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

Biodiesel Board Pleased with CARB Findings

nbb-advancedThe National Biodiesel Board (NBB) is pleased with the preliminary Indirect Land Use Change (iLUC) values presented by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) at a workshop on Tuesday.

“We applaud the Air Resources Board for recognizing the need to reduce carbon from transportation and fossil fuels to mitigate climate change,” said Don Scott, National Biodiesel Board Director of Sustainability, who was present at the workshop. “Since America’s Advanced Biofuel, biodiesel, is among the most effective tools for carbon reduction this represents a major step forward. We are hopeful the agency will continue on this path to use the best science to quantify the benefits of biodiesel.”

According to NBB, the proposal “recognizes biodiesel’s sustainability and environmental benefits, takes a notable step in the right direction, and will open new avenues for biodiesel use in the state.”

During the workshop, Scott made several comments and observations about the preliminary findings presented by CARB. “I think CARB is on the right track with improving these models to quantify those economic impacts that ripple through the world and impact food production,” he said at one point in the meeting. “The biodiesel industry was not thrilled initially about the idea of indirect land use change because our goals have always been to do what we can domestically without impacting food, either in prices or availability.” But, he says the iLUC models actually show that is true when it comes to biodiesel. Don Scott, NBB comments during CARB Workshop

CARB Stresses ILUC Update is Preliminary

carb-14-2California Air Resources Board (CARB) staff spent four hours on Tuesday afternoon detailing reviews made of Indirect Land Use Change (iLUC) models and analysis for the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), strongly stressing that their results are preliminary.

“This is a work in progress,” said Air Resources Engineer Anil Prabhu as he began his power point presentation detailing the history of the iLUC analysis used by the agency, recommendations by the Expert Work Group (EWG), and much technical scientific information. Staff also stressed repeatedly that CARB is seeking feedback from all stakeholders on the preliminary conclusions presented.

carb-workshopThe 84 slide presentation of details on how CARB arrived at the values they are proposing for corn ethanol, sugarcane ethanol, soy biodiesel, canola biodiesel and sorghum ethanol was interspersed with dozens of questions from stakeholders and scientists present or listening in on the webcast.

Among those challenging the CARB results several times was Steffen Mueller with the University of Illinois-Chicago and Genscape, a member of the original CARB EWG. “There’s a lot of basic information missing (here) to engage in a productive discussion,” Mueller said, noting that the Agro-Ecological Zone – Emissions Factor (AEZ-EF) model presented was from 2011 and wondering when they would be able to see the updates CARB made to the model. “There’s been a lot of republications since 2011,” he said, to which CARB staff responded it would be updated “probably within the next week or two.”

Much of CARB’s data was presented based on Purdue University’s GTAP (Global Trade Analysis Project) work, including some research done by agricultural economist Wally Tyner, who called in to set the record straight. “What’s been presented today is really CARB’s work and not Purdue’s work,” said Tyner, who mainly called to dispute the Yield Price Elasticity assumptions made in the CARB presentations, which he says is “basically incorrect.” Wally Tyner comments and CARB staff response

Tyner also noted that there “is a lot of uncertainty in emission factors” as well as a great deal in land use change, and that seemed to be the theme of the entire meeting with nearly a quarter of the power point presentation being devoted to “Evaluation of Uncertainty” and “Why Results Vary Between Studies.” While the CARB staff repeatedly reminded those present that they welcomed any new or updated data that could be supplied, it was overwhelmingly clear that there is no scientific consensus whatsoever on the topic of indirect land use change. Continue reading

Ethanol’s Voice Heard at Commodity Classic

white1It might not be a biofuels convention per se, but the recently completed Commodity Classic in San Antonio attracted lots of producers and advocates for the green fuels. Previously, I talked to Joe Jobe from the National Biodiesel Board about his group’s participation in the annual meeting of corn, wheat, soybean and sorghum growers. At the booth next door was another group in the biofuels game, the Renewable Fuels Association, representing the ethanol industry. RFA’s Director of Market Development Robert White said that they’re glad to come out and talk with the thousands of corn farmers attending who are a big part of the main feedstock for ethanol and invest heavily themselves in the industry.

“It’s a good place for us to be. It’s actually nice to go into a friendly environment every once in a while,” he said.

Of course, the biggest thing they heard at the event was the concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to cut a billion gallons of ethanol from the Renewable Volume Obligations, the amount of ethanol required to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply. Robert said they need to counter some of the myths that petroleum companies are trying to spread with fact-based arguments in favor of ethanol.

“And it has to be strategic, because if the opposition to the [Renewable Fuels Standard] is a fire hose, we’re a dripping faucet, and we have to make sure it’s a strategic approach and it’s fact-based because if we got caught stretching the truth, they’d never forget it,” he said.

Robert went on to say that despite the comment period for the EPA being over, it’s important to keep letting Washington know where ethanol and all biofuels proponents stand.

“Don’t become complacent. Keep reaching out to elected officials, EPA and the White House to make sure they know how important this is to individual farming operations and rural America.”

Listen to my interview with Robert here: Robert White, RFA

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

EPA Biodiesel Proposal, Tax Credit Priorities for ASA

classic14-asa-murphySoybean growers attending the recent Commodity Classic see the government’s proposal to cut biodiesel and the expiration of the federal biodiesel tax credit as their top priorities to take on this year. At a news conference at the annual meeting of corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers in San Antonio, American Soybean Association (ASA) Chairman Danny Murphy, a grower from Mississippi, said their first priority is to get the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse its proposal that would effectively cut in half the amount of biodiesel to be required to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply.

“We have asked our soybean farmers to make comments, and we’ve had hundreds of farmers express their concern to EPA about the proposed level and what it would do to the capability and potential of the biodiesel industry,” he said. “These proposed regulations would reduce the production over the next year or two and really stifle the growth in a really valuable market for soybean farmers.”

In a separate interview with Cindy, Danny said, based on what he’s heard from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the folks at EPA might be having some second thoughts about their own proposal. “So we hope that means they’ll make some changes and allow this biodiesel industry to grow,” he said.

He added ASA supports the extension of the $1-a-gallon federal tax credit for biodiesel, which expired at the end of December. He believes it could be reinstated as part of a tax extenders package, but he would also be happy to see the stand-alone legislation proposed by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) get passed.

Listen to Danny’s portion of the ASA news conference here: American Soybean Association Chairman Danny Murphy

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Arming for a Fact-Based Fight Over Ethanol

bernens1It’s not always fact-based arguments proponents of ethanol are up against when battling Big Oil. But that’s why it’s all more important to make sure you have good facts on your side in the fight. Farmers who attended the recent Commodity Classic in San Antonio were able to sit in on a session titled, “Biofuels and the Renewable Fuels Standard, A Farmer’s Avenue to American Energy Independence,” to make sure they can talk about the success stories and silence ethanol’s critics.

“Because of our success, we’ve had Big Oil really come after us and say, ‘We’re not going to lose anymore market share,’” says Jack Bernens, session moderator and marketer of Syngenta’s Enogen corn, specifically designed for ethanol production. “When monopolies get threatened, they like to push back hard.”

Hear more of what Jack had to say here: Jack Bernens, Syngenta

jennings1Jack was joined on the panel by Brian Jennings with the American Coalition for Ethanol, who echoed Jack’s view that you’re not necessarily battling facts when it comes to taking on some of the myths put out by the petroleum industry.

“The message I was trying to relay to the corn growers is stay involved, remain engaged, get your neighbors and friends involved, and know that this isn’t a fact-based fight. When the fight is about facts, we always win,” Brian says, adding that ethanol doesn’t have to stoop to the lies and scare tactics of Big Oil.

Listen to Brian’s interview here: Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol

doxtad1Another effective tool in the fight is showing the positive change ethanol has brought to Rural America, creating better markets for farmers’ corn, helping the country achieve energy independence, and building up communities, like the one that Northwest Iowa corn farmer James Doxtad comes from. He says while many folks back in his home state are aware of the good the renewable fuel has brought to the heartland, too many people in the country just don’t know. “It’s amazing how many people out there are unaware of the advantages of ethanol. Ethanol is a good thing, and we’re producing a good product, and we’re doing it for a good reason.” he says.

Check out James’ interview here: James Doxtad, Holstein, Iowa

Meanwhile, all three might get some help spreading the word as Syngenta released a new documentary video titled, “Ethanol: Fueling Rural America’s Future – One Community at a Time,” that provides a platform for farmers, ethanol producers and industry advocates to share their passion for an industry critical to the future of agriculture and rural America.

Biodiesel Finds Allies at Commodity Classic

jobe1Commodity Classic is the annual meeting that attracts more than 7,000 corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum farmers, but it’s also a great place to find biodiesel and ethanol producers. Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) says they make sure to connect with their allies from the commodity groups, especially those soybean growers.

“Biodiesel is made from a variety of feedstocks, but soy has always been the predominant feedstock for biodiesel and will be going forward,” he says, although corn oil from ethanol plants and animal fats have been making their mark in the green fuel as well. “The soybean leadership has really created the roots for biodiesel, and we still come to connect with our soybean farmer friends and leaders and talk about the status of biodiesel.”

And there was plenty to talk about at Commodity Classic when it comes to biodiesel. The double-whammy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposing to cut in half the amount of biodiesel to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply and the expiration of the $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel tax credit has made for plenty of conversations. Joe is really perplexed at the cut to the share of biodiesel in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) considering how biodiesel is able to make up a lot possible shortfalls from cellulosic and blend wall issues facing ethanol.

“Biodiesel filled virtually the whole advanced biofuel pool, not just the biomass-based diesel pool. And because biodiesel has been so successful, the advanced biofuel goals have been met or exceeded every single year of the [RFS, despite] other advanced biofuels not coming online as quickly as hoped,” Jobe says.

The soybean growers Jobe and his folks have been able to connect with at Commodity Classic have been big allies in the push to get the RFS levels restored, but he’s also seeing help coming from corn growers who obviously have a bigger stake in what happens to ethanol but are pushing to keep the RFS as it was intended because of how it lifts all biofuels. He’s optimistic all of their efforts will be successful. “We have to believe the EPA is going to do the right thing, because the right thing is so easy and so obvious,” said Jobe.

Listen to my interview with Joe here: Joe Jobe, CEO of NBB at Commodity Classic

2014 Commodity Classic Photos