NASCAR Leader Testifies for Biofuels

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing this week on advanced biofuels. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan says advanced biofuels are here now, and they are an important part of the energy title in the recently passed farm bill.

“The Energy Title funds critical programs that helps our farmers produce energy from non-food sources and helps companies get low-interest loans for those facilities, and of course, all that creates jobs,” Stabenow said, adding that to continue to grow the industry, there needs to be policies that support it. She said passing the Farm Bill was a strong first step toward to that goal. “Now we need to provide certainty through a strong Renewable Fuels Standard and tax credits to support long-term investments in our energy future.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senate Agriculture Committee

childress-testOne of the witnesses at the hearing was NASCAR team owner Richard Childress who talked about the many benefits of corn-based biofuels, such as the higher fuel performance he has seen in more than five million miles of racing since the E15 ethanol blend was introduced in the 2011 racing season.

“When they decided to go with an ethanol-blend of fuel, in 2010, NASCAR started looking at what was the correct blend to use. After many tests, they came up with E15,” Childress said, pointing out that his own racing team tested up to E30 blends, which he believes would be even better. “Nothing but positive results came out of our tests. Engines ran cooler, ethanol makes more octane so it makes more horsepower, less carbon buildup, better emissions, and our parts when we tore the engines down looked much better.” NASCAR team owner Richard Childress at biofuels hearing

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

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

Retailers Tell Ethanol Story at ACE Fly-in

Fuel retailers in ethanol producing states had compelling stories to tell at the American Coalition for Ethanol Biofuels Beltway March last week in Washington DC. Several of them sat down with reporters during the event to talk about their success selling higher ethanol blends, as well as the hurdles they had to overcome to do so.

ace14-dc-badenhopGlenn Bedanhop is a third generation farmer who is also president and CEO of American Freedom Energy in the small town of Liberty Center, about 30 miles west of Toledo, Ohio. “It’s rewarding knowing the value you’re putting back in your local community,” said Badenhop, who became the first retailer in Ohio to offer E15 in January because he believes in consumer choice. “It’s their choice,” he said. “We’re not mandating that they buy Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper – it’s just like the fuels.” Interview with Glenn Badenhop, Ohio fuel retailer

ace14-dc-goodCharlie Good has been in the fuel retailing business for 34 years as a convenience store operator and auto mechanic and he started offering higher ethanol blends at his Good and Quick store in Nevada, Iowa last August despite his supplier’s 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

ace14-dc-vollanBruce Vollan started using blender pumps at his rural Baltic, South Dakota convenience store six years ago. “My experience has been pretty incredible,” he said. “You see a lot of people actively seeking out blends.” Vollan has seen his small business has grown to 13 full and part time employees and he says the negative publicity about ethanol doesn’t bother him because he believes he’s on the right team. He was happy to take time away from his business to take his story to Washington DC and let lawmakers and bureaucrats know what is really happening. “That’s what the ethanol industry is all about,” he said. “It’s about telling the truth.” Interview with Bruce Vollan, South Dakota fuel retailer


2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

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

Sen. Thune Meets with Ethanol Supporters

ace14-dc-thune-groupA team of four biofuels supporters had the chance to meet with Sen. John Thune (R-SD) last week while in Washington DC for the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Biofuels Beltway March.

In an interview following that meeting, Thune talked about some of the issues facing the biofuels industry, in particular the EPA proposal to lower volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Trying to reverse the EPA’s decision on this is what we’ve been focused on since it came out,” said Sen. Thune.”Going down to 13.1 gallons is horrible for the industry so we hope they make some accommodation for getting beyond the blend wall.”

Thune says he expects to Congress to get a package of expired tax credit extensions passed soon, including renewable energy credits for wind, advanced biofuels, and biodiesel. “It’s very hard for people to plan to invest when they don’t know what the rules are going to be,” he said.

The senator also talked about the rail delays that have been impacting shipments of ethanol and grain. “The railroads are going to have to do a better job,” he said, noting that the problem has been caused by both the long, cold winter and increased shipping of crude oil from North Dakota. “It’s important that the railroads recognize that agricultural commodities need to be shipped too.” Interview with Senator John Thune (R-SD)

2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

DF Cast: Lawmakers Listening to Ethanol Advocates

Ethanol backers got their voices heard during the recent American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Biofuels Beltway March in Washington, D.C. And at least some lawmakers were listening.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we talk to Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), and Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who met with ACE and its supporters and all expressed their backing of efforts to keep renewable fuels, especially ethanol, in the forefront of federal policies.

Listen to what they had to say after they listened to ACE: Domestic Fuel Cast - Lawmakers Meet with Ethanol Advocates

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

Shaw has Ethanol Support for Congress

A candidate for Congress believes his background in ethanol will help him in the upcoming primary and general election. And for Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw, who has served in that role for nearly 10 years and now is running for the 3rd Congressional District seat, that background runs pretty deep.

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis and Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen both on the side of Monte Shaw for Congress

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis and Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen both on the side of Monte Shaw for Congress

“This is Iowa. If agriculture does well, Iowa does well,” said Shaw during an interview in Washington DC last week, pointing out how the renewable fuels has helped power the ag industry and the overall economy in the Hawkeye State. “So when people talk about how we need to get the economy going a bit more, we need more jobs, we need more robust economic growth, I have been part of that. And that’s something I want to put to work in Congress.”

Shaw says Big Oil has been fighting the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) hard, and Iowans need a representative on the inside in Washington who will fight for the economic interests that alternative energy brings.

“I think it would be good for the industry to have someone like me in the House Republican Caucus. There’s a lot of petroleum folks in there, and sometimes they like to forget all the tax credits and mandates and loan guarantees that petroleum gets, and I’d be happy to go there and point those things out out,” he said.

Shaw is facing five other Republicans in the June 3rd primary, so he is hitting the campaign trail as hard as he can while still working full time for Iowa RFA, with the flexibility granted to him by the association board of directors. If elected to Congress, he feels confident in the many renewable energy leaders back in Iowa who can step up in his place.

“As one of my board members is fond of pointing out to me, the graveyard is full of indispensable men,” he said, laughing.

You can read more about his campaign here.

And you can hear all of Cindy’s interview with Monte here: Interview with Monte Shaw, Iowa Congressional Candidate

American Ethanol on the NASCAR Green® Team

nascar-race-greenAmerican Ethanol is once again partnering with NASCAR® for the NASCAR Race to Green™ initiative now through April 25 to promote environmentally friendly biofuels.

The goal of the initiative is to highlight the accomplishments of green programs that have helped reduce the NASCAR’s carbon footprint. “This partnership with NASCAR Green truly shows the sport’s commitment to preserving our environment. Each race further proves ethanol is a reliable, high-performance fuel that has revitalized our rural communities and created more than 400,000 jobs across the country,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

American-Ethanol-and-NASCAR-LogoAmerican Ethanol has partnered with NASCAR since 2011 to promote the use of biofuels by using Sunoco Green E15, a 15 percent ethanol blended fuel, across its three national series. American Ethanol also sponsors the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet SS driven by Sunoco Rookie of the Year™ contender and 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series™ Champion Austin Dillon.

I had a chance to catch up with Buis while in DC last week and this year’s American Ethanol program was one of several topics we discussed. Interview with Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis

Ethanol Report From RFA in DC

dinneen-dcAfter the ACE Biofuels Beltway March, I was able to stop by and visit with Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen in his Washington DC office and we covered the waterfront on issues currently facing the ethanol industry.

ethanol-report-adIn this Ethanol Report, Dinneen discusses what he’s hearing about the EPA proposal to lower the RFS, the latest anti-RFS ad campaign from Big Oil, rail delays impacting ethanol shipments, getting the tax credits for advanced biofuels reinstated, USDA plans to continue to support ethanol, and enthusiasm in the industry.

Ethanol Report with RFA president Bob Dinneen from DC

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

The Littlest Lobbyist for Ethanol

ace14-dc-ethan1Wearing a tie and sporting a “Don’t Mess with the RFS” button, 10-year-old Ethan Fagen was the youngest of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Biofuels Beltway marchers this week on Capitol Hill.

Ethan came along with his grandfather, Ron Fagen of Fagen, Inc., and was right in the trenches handing out materials and talking about the benefits of ethanol, like how good it is for the environment compared to fossil fuels. “Think in 200 years if you run ethanol there will be cleaner air for the next generation,” said Ethan, who is part of that next generation.

ace14-dc-fagensSitting in the front as the ACE Fly-in participants heard from government officials, Ethan caught the attention of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who thought it was “pretty cool” he was there for the event.

In my interview with Ethan, he told me that he would like to be a farmer someday and grow corn and have cattle. It’s interesting that if you add two letters to Ethan’s name, it becomes ethanol. Interview with Ethan Fagen, ACE Fly-in Participant


2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

ACE Takes Ethanol Message to Friends and Foes

ace14-dc-alversonThere were over 25 battalions of ethanol troops on Capitol Hill this week to fight for the honor of biofuels, bringing the message to both friends and foes in Congress.

American Coalition for Ethanol president Ron Alverson, a South Dakota farmer and board member for Dakota Ethanol, says the teams had appointments with the offices of more than 130 senators and representatives, and he thought they were well received, even in enemy territory. “We went into what we thought were going to be some pretty hard places – representatives from Alabama, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island,” he said. “They were very cordial and they listened well … we were really pleased.”

ace14-dc-johannsWhen meeting with friends like Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE), the ethanol supporters delivered messages of gratitude and asked advice for approaching less friendly lawmakers. They also provided “ammunition” for allies in the form of the packets of the latest information to defend against some of the more popular arguments against ethanol, such as food versus fuel and engine issues with higher blends. “We’ve got some really good arguments and good data…all we can do is go out and tell our story,” said Alverson.

Listen to an interview with Alverson here: Interview with Ron Alverson, South Dakota farmer and American Coalition for Ethanol president


2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

Ag Secretary Takes Time on Ag Day for Ethanol

ace14-dc-vilsackThere are lots of activities for National Agriculture Day going on today in Washington DC, including a big celebration unveiling a statue of Dr. Norman Borlaug in the Capitol, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack still took time to meet with members of the American Coalition for Ethanol in town this week to visit Congressional offices

“The country needs a robust renewable fuel industry,” said Vilsack. “It provides choice for consumers and less cost gas at the pump. It helps to create hundreds of thousands of jobs which is important for the economy. It stabilizes farm income, it’s better for the environment, and it makes us a safer nation because we’re less reliant on others for our energy and fuel sources. So we need to continue to have a robust commitment to this industry, we need to expand it and grow it.” Brief interview with Secretary Vilsack after ACE visit

The secretary spoke to the more than 80 ethanol industry about what USDA is doing to achieve that goal, including finding creative ways to increase higher ethanol blend pumps, promoting exports of ethanol to Japan, India and China, and continuing to work towards encouraging use of higher blends in this country.

2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

Big Turnout for ACE Biofuels Beltway March

ace14-dc-brianAn enthusiastic crowd of more than 80 ethanol supporters from 15 states are chomping at the bit to be set loose on Capitol Hill to visit the offices of Congress members and educate them about the importance of biofuels during the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Biofuels Beltway March.

“We’ve got people from all walks of life here,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings. That includes not just ethanol producers and corn farmers, but bankers, truckers, cattle ranchers and students. “It shows the diversity of this industry, the breadth and depth of support we have out there in the grassroots for ethanol.”

ace14-dc-crowdJennings says 40 percent of the group gathered for this sixth annual DC event have never visited the office of a Congressional representative before. “We try to give them some advice,” he said. “Most importantly, tell your story.”

The ACE group is hearing this morning from the Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Special Assistant to the president for Energy and Climate Change before heading to the Hill to meet with congressional representatives.

Listen to my interview with Brian here: Interview with Brian Jennings, ACE

2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

Farmers Offered Incentive to Use Propane

perc-farmFarmers are being offered an incentive to use clean-burning propane in their operations. During the recent Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Tx., Mark Leitman, director of business development and marketing for the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC), talked to Tom Steever with Brownfield Ag News and told him that his council is funded by a 4/10-of-a-cent checkoff that helps research, safety and training programs, and includes a commitment to ag-based operations in the Propane Farm Incentive Program.

“We’re constantly looking for new technologies to invest in, trying to find a new application for propane in agriculture or make a grain dryer, for example, and make it better,” he said, adding that new propane engines are much more efficient than the older models, boosting output by 25 percent or more, as demonstrated from their non-scientific findings from last year’s farm incentive program that had farmers reporting a 36 percent reduction in fuel use and 57 percent in cost savings. That’s why he’s optimistic they’ll get more farmers to sign up for this year’s incentive. “We’d love farmers to take advantage of our Farm Incentive program, where they could receive an incentive of up to $5,000.”

Mark admitted a perfect storm of issues – big crop drying years and a colder than usual winter, among other things – did cause a significant spike in prices for propane this year, but he believes some important lessons were learned that will help his members keep prices more stable in the future.

“We’re taking a look at the infrastructure and trying to figure out where our organization can invest in ways to improve things so we’re better prepared moving forward,” he said.

More information on the incentive program is available at Agpropane.com.

Listen to Mark’s interview with Brownfield Ag News here: Mark Leitman, PERC

2014 Commodity Classic Photos