our members have been forced to slow production or worse yet, shut down operations at a time when demand for ethanol is on the rise because of its low price and clean octane benefits, writes Jennings.

The letter continues, “To cope with unreliable rail service, some biorefineries have invested in additional storage or considered adding unit train capability, but it is hard to justify those investments without meaningful commitment by the railroads that service will improve. Moreover, we are concerned that a record harvest of corn and soybeans this fall could make a bad situation on the rails even worse.”

Jennings notes that while the S. 2777 does not immediately nor comprehensively overcome all the problems, it is a step in the right direction.

E15 Could Help Lower Gas Prices at the Pump

The end of summer is here and with the season change, “summer gasoline” and its Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) requirements will also come to an end. With fall in view retailers who want to offer E15 to their customers may now do so.

“We’re seeing reports and predictions of lower gas prices, with some celebrating the fact that the price is ACElogodown to $3.39 nationwide,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty. “In the Midwest, where E15, E30, and E85 are more widely available, even E10 prices are already under $3.00 in some markets. Ethanol adds octane and lowers prices because it provides competition for higher priced, lower octane gasoline.”

“E15 brings environmental benefits as well,” continued Lamberty. “Recent studies highlight the reduction in cancer causing emissions offered by E15. E15 means cleaner, higher octane fuel at a lower price and fuel marketers are starting to realize that. Fuel retailers like CHS/Cenex and Protec have taken steps to make E15 available in more markets soon and others will follow.”

Lamberty is encouraging retailers to take note of the growing number of vehicles that can use E15. E15 use is covered under warranty for most cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 model years, and some automakers approve it for 2012 vehicles. That’s 30 million vehicles or more with more vehicles hitting the roads each week that are approved for E15 use.

“This is exactly why Big Oil fights so hard and spends so much time and money to convince EPA and elected officials that the 10% “blend wall” is real, and why they have contract restrictions that prevent branded stations from offering E15.” Lamberty concluded, “It’s not the 5% market share that could be taken by E15 that worries Big Oil – it’s what competition for that 5% does to the prices they can charge for the rest of the gallon. More ethanol means lower prices.”

Quad County Processors Host Grand Opening

The first refinery to produce cellulosic ethanol with a bolt-on process officially opened its doors today.

quad-open-group“This is a historic day not just for the ethanol plant, but for the entire region,” said Delayne Johnson, CEO of Quad County Corn Processors in Galva, Iowa. “This is a perfect example of cutting edge technology, right here in our backyard and we are thrilled to have our plant using this ingenuity.” The Adding Cellulosic Ethanol (ACE) project, newly re-named “Cellerate,” allows QCCP to produce 2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol each year from corn kernel fiber at their plant in Galva, Iowa.

“Today’s grand opening is a direct result of the ingenuity and hard work of the employees and shareholders of QCCP, but it’s also a direct result of the kind of innovation that occurs when a policy like the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is in place,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive Vice President Brian Jennings. “More than any other policy enacted by Congress, the RFS has been a catalyst for innovation, including the kind of technology advancement developed at QCCP to make cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber.”

quad-open-bob-brianRenewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen participated in the grand opening ceremony and praised QCCP, noting, “To the management, staff and investors of Quad County Corn Processors I say a hearty congratulations on your vision and your commitment to seeing it through. To EPA I say get out of Washington and see what is happening in places like Galva, Iowa.”

Dinneen tweeted from the event, “Quad Co cellulosic plant can tell Big Oil “we told you so” and make them eat their words!”

RFS Headed to OMB for Review

epaThe Environmental Protection Agency has sent its final rule on 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review in a last step before public release. Renewable fuels groups responded to the news today.

“We’re pleased to see the process moving forward and hope the final rule will show that this Administration is standing behind our national goals for clean, domestic fuels that strengthen our economy and national security,” said National Biodiesel Board Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “The original EPA proposal and continued delays have severely disrupted the U.S. biodiesel industry this year. We can begin to reverse that damage with a meaningful increase in the biodiesel volume that is finalized as quickly as possible so that producers can ramp up production in a timely fashion.”

“While we have not seen the rule, we hold strong in our belief that EPA and OMB will fulfill President Obama’s commitment to biofuels as a means of greater energy independence, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and wider availability of cost-saving alternative fuels for American consumers,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “This decision is about more than targets and gallons, it is about a rationale that places highest importance on the long term strength of this country and not the bottom line of oil companies.”

“While OMB has up to 90 days to review this rule, what is most important is the content of the final rule,” added Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “Ultimately, this final rule should promote the policy goals of the RFS and call for an increase in the production of renewable fuels, so we can continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs at home that cannot be outsourced and mitigate climate change, while we improve our environment.”

Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol, says his members are pleased with the progress. “Anything short of that turns the keys to the RFS over to the oil companies and puts cellulosic biofuel at risk,” said Jennings. “While all stakeholders have waited a long time for the final rule, and it could take another 30 days or more for interagency review, getting the rule done right is far more important than getting it done quickly.”

Since the rule is not public yet, there is no word on whether the volume requirements were changed from the initial proposal, which reduced the amount of ethanol and kept the biodiesel requirement the same. Senator John Thune (R-SD) expects some middle ground. “I think we’ll see an upward change,” he says. “I hope it’s a significant upward change and I hope that in ’15 they look at this in a different way.”

Thune still expects it will be later in the fall before a final rule is announced. EPA received over 340,000 comments on the proposal.

ACE Elects 2014-15 Board of Directors

ACElogoThe American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) held re-elections during their 27 annual National Ethanol Conference last week. Eight current board members were re-elected to serve for the remainder of 2014 and through August of 2015:

  • Bob Sather, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin representing ACE Ethanol, LLC
  • Chuck DeGrote, Clara City, Minnesota representing Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company
  • Steve Vander Griend, Colwich, Kansas representing ICM, Inc.
  • Ron Wetherell, Cleghorn, Iowa representing Little Sioux Corn Processors
  • Gary Marshall, Jefferson City, Missouri representing Missouri Corn Growers Association
  • Todd Sneller, Lincoln, Nebraska representing Nebraska Ethanol Board
  • Nick Sinner, Fargo, North Dakota representing Red River Valley Sugar Beet Growers
  • Merle Anderson, Climax, Minnesota representing Minnkota Power Electric Cooperative

Three individuals were nominated and elected to serve as new board directors:

  • Chris Wilson, Marshall, Missouri representing Mid-Missouri Energy, LLC
  • David Kolsrud, Brandon, South Dakota representing Badger State Ethanol
  • Greg Krissek, Wichita, Kansas representing Kansas Corn Growers Association

“The ACE board of directors is a dedicated group of active volunteers who represent the grassroots diversity of our entire membership,” said Brian Jennings, ACE Executive Vice President. “Our members are very capably represented by the passion, expertise, and experience the ACE board brings to the table and we are grateful for their support and leadership.”

Another Successful ACE Conference

ace14-brianAmerican Coalition for Ethanol Executive Vice President Brian Jennings was pleased with the 27th annual ACE conference held last week in Minneapolis.

“It was another great conference, we covered a lot of important topics,” said Jennings as the conference concluded. “We try to feature our members as much as we can, whether it’s technology they’re implementing at their plant or they’re working on exporting ethanol or distillers grains – we try to give our members the spotlight and I think we did that once again.”

Jennings said one of his favorite sessions during the conference was the Ethanol Innovators panel. “It shows everyone these producers are not relying on the past, they’re looking to the future … they want to reduce their expenses, increase their efficiency and position themselves to be competitive for the long run.”

While Jennings says there is little time left in this year’s Congressional Session to worry about any anti-ethanol legislation being past, he is concerned about the elections and he encouraged his members to exercise their right to be an informed voter. “Talk to these candidates and find out their positions on ethanol and hold them accountable,” he said.

Finally, Jennings adds that next year’s conference will be in Omaha – see you then! Interview with Brian Jennings, ACE Executive Vice President

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

ACE Retailer Roundtable

ace14-retailersTwo fuel retailers took the stage at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference last week in Minneapolis to talk about the trials and rewards of offering their customers a real choice at the pump.

Bruce Vollan (left) of Midway Service in Baltic, SD and Kent Satrang, CEO of Petro Serve USA in North Dakota, shared their stories of why they installed blender pumps at their locations.

“We’re about seven years of having our blender pumps in place,” said Vollan. “It was an ideal time for us to make a change as a small town business.” And, he added, it has grown that business exponentially.

“We’re a Farmers Union oil company,” Satrang said. “We are owned by farmers, so they would like us to sell their fuel.” Beyond that, he just wants to offer his customers a choice.

Both of them also talked about the costs involved in putting in the pumps and offering higher blends and what it has ultimately meant to their communities. Listen to their conversation here: ACE Retailer Roundtable

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

ACE Awards Celebrate Power by People

Recipients of the annual awards presented last week by the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) exemplified the organization’s new theme of “Power by People.”

ace14-gene-lacyGene Griffith of Patriot Renewable Fuels received the organization’s Grassroots Award from ACE Director of Member and Industry Relations Lacy Dixon. Griffith was recognized for the many ways Patriot has promoted ethanol to the public, including an electronic sign on the highway near the plant in Annawan, Illinois that features revolving messages about the benefits of ethanol. They also have been very active on social media with Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“Producers also have to help educate the public, as well as the industry associations,” said Griffith. Interview with Gene Griffith, Patriot Renewable Fuels

ace14-jerryRecognized for excellence in journalism was Jerry Perkins, editor with Biofuels Journal. Perkins was Farm Editor with the Des Moines Register for more than 15 years and says there is no conflict between him being a journalist and his support of ethanol.

This year’s Paul Dana Award went to Charlie Good, owner of the Good and Quick store in Nevada, Iowa. Good had a conflict and was unable to attend the ACE conference but I interviewed him in March at the ACE Fly-in where he told his story about deciding to offer higher blends at his store over his suppliers 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

As already noted, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) received the Merle Anderson Award this year, presented by Merle himself. The Father of Ethanol was in rare form as he presented the award to his congressman, as you can hear all of in the audio file and see a portion in the video below. Merle Anderson Presents Award to Rep. Collin Peterson

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Increasing Ethanol Plant Throughput

ace14-enogen-lopezSyngenta’s Enogen corn trait technology is the first genetically modified output trait in corn specifically for the ethanol industry and in the past two years since it has been released the industry has seen increasing adoption.

“We’re a new product that’s been adopted by 6-8 plants already,” said Paul Lopez with Syngenta who gave a break out session at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference on how Enogen is helping plants increase throughput. Giving the presentation with him was Tory Kort with Chief Ethanol Fuels in Nebraska, which uses Enogen corn, who shared the results they have seen. “Our enzyme is pretty unique in terms of how it works … it really reduces starches down, making more sugars available, increasing the plant’s efficiencies, so increasing yield and increasing throughput,” added Lopez.

The first plant to adopt Enogen was Quad County Corn Processors, which produced the first gallons of cellulosic ethanol just last month. “They’ve been using our product for two years now,” said Lopez. “This is a win-win. The ethanol plant wins, the local grower wins, the local community wins.”Interview with Paul Lopez, Syngenta Enogen

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Urban Air Initiative Update at ACE

ace14-uaiThe Urban Air Initiative (UAI) is a non-profit organizations dedicated to improving the quality of motor fuels to improve air quality and enhance public health, especially in urban areas.

UAI is building a diverse coalition of stakeholders to work on replacing harmful aromatic compounds in gasoline with safer alternatives, like ethanol. At the American Coalition for Ethanol conference last week, UAI’s Steve Vander Grind (left) and attorney Todd Palmer with Michael Best and Friedrich provided an update on the organization’s plans and how they hope to grower domestic use of ethanol.

Urban Air Initiative Update

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

RFS Update from EPA at ACE Meeting

ace14-epaEnvironmental Protection Agency official Paul Machiele visited the American Coalition for Ethanol conference this week in Minneapolis to discuss various issues, including plans for the 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Machiele, who is director for Fuel Programs in EPA’s Assessment and Standards Division, said they understand the rule is very important and they are working very hard to get it finalized as soon as possible. “I can’t say when it’s going to come out because that will depend in a large part on the review time when it gets into the interagency review process,” he said. “That review can take anywhere from 30-90 days,” he continued, saying he hopes it will be expedited.

“We were blessed with 300,000 comments on this rule-making and not only do we have to finalize the rule-making but we have to respond to the comments that we receive,” said Machiele, adding that his staff is working on that project right now.

As it stands, Machiele says EPA has extended the compliance deadline for obligated parties so “they know what the standards will be for 2014 before they make their final decisions on buying, selling, trading, holding RINs for 2013.” Meanwhile, he acknowledged that the 2015 standards should already be proposed by now, but they expect to get that done shortly after the 2014 rule is finalized and “hoping that we can move that to final rule a little faster.”

Machiele also discussed final rules for new pathways, cellulosic feedstocks, and RINs, as well as Tier 3 regulations, and frankly answered several questions from producers at the conference. Comments from Paul Machiele, EPA

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Future for Ethanol Blends

ace14-lambertyGetting higher blends of ethanol in the marketplace continues to be frustrating, even with the approval of E15 (15% ethanol).

The biggest problem continues to be roadblocks by oil companies, according to American Coalition for Ethanol Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty, who compared the sale and use of E15 to premium gasoline. “If you total (all the) vehicles that could use E15, we’re closing in on 15 million vehicles,” said Lamberty, which is 20% of the vehicles on the road. In contrast, about 12% of total cars are supposed to use premium gas, according to their owners manuals, but only 3% of the gas sold is premium. “Oil companies demand that marketers put premium in their stations … oil companies ban E15 sales,” said Lamberty. Ron Lamberty, ACE Senior VP

ace14-drakeFollowing Lamberty at the ACE annual conference this week, Dean Drake of the DeFour Group talked about the next chapter for ethanol blend fuels.

Drake, who spent 34 years with General Motors, says increasing ethanol blends will require significant cooperation between automakers, government, and the ethanol industry. “Neither oil nor ethanol by themselves are a perfect transportation fuel, largely because of octane,” said Drake. “Gasoline is the king when it comes to energy density, but it also has a fairly low octane rating. Ethanol, while having less energy, has a very high octane rating.”

He talked about the potential for what he calls “eco-performance” fuels. “What we’re talking about here is a fuel that would be widely available that would allow auto manufacturers to build advanced vehicles,” he said.

Learn more here: Dean Drake, DeFour Group

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Export Opportunities for Ethanol and DDGs

U.S. exports of ethanol totaled 59.9 million gallons (mg) in June, up 13% from the seven-month low in May, according to a Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) analysis of government data, and the opportunities are expanding.

ace14-geneThat was the topic for the last session at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference this week in Minneapolis and one of the speakers was Gene Griffith of Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan, Illinois.

“U.S. ethanol is the cheapest motor fuel in the world, it’s needed and it can be blended in any country for clean air,” said Griffith, noting that the industry will continue to grow and produce more than we need in the country. “We must develop these worldwide markets. It’s not just Brazil, it’s not just the United States, there’s a lot of countries around the world that need our DDGs and our low cost, clean burning fuel.”

Listen to Gene explain in detail here: Gene Griffith, Patriot Holdings, on ethanol exports

ace14-chsClayton Haupt with CHS Renewable Fuels Marketing discussed China import issues with distillers grains, noting that the game has changed considerably since he was asked to do this talk in June.

July 24, it was announced you have to have a government stamp that has to say (DDGS imports are) clean of all GMO traits not approved in China,” said Haupt, noting that the U.S. Grains Council responded that simply cannot be done. “You’re kind of put in an environment today that you’re probably not going into China.”

Listen to Haupt’s presentation here: Clayton Haupt, CHS Renewable Fuels Marketing

ace14-ecoenergyLastly, Chad Martin with Eco-Energy wrapped up with an overall look at export markets.

“Ethanol demand is no longer driven solely by the U.S. blender,” said Martin. “That’s obviously a good thing but it comes with some complexities in terms of import quotas, different specs, different market factors to be considered…things our industry has never really had to focus on until we started exporting both distillers grains and ethanol.” Chad Martin, Eco-Energy

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Ethanol Plant Innovators

Four ethanol producers who are innovating plants through new process and product technology took the podium at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference this week to talk about what they are doing.

ace14-ronFirst up was ACE president Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol who talked about the importance of carbon, particularly the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and how it impacts ethanol production. Alverson is a corn farmer in South Dakota and he discussed how carbon intensity ratings for corn ethanol are improving and will continue to improve down the road. Ron Alverson, Dakota Ethanol

ace14-baker-adkinsRay Baker, general manager of Adkins Energy in northwest Illinois, who talked about the new biodiesel plant they are building to co-locate with their 50 million gallon ethanol plant and use corn oil as a feedstock. “Having corn oil as your main feedstock gives you a competitive advantage,” he said.
Ray Baker, Adkins Energy

ace14-erhart-prairieMike Erhart, CEO of Prairie Horizon Agri Energy in Kansas, says he runs a biorefinery, not an ethanol plant. “I think ethanol plant is antiquated,” he said. “It’s now time that we become a biorefinery and start touting that.” Erhart also talked about why his plant is producing renewable diesel. Mike Erhart, Prairie Horizon Agri Energy

ace14-delayneDelayne Johnson, Quad County Corn Processors, has the distinction of producing the very first gallons of cellulosic ethanol, just about a month ago. He talked about his plant being the first to use Syngenta Enogen corn and efficiencies they have implemented in the production process.
Delayne Johnson, Quad County Corn Processors

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Collin Peterson Honored for Ethanol Support

ace14-merle-collinThe American Coalition for Ethanol meeting in Minneapolis this week honored Congressman Collin Peterson of Minnesota with its highest award for supporters of ethanol, the Merle Anderson award. Anderson himself presented Peterson with the award, as well as an ethanol lapel pin and five dollars for his campaign.

Peterson says ethanol has been great for agriculture and he continues to fight for it in Congress. “It’s just been a tremendous success story in agriculture because it’s changed the marketplace so farmers can get a decent price for their corn,” he said. “We do have our opponents and they are still working to undermine things,” he continued, noting that just last week Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) attempted to bring up a bill to get rid of the RFS. “They want to go back to $1.85 corn and I tell them if they are successful they will rue the day because nobody can grow corn for $1.85.” Peterson says the only way farmers survived when prices were $1.85 a bushel was because of the government subsidy “and that’s gone.”

Peterson remains hopeful that the EPA will eventually come out with a better final rule on the 2014 volume obligations for the RFS. “I think the fact that they delayed this for now a third time shows they are listening,” he said. “It appears to me that they realize they made a mistake here and they’re trying to figure out how to undo it.” He thinks it could be next year before the rule is final, but “a delayed decision is better than a bad decision.” Interview with Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) at ACE Conference

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album