Biodiesel’s Role in Bio-based Products

soy-biobased-erkerDirector of bio-based products for the United Soybean Board (USB), Michael Erker, was one of the many attendees of the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference. He works with many bio-based products including biodiesel. He gives insights into what bio-based products that contain biodiesel include and shares how involved USB is in funding biodiesel research.

“When we talk about bio-based products made from soybean oil or meal, that includes biodiesel. Biodiesel soy methyl ester are a great solvents. You not only get biodiesel, you get many other products like hand cleaners, paint strippers or other personal care products.”

USB gets very involved with research projects and are major funders for biodiesel. You can bet that they have had their hand in about all research projects the National Biodiesel Board has conducted. Michael also shared their investment with Ford and research to bring soy tires to vehicles nationwide.

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Michael here: Interview with Michael Erker

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Biodiesel Foundation’s Never Ending Support

nbb-14-foundationIt is easy to say that many of the promotional opportunities we see from the biodiesel industry wouldn’t be possible without the Biodiesel Foundation. During the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference the foundation was hard at work to raise money in order to increase awareness.

Beth Calabotta, Vice President of the Biodiesel Foundation, shared with Chuck in an interview that their goal is to work to promote biodiesel education, infrastructure and awareness.

“We promoted a sustainability tour where we brought a lot of policy makers and their support staff out to see farms in Iowa and biodiesel plants. They really got a feel for what the renewable fuels industry is. We have co-hosted a tour of some environmental groups from California who had never been to a farm before and actually see how biodiesel is made. We have also been sponsoring some educational studies at Purdue University aimed at really understanding what this indirect land use change is and really improving the science.”

The Foundation has a very wide variety of people on it’s board, including producers, farmers and many others involved and passionate about the industry. Those interested in doing their part and contributing to the Biodiesel Foundation can do so at www.BiodieselFoundation.org.

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Beth here: Interview with Beth Calabotta

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Farm Polices Impact on Precision Ag

nbb-14-kevin-rossMember of the National Corn Growers Association Board and director of Western Iowa Energy, LLC, Kevin Ross, chatted with Chuck after the opening session at the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference. They discuss farm policy and how precision agriculture technology has impacted his farming operation where he raises cattle and grows corn and soybeans.

Kevin shared that if we don’t move past what RFS has already provided then we become stuck and the innovation stops. He says everyone needs to do what they can to ensure the investments continue and technologies are utilized. He feels the government has given mixed signals and believes simple education on the issue could help.

“The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) itself is vitally important to my operation at home and to my neighbors. Not just from the farming side, but also from the livestock side. Especially, operations like mine in western Iowa where we can utilize the fats and add value back to the livestock. I am not sure how many people know that its even possible. Let alone be done on an industrial scale. Agriculture is about value-added. Creating markets in those new economies within a broader ag industry is what it is all about.”

Kevin goes on to discuss what types of precision agriculture they have taken advantage of on his operation.

“On our farm it has been a fast ramp up of precision technology. Just a couple years ago on our own farm we’ve gone to auto steer. I couldn’t plant straight rows if I tried. We also use single row shut-offs and it has been a huge plus for us. Overall newer equipment is more efficient with yield monitors and data that we collect. We are going into a new soil data collection phase on our farm which is an entirely new way of doing it then before. We have made major advancement in the recent years and profitability in ag and RFS have really had a huge role in making that possible.”

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Kevin here: Interview with Kevin Ross

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

IRFA Attendees Roar in Support of Biofuels

More than 600 people turned out for the 8th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit including hundreds of consumers from around Iowa who wanted to learn more about renewable fuels. Speaking with Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (Iowa RFA), the largest state organization in the U.S. focused on biofuels, noted that there were some consumer driven panels on E15 and biodiesel. In addition, there was a panel featuring four cellulosic projects taking place in Iowa.

The morning focused on the legislative side of biofuels and Shaw noted that the conference landed on the last day of the EPA comment period for their 2014 proposed IRFA 2014 Summit Shawvolumes as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). During the show more than 250 people submitted comments to the EPA.

“We’re really optimistic that its going to be very difficult for the EPA to be able to ignore the wealth of information as well as the grassroots support for not messing with the RFS,” said Shaw.

Iowa is number one in ethanol production with about 13.8 billion gallons and number one in biodiesel production with 230 billion gallons. “So we have more at stake than any other state,” said Shaw, “so we have taken the responsibility very seriously to lead the charge.” Shaw said there is bipartisan support around the country for the RFS and he is concerned that a loss of the program could lead to another farm crisis.

I asked Shaw why consumers should care if there is less renewable fuel in our gas. He explained that in Iowa alone, a consumer saves at least 23 cents a gallon for ten percent ethanol (E10). “If you take ethanol out of gas, it’s more expensive,” said Shaw. “It’s just that simply. Even Washington DC, whose not very good with numbers, even they should be able to do that math.”

Shaw also stressed that this fight is not over. Consumers should still call President Obama and tell him they want biofuels. And IRFA will continue the fight as well.

Listen to my full interview with Monte Shaw here: IRFA Attendees Roar in Support of Biofuels

View the 2014 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit photo album.

Growing Use of Technology for Growers

nbb-14-frank-legnerCommodity groups across the country also took interest in the happenings at the recent National Biodiesel Conference. Frank Legner, Legner Farms is a member of the Illinois Soybean Association and attended the conference to relay the update on biodiesel to growers in Illinois. He talks about how he uses precision agriculture on his farm where they grow 50/50 soybeans and corn.

“With the high prices of commodities in the years previous farmers have used their capital in many different ways. Our farming operation decided to put our capital towards technology. Where we farm you could have about four different soil types on a piece of land and those soil types all have different productivity indexes that have been benchmarked from the University of Illinois. We use those soil maps as a good foundation of how we are going to come up with a plan. We soil sample on two and a half acre grids and when we make these sample sites we overlay them on our SMS advance desktop software to make sure that sample site is in one soil sample. When we get the readings from the lab, we use that to write our VRT recommendations.”

They can then compare results from previous years and start selecting what hybrids will work in each field. Frank said it is kind of like a draft. The multiple hybrid planting is something that he sees them utilizing in the very near future as well.

Frank also shared that colors don’t mix when you are dealing with this level of technology. He shared that precision planting has been the best way for them to use their green planter with their red tractor. Legner Farms has truly adopted the use of technology to create efficiency and increase profitability. He goes on to explain how they have taken advantage of different precision ag company’s innovations and looks forward to seeing what’s next.

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Frank here: Interview with Frank Legner

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Gas Hole’s Impact on the Industry

nbb-14-gasholeWhen Jeremy Wagner and Scott Roberts made the movie Gas Hole a couple of years ago, they had no idea the impact it would have. During the recent 2014 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo the co-directors/producers presented to attendees, showed an extended excerpt from the movie and did a little Q & A.

Chuck caught up with the team and they shared how they decided a film about the oil industry was their goal and what research it took to accomplish such an endeavor.

Scott said the idea come to them “when the gas prices hit an all-time high. At the time I think it was only $3.25, it was unheard of at the time. We saw an article in a newspaper written by a gentlemen who remembered seeing a vehicle back in the 50′s that he was told got a 100 mph. What happened to that technology and why aren’t we using it?”

They knew they wanted to do a documentary together, but hadn’t decided on a topic. After this discovery they hunted down the man from the article and the rest is history.

“As we started to learn about the history of oil and what happened going back to standard oil. How that became a giant monopoly and then broken up and how it moved us into the 70′s and then we had the oil embargo. The story is so enormous and fascinating we kept running in to these things that you don’t really think about or know unless you have researched it,” Jeremy said. He continued by saying, “We started researching alternative fuels and seeing what was the most viable thing and we came across biodiesel and what was happening in that industry.”

The duo share that their message to viewers is to explain this concept that has been made very complex, when it shouldn’t be. Gas Hole presents the idea that the solutions to our oil dependency is relatively simple.

“We hope through the film we can open people’s eyes and make them think about things they have never thought about before and takeaway all the great things in history that have been accomplished. It took hard work and determination, we are a great country – we have great innovators. This is a perfect example being here at this conference and seeing the people that are doing just that.” added Scott.

If you are interested in purchasing Gas Hole, visit GasHoleMovie.com. It is also available on iTunes, Netflix, Amazon and basically all the major outlets.

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Jeremy & Scott here: Interview with Jeremy Wagner & Scott Roberts

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Mike Haas Receives Eye on Biodiesel Pioneer Award

Mike HaasReceiving an Eye on Biodiesel Pioneer Award for lifetime achievement serving the biodiesel industry at the convention was Mike Haas, of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

Haas has been a Lead Scientist and Research Biochemist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service since 1981. He has been a huge supporter of the biodiesel industry and currently leads a project investigating the production and quality enhancement of biodiesel, and the chemical modification of lipids to produce bio-based petroleum replacements. Haas and the USDA have been a key supporter of the annual Biodiesel Technical Workshop and currently provides leadership for the NBB’s Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program.

You can listen to Mike’s remarks here: Mike Haas Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Len Hering Receives Eye on Biodiesel Award

Len HeringLen Hering, a retired Rear Admiral from the U.S. Navy, gave an absolutely wonderful speech during the closing general session of the conference. You might want to share a link to it (listen below) with your friends and family and perhaps even the EPA! In addition he received an NBB Eye on Biodiesel Inspiration Award. Len is also the Executive Director of the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

Hering, is a prominent military and civilian sustainability leader instrumental in bringing B20 to naval bases. In his 32 years of Navy service he was known as a top expert in base operations and facility support with an emphasis on sustainability. His efforts included everything from renewable energy, including biodiesel, to responsible water use, photovoltaic technology, and conservation. Within three years, his team reduced energy consumption by nearly 42 percent, diverted 75 percent of Navy waste from landfills and reduced water consumption by more than one billion gallons, saving tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. President Bush awarded Hering a 2005 Presidential Award for Leadership in Federal Energy Management.

You can listen to Len’s remarks here: Len Hering Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Obama, EPA Needs to Listen to Midwesterners

Hundreds of people from the Midwest turned out to submit comments today to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the “Hearing in the Heartland: Supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard” hosted by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.

The EPA held only one public hearing in Washington, D.C. last year in response to their 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard – a proposed policy that lowers the use of biofuels; rather IA Gov Branstad at Hearing in the Heartland Jan 23 2013than increases the use of biofuels as intended by the policy. Branstad noted that when he was testifying in DC with the Iowa delegation, they met with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and requested a public hearing in the Midwest and were denied.

Not to be deterred, Branstad rallied several other Midwestern Secretaries of Agriculture to hold their own hearing and people from throughout the Midwest including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota traveled on one of the coldest days of the new year to tell their stories of the benefits of biofuels.

“I’ve been a relentless supporter of biofuels dating back to the 1970s, when we called it “gasahol,” said Gov. Branstad to the audience. “It’s truly incredible to see how the industry has grown and provided diverse benefits to agriculture and created thousands of quality jobs across America.”

“With a state that has over 92,000 farmers, dozens of thriving international agri-business companies, and a large variety of bio-science leaders, it’s easy to see that the growth is a result of the hard work and innovation of our farmers and the technology advancements in the use of corn, soybeans and other biomass products.”

Branstad noted the many benefits of biofuels including: diversifying our nation’s energy portfolio and reducing our dependence on foreign oil; reducing air pollution; giving consumers choices at the pump; and helping grow family incomes in rural America. He stressed that EPA’s proposal on the RFS would have devastating effects on this growth ad on job creation and he, along with many other bi-partisan Midwest leaders have voiced opposition.

You can listen to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s full remarks here:Obama, EPA Needs to Listen to Midwesterners Continue reading

Views on the Biodiesel Policy Climate

Biodiesel Policy PanelTwo former members of Congress talked about attacks on the Renewable Fuel Standard at the National Biodiesel Conference this week in San Diego.

Former Democrat Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, now a DC policy advisory, says the EPA proposal to lower RFS volume obligations this year is inexplicable. “The Obama Administration has always supported renewable fuels,” he said during a general session policy panel. “They will, I assume, say that these mandates support renewable fuels. But they know that these mandates are below what they should be, they have to be adjusted.”

Former Congressman Kenny Hulshof of Missouri, a Republican and founder of the Missouri energy initiative, agrees it is inexplicable, but reasoned that backlash against ethanol and the 2012 drought played a role in the proposal. “I think the EPA came under some very intense political scrutiny, that’s when you saw a lot of bills being introduced to repeal the RFS,” he said.

Dorgan thinks it’s unlikely Congress will repeal the RFS, the first version of which he helped write in 2005. “I think that would be a horrible mistake. Fortunately, the Congress can’t agree on anything,” said the former senator, adding that the president would veto the bill if they tried.

Both Dorgan and Hulshof believe Congress will eventually extend the biodiesel tax incentive which expired at the end of 2013.

You can listen to the session, moderated by National Biodiesel Board Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel, here: Policy Climate Session

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Eye on Biodiesel Industry Partnership Award

Kirk LeedsThe Eye on Biodiesel Award for Industry Partnership was presented to Kirk Leeds, Iowa Soybean Association this morning.

Kirk is Chief Executive Officer of the Association and has been a leader among soybean organizations in supporting biodiesel efforts since the industry’s inception. ISA’s support of the National Biodiesel Board over the years has allowed the industry to prepare and face the challenges of being a billion-plus-gallon Advanced Biofuel. His visionary leadership has helped to maintain a mutually-beneficial, strong connection between the soybean and biodiesel industries. Kirk and ISA have been at the forefront of improving agriculture’s environmental performance. Through partnerships with farmers, environmental groups, agri-business and academia, ISA is helping lead efforts to identify practical solutions for complex environmental issues.

You can listen to Kirk’s remarks here: Kirk Leeds Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

CARB Receives Eye on Biodiesel Award

Richard CoreyReceiving the National Biodiesel Board’s Eye on Biodiesel Impact Award for the California Clean Air Resources Board was Richard Corey, Executive Officer.

The State of California continues to serve as a national and world leader in regulations related to environmental sustainability, and the California Air Resources Board is at the heart of those efforts. In January of 2010, Air Resources Board staff successfully implemented the first ever market-oriented carbon reduction policy for transportation fuels, a policy known as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Since that time, use and production of biodiesel and other renewable fuels has increased significantly. Californians have since enjoyed the benefits of cleaner air, growth in green jobs, and increased fuel diversity.

You can listen to Richard’s remarks here: Richard Corey Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

NBB Lifetime Achievement Award

Don Borgman AwardA very special award was presented to John Deere’s Don Borgman today at the National Biodiesel Conference. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the industry.

Later this year Borgman will be retiring from John Deere after over 40 years of service. Most recently he served as the Director of Agricultural Industry Relations for John Deere’s North American operations. He has been involved in the promotion and expansion of demand for agricultural products since the late 1970’s, and his work was instrumental in John Deere’s acceptance, support, and promotion of biodiesel.

You can listen to Don’s remarks here: Don Borgman Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

NBB Chair Calls for Industry Unity

NBB Chair Steven LevyThe Chair of the National Biodiesel Board is Steven J. Levy, Sprague Operating Resources LLC. This is his first conference as the Chair so when he spoke at today’s general session he told a little bit about himself and his background. He’s the first NBB Chair who is not a farmer, producer or from the Midwest.

Steven spoke about the work of the National Biodiesel Board and the challenges that it will overcome by being a unified voice for the industry.

You can listen to Steven’s remarks here: Steven Levy Remarks

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Lowering RFS Impact on Advanced Biofuels

Cellulosic and advanced biofuels producers are very concerned that the EPA proposal to lower 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets will have a chilling effect on investment in the next generation of renewable fuels.

mess-rfs“Frankly, we have decided that we are placing a hold on our evaluations of future investment in bioenergy in the United States until we see what the final rule is and what impact it does have on the market,” said Chris Standlee with Abengoa Bioenergy during a media call today organized by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). Standlee added that the proposal has forced them to reconsider their business plan to license technology to other producers and look for “potential investments in other countries.”

Iogen Corporation president and CEO Brian Foody said RFS is the single most important driver of investment in advanced biofuels. “Cellulosic biofuel has the promise to deliver tens of billions of gallons of ethanol to the United States, but there needs to be a market for that,” he said. Iogen is building a cellulosic plant in Brazil using sugarcane bagasse and they are “actively seeking to develop projects in America” but that will depend on the future of the RFS.

Delayne Johnson, General Manager of the farmer-owned Quad County Corn Processors ethanol plant which broke ground in July on a bolt-on cellulosic ethanol technology, said that changing the RFS at this point is “going to create uncertainty” for other plants looking at adopting that technology. “We’re hopeful the EPA will consider getting back on course,” he said.

Listen to comments from Standlee, Foody, and Johnson, as well as RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen and Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman. RFS impact on Advanced Biofuels media call

Media questions and answers