Ethanol Advocacy App

ethanol-report-adIf you’re an ethanol advocate, there’s an app for that from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

In this edition of the Ethanol Report, RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen talks about the new app, what it does, who should use it, and why they developed it. He also comments on when we might yet see a final rule on the 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard and how railway transportation issues continue to impact the industry.

Ethanol Report on New Advocacy App

Algal Industry Questions Focus on Biofuels, America

Matt Carr, joined the Algae Biomass Organization this past June as the executive director coming from the BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) where he was introduced to algae and the algae story and he thought this is where the country should be going in terms of sustainable fuels. Carr joined Joe Jobe, NBB and Michael McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association on a panel to give attendees of the 2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference a policy update and industry outlook for advanced biofuels.

“We’re in a tough spot,” said Carr when asked the state of the algal industry. “The advanced biofuels sector grew up on the backs of strong federal policy support, R&D funding from the Department of Energy in the early days along with the nabce-14-carrRenewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and tax policy. Right now all of those areas are uncertain and its causing our members and other across the advanced biofuels industry to question their focus on fuels and their focus on America and to look at other markets in other countries to potentially deploy that technology.”

With elections coming up, Carr was asked if he thinks the political environment will change. He said that the industry is at a point now where it has to see something change. “When we have conservative Republicans recognizing its Washington getting in the way of American innovation and job creation we’ve reached a tipping point.”

What stood out for Carr as part of the panel was the shared sense of frustration with Washington. But he is hopeful that both sides of the spectrum can come together and recognize the opportunity the country has in advanced biofuels.

Interview with Matt Carr, Algae Biomass Organization
Remarks from Matt Carr, Algae Biomass Organization

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

Tips for Biofuel Investment In Turbulent Times

As a biofuels plant, how do you make sound plant management and investment decisions in an environment of political turmoil? This was the theme of one of the panel discussions during the 2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference that nabc plant management paneltook place in Minnesota this week. The conversation focused on how the uncertainty surrounding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that has not been finalized for 2014 as of this writing, affects decisions made for biofuels plants. The panelists discussed tips and strategies on how they try to keep their business healthy and growing while also trying to position themselves for continued, future success.

Insights were given by Mike Jerke, CEO, Guardian Energy Management LLC; Brian Kletscher, CEO/General Manager, Highwater Ethanol; and Randall Doyal, CEO/General Manager, AL-Corn Clean Fuel who all run currently operating ethanol production facilities. While each one pointed to the prices of feedstocks as being the number one cost of production (feedstock costs are 80 percent of a plant’s production costs) there are other ways to streamline efficiencies to stay competitive and one strategy is to diversify into bolt on advanced biofuels technologies.

Doyal noted that the big takeaway for the attendees was that the existing ethanol industry is looking at those next generation biofuel opportunities. “They look down the road all the time, and that the existing ethanol plants are not Gen 1 – we’re way down the road from Gen 1. We’re far more advanced than that and we look forward to bringing that type of thinking into advanced biofuels,” Doyal said.

When focusing on policy, Doyal said policy directly affects a plant when it decides how to deploy its capital. “If you have uncertainty in policy, it creates an uncertain environment in the lending community and it creates uncertainty in your own board room.”

Doyal stressed, “If you don’t have good, consistent, clear policy, it’s hard to figure out your path forward.”

Listen here to Chuck’s interview with Randall Doyal speaking about how policy uncertainty affects plant decisions: Interview with Randall Doyal, AL-Corn Clean Fuel

Click here to listen to the comments of the three panelists:
Remarks from Mike Jerke, Guardian Energy Management
Remarks from Brian Kletscher, Highwater Ethanol
Remarks from Randall Doyal, AL-Corn Clean Fuel

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

NBB Cautiously Optimistic About RFS

“We’ve exceeded the goals of advanced biofuels. Then we had the devastating proposed rule that has gone on for a year now. We are cautiously optimistic that we’ll have something here within the next few weeks and that it will be positive,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) who was one of the panel members of panel that discussed federal biofuels policy and the long-term prognosis of the advanced biofuels industry. The discussion was part of the National Advanced Biofuels Conference that recently took place in Minnesota and also included a robust discussion on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

nabce-14-Joe Jobe NBBJobe noted that the biofuels industry and particularly the advanced biofuels industry is beleaguered. “We’ve been under attack by uncertain policy signals, but we need to keep up the fight and double down on the fight. We need to get more of our message out there. We need to get more involved in policy advocacy, we need to get the RFS working again,” said Jobe.

The industry has demonstrated the RFS can work well said Jobe. “We created it to be a stable energy policy.”

Last year was a record breaker for the biodiesel industry – it grew from producing just over one billion gallons in 2012 to just under 2 billion gallons in 2013. “Advanced biofuels are here. The industry has exceeded the goals of advanced biofuels,” Jobe stressed.

The policy discussion will continue during the 2015 National Biodiesel Board Conference & Expo taking place in Ft. Forth, Texas January 19-22. Registration is open.

Jobe urges the industry to step up its advocacy efforts and its policy efforts to ensure the future of the advanced biofuels industry.

Interview with Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board
Remarks from Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

State of the Advanced Biofuels Industry

nabce-14The National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo opened with a conversation about the current state of important federal biofuels policies, including the status of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Among those on the opening panel was Michael McAdams, founder and president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, who talked first about the state of his industry. “There’s an old expression ‘you’re either the bug or the windshield,'” he said. “Unfortunately, in my own association, about 15% (of my members) have become bugs.”

nabce-14-mcadamsThe reason for that, says McAdams, is the uncertainty surrounding federal biofuels policy. “The partnership between the federal government and industry has to have clarity and certainty,” he said. “What we haven’t had in the last two years is certainty for the people I represent in the advanced and cellulosic sector.”

In an interview after the panel, McAdams described the state of the advanced biofuels industry right now as being in “suspended animation” waiting for clarification on policy including volume obligations under the RFS and pathways for new technologies.

Regarding the RVO, McAdams notes that at this point, with no final numbers for this year yet, the administration needs to be focused on rulemaking for 2015. “I’m assuming the week after the election or maybe Friday before the election we’ll see the numbers (for ’14),” said McAdams. The problem with that is that the 2015 numbers are due November 30 “so one could make a rational case that the numbers they actually publish are the numbers for ’15, not for ’14.” He adds that the administration has already said they expect it will be February before they proposed the 2015 volume obligations.

McAdams urges the advanced biofuels industry to keep working “to deliver the innovative fuels of the future.”
Interview with Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association
Remarks from Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

Preview of Advanced Biofuels Conference

National Advanced Biofuels ConferenceThe National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is underway in Minneapolis. Our first panel is moderated by BBI’s Tim Portz, VP of Content. This panel, talking about “Assessing the Health of Federal Biofuels Policy and Its Long Term Prognosis,” includes Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board, Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association and Matt Carr, Algae Biomass Organization. I’ll have more from their comments later.

I spoke with Tim to get a preview of what we’ll be doing here. He says it is an interesting time for the industry with some great successes happening in the advanced biofuels category. However, the industry is still struggling with the on-going uncertainty with the RFS. He is interested to hear from industry members who will be participating on panels and talking about this topic.

You can listen to my interview with Tim to learn more about what’s going on at this year’s conference: Interview with Tim Portz

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

Ethanol Report on 2014 Export Exchange

ethanol-report-adComing up October 20-22 is the 2014 Export Exchange sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) to bring international coarse grain buyers and U.S. suppliers together, with a particular focus on the ethanol co-product distillers dried grains with solubles – better known as DDGS or distillers feed.

2014-export-exchangeThis edition of the Ethanol Report features comments from RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen, USGC president and CEO Tom Sleight, and industry relations director Lyndsey Erb-Sharkey.

Ethanol Report on 2014 Export Exchange

Cellulosic Making Progress Despite Uncertainty

Advanced and cellulosic biofuels producers continue to press the administration for certainty in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to continue making investments for future expansion.

“Today we’re at the start, like oil was 160 years ago, or corn ethanol was four years ago, said Steve Hartig with POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels during a teleconference organized by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) highlighting progress in the industry. His company just celebrated the grand opening of a cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa. “We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in this and are convinced cellulosic ethanol will be a key part of our future energy mix.”

Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, KS

Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, KS

Chris Standlee with Abengoa Bioenergy said his company is also invested substantially in commercializing cellulosic ethanol technology. “Abengoa’s been working on perfecting this technology for over 10 years,” said Standlee, adding that their plant will be holding a grand opening in Hugoton, Kansas next month.

Also participating in the teleconference was Vonnie Estes with GranBio, a plant being built in Brazil using sugarcane straw and bagasse as feedstocks. She noted that the uncertainty of the RFS is impacting their plans because they intend to export at least half of their plant’s production to the U.S. “The company has spent over $200 million in capital on this plant,” she said. “The plant (will be) really good for the U.S. in that it’s a source of low carbon fuels into the market.”

All three company representatives noted that they are postponing decisions to increase production of cellulosic biofuels due to the uncertainty created by EPA.

BIO teleconference on cellulosic ethanol advancements

Ethanol Report: Ethanol Production, RFS & EPA

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen discusses ethanol production for the year so far, new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) ad campaigns and gives his thoughts on the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations that are under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review.

In addition, he touches on record corn crop production, on why the food versus fuel debate should end and Quad County Corn Processors cellulosic ethanol production grand opening.

Ethanol Report on Ethanol Production, RFS Food EPA

DF Cast: Building Community Solar with No Rooftops

Solar power can be a great, clean choice of energy. But in some places, people, because they live in a shady area or an apartment, just don’t have a good, unshaded roof to have a solar panel. And in those situations, even with utility companies using some solar, it might not be at the level a consumer would like to see. Enter SunShare, who is creating community solar gardens without the rooftops.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we talk with David Amster-Olzewski, founder of SunShare, a community solar projects company based in Colorado, and Nick Kittle, the Performance and Innovation Manager for Adams County, Colorado, just east of Denver, who uses SunShare for his county’s power needs and his own personal living space. They talk about the flexibility SunShare offers to its customers, as well as the savings they see.

It’s a fascinating concept that is working now, and you can hear more about it here: Domestic Fuel Cast - Building Community Solar with No Rooftops

Dueling RFS Ads Have Same Tune

President Obama needs to overrule this misguided proposal from the EPA before it is too late and these new technologies move overseas. The fate of America’s advanced biofuel industry, along with the President’s clean energy legacy, are resting on his decision. Fuels America USA Today print ad

“Tell President Obama, stop playing politics – fix the RFS.”
American Petroleum Institute TV ad

fuels-americaBoth the American Petroleum Institute and Fuels America unveiled new media campaigns this week targeted at telling the White House what to do when it comes to volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Both organizations held conference calls with reporters to announce the new campaigns.

The single, full page, USA Today ad that will run during Climate Week September 19-21 is a sharp contrast to the oil industry’s multi-million dollar television, radio, and online advertising campaign. “This has been a David and Goliath struggle all along,” said Brent Erickson with the Biotechnology Industry Organization on behalf of Fuels America. “The biofuels industry has been struggling against this Goliath oil industry that has spent millions and millions of dollars on ads.”

The biofuels industry ad stresses the opening of the first large, commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants this year and warns that “the companies and investors looking to deploy the next wave of cellulosic ethanol facilities have put U.S. investment on hold” until a decision on the future of the RFS is made. The API ad calls the RFS “Washington red tape” and blames ethanol for raising food prices and contributing to hunger, even though corn prices are lower than breakeven for farmers this year, according to National Corn Growers Association Vice President of Public Policy Jon Doggett. “We are selling corn today at about 35% of what we did just a couple of years ago, certainly below the cost of production for many of our growers,” he said.

API’s Bob Greco says they launched their campaign in part because of recent statements from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that the agency will raise ethanol requirements based on the latest gasoline demand figures for 2014. “Unfortunately, the administration seems to be playing politics with the RFS rule instead of doing what’s best for consumers,” Greco said. “You don’t have to be a political insider to see how the Iowa Senate race—and the White House fear of losing control of the Senate—plays into this decision.”

“Politics are being played on this issue by both sides,” said Doggett. “I don’t think anyone should be surprised.”

Fuels America is a “coalition of organizations committed to protecting America’s Renewable Fuel Standard and promoting the benefits of all types of renewable fuel already growing in America.” API is the “only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry.”

Listen to the Fuels America call, which also includes comments from POET-DSM’s Steve Hartig: Fuels America RFS Campaign call

RFA: Rail Congestion Must Get Resolved

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is speaking out again on the problems of rail congestion that is slowing down the delivery of ethanol and ethanol byproducts across the country. He submitted written testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that held a hearing yesterday to examine rail congestion and the harmful impact it has had on agriculture and other commodities.

Dinneen stressed the role that Bakken Crude rail shipments have played in increasing dwell times and decreasing train speeds and pointed toward the negative impact these delays are having on ethanol producers. “The rail system didn’t collapse last winter because of a snow drift in North Dakota,” he said. “It was because of a 400% increase in oil shipments from the Bakkens.”

RailcarsIn the written testimony Dinneen said, “The recent crisis of congestion that has seemingly overtaken the rail industry has become a huge and costly problem … This crisis is one that is causing significant harm to the economic health and well-being of our nation’s economy, as well as driving up costs for a wide array of commodities that rely on the rail for transportation…it is becoming more and more apparent that surging crude oil shipments are coming at the expense of other goods and commodities.”

Listen to Dinneen’s comments here: RFA CEO Bob Dinneen comments on rail situation

Ethanol Report on Corn and Food Prices

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper talks about how corn prices have fallen but food prices continue to rise, and how that shows the “food versus fuel” argument is false.

A new report from RFA compares corn prices to the price of dairy products, pork products, beef products, and poultry and egg products from January 2007 – July 2014.

Ethanol Report on Corn and Food Prices

New Holland’s Biomass Experience

Have you had the opportunity to participate in the biomass experience from New Holland? Thousands of farmers from around the country were able to do just this during the Farm Progress Show. In addition, attendees of the Project LIBERTY grand opening were also able to experience all things biomass. But for those who were unable to attend, Chuck Zimmerman is bringing the biomass experience to you.

fps14-nh-biomassZimmerman spoke with Jarrod Angstadt, manager growth initiatives biomass and specialty products, who said New Holland is working with various biomass projects and research institutions across the country to work on the biomass industry and get a better handle on what’s going on and move it forward. “We want to be prepared to help their customers. Obviously they have needs and we have solutions,” Angstadt told Zimmerman.

He pointed out some new and current products that are available for growers looking at providing biomass to the biofuels industry. They have new round balers launched this year. In addition there are products growers have been using already including the BigBaler and the combine with the corn rower and forage harvester as well.

Zimmerman asked Angstadt was the future of biomass looked like. “The whole biomass market is wide open right now. There are a lot of people getting in to it and it is forging forward. Exactly where the end is is really unknown but that is what is really exciting about the industry,” answered Angstadt.

To learn more about the full biomass experience, listen to Chuck’s interview with Jarrod Angstadt: Interview with Jarrod Angstadt, New Holland

View the Farm Progress 2014 Flicker photo album.

Summit Group Building Brazilian Corn Ethanol Plant

Alden, Iowa-based Summit Group announced a project to build the first modern corn ethanol plant in Brazil during the 2014 Farm Progress Show. The project will consist of a US$140 million ethanol plant near Lucas do Rio Verde in Mato Grosso, a leading agricultural state in west central Brazil and the country’s largest producer of corn and soybeans. The project is being financed by Summit Group’s private equity group U.S. Farmland Fund and the company partnering with Fiagril and will be developed by ethanol technology company ICM and built by agribusiness company Marino Franz.

Bruce Rastetter Summit GroupI asked Rastetter “Why Brazil” and he answered that outside of the U.S. they believe this country will play the biggest role in feeding the world. “One of the interesting parts in particular about Mato Grosso is because of improved genetics they’re able to double crop. So they are able to raise the first crop of soybeans and the second crop of corn or cotton so they have increasing corn production in the middle of the continent where it is difficult to get it out. So they are embracing value-added agriculture,” explained Rastetter.

So what is the difference between the early U.S. ethanol plants and the modern corn ethanol plant that will be based in Brail? Rastetter said they are partnering with Colwich,Kansas-based ICM and CEO Dave Vander Griend has been traveling to Brazil with Rastetter and his team for a few years. While the majority of the technology will be the same with an improvement on high protein low fiber DDGs (dried distillers grains) – a just patented process for livestock feed.

The ethanol will stay in Brazil since the Government in Brazil wants to increase the ethanol blend from 25 percent to 27 percent. I also asked him about the environmental footprint of growing corn in Brazil and Rastetter said the country is very sustainable and the farms they are purchasing from have a large percentage of trees, and if they don’t, they are planting trees.

To learn more about Summit Group’s corn ethanol plant in Brazil, listen to my interview with Bruce Rastetter: Interview with Bruce Rastetter

I also had the opportunity to speak with Eric Peterson who is the president of Summit Group who talked more specifically about the value-added opportunities the corn ethanol plant will provide the community of Mato Grosso. Peterson explained the area has difficulty getting corn exports out of the region and ethanol into the region. With the new ethanol plant, the corn will be purchased locally and the ethanol and DDGs produced will then stay local – overcoming the export/import barriers of the region. This has made the project and partners very accepted in the community.

Eric Peterson Summit GroupSince the technology will provide a different type of DDGs than used in the U.S. a part of the project and because Brazilians are very used to using soy meal, they will be able to complement the soy meal with a high protein product. In addition, with the high fiber feed product they are going to run feed trials with a University of Nebraska nutritionist to learn how to best utilize the co-product.

Peterson believes there is a great opportunity to create synergistic relationships between U.S. farmers and Brazilian farmers. “When we go there we are impressed with some of their technology and how they adapt to large scale agriculture and they are quickly adopting precision technologies that we have here in the U.S. and there is no better place for people to assimilate technology than in Brazil and so I think we can learn a lot from each other.”

The plant is to break ground the next six months and to be operational 16 months from groundbreaking which will occur before the rainy season in Feb/March and will produce 50 million gallons of ethanol per year.

To learn more about the agribusiness aspect of the Summit Group’s Brazilian ethanol plant by listening to my interview with Eric Peterson: Interview with Eric Peterson

View the Farm Progress 2014 Flicker photo album.