Rural Development Secretary Speaks at CUTC

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas DorrI really enjoyed getting to talk with our USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development, Tom Dorr, this evening. He was our keynote speaker at the CUTC.

He told corn growers and all the attendees that they’re doing a great job. He also said that there are challenges ahead like the recent Grocery Manufacturers Association attack on ethanol. He says that’s making it difficult to get the facts out to the media.

He points out that we’ve been through substantive increases in demand before like back in the early ’70’s with the Russian grain robbery that led to fears about escalating food prices. He said that no good deed goes unpunished and that we’ve had the good side of the cycle and now we’re going to have to suffer through the other side. He says it’s difficult to fight a well financed opponent that’s less inclined to deal with facts as opposed to dealing with emotion.

Here’s my interview with Sec. Dorr:

Here’s Sec. Dorr’s Keynote Address:

You can find photos from the CUTC here:
CUTC Photo Album

Ethanol Goes for the Big Leagues On and Off the Track

The 92nd Indianapolis 500 is one for the record books for Team Ethanol. Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay pilots the IndyCar sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) and just a couple weeks ago he piloted the car to a 6th place finish, the best ever Indy 500 for the team. At one point in the race, Ryan was cruising in 5th with just four of the League’s biggest names in car racing in front of him. Ryan says that’s when he thought, ‘We’re in it now.’ It being the big leagues.

e-podcastThat’s exactly where the ethanol industry’s leading executives consider themselves to be when it comes to fueling the nation. Oil and fossil fuels are big time competitors for ethanol, but a growing criticism of the renewable simply demonstrates the alternative fuel’s mounting success.

The best part? Both Ryan and the ethanol executives think they can take a win.

The podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link) or you can listen to it by clicking here (5:00 MP3 File):

The Fill Up, Feel Good theme music is “Tribute to Joe Satriani” by Alan Renkl, thanks to the Podsafe Music Network.

“Fill up, Feel Good” is sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.

LifeLine’s Vision for Corn and Ethanol

Domestic Fuel CastLifeLine Foods sells ethanol, but ethanol is just one of many products the company produces. The St. Joseph, MO-based corn milling plant started off as a manufacturer of snack foods in 2001. Today, LifeLine’s identity is continually evolving. The 51 percent farmer-owned company is committed to innovation and is now partnered with ICM, Inc, a world leader in ethanol facility design and engineering, in the production of ethanol.

In this DomesticFuel Cast, we hear from LifeFine Foods CEO Bill Becker about the company’s current innovations with corn, food and fuel and what’s in store for the future.
Here is the Domestic Fuel Cast #4:

You can also subscribe to the Domestic Fuel Cast using the following url/feed link:

Ryan Hunter-Reay Steers Team Ethanol to a Best Ever Indy 500 Finish

“I came close to crashing six or seven times,” said Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay. But, they key is he didn’t. More than a handful of IndyCar drivers had problems out on the track during the 92nd Indianopolis 500 with several drivers like rookie Graham Rahal and veteran Marty Roth sliding into the wall at turn four after being caught too high around the bend. But Ryan, who was the top finishing rookie at 6th place, said his crew’s strategy was to be patient and stay low, really low.

That strategy proved to be the best strategy for a team that, as Ryan explained it, “had no luck.”

Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay comments on being the top finishing rookie at the 92nd Indy 500“You know what was nice about today, is we didn’t have any luck,” said Ryan. “You know, we didn’t have bad luck, we didn’t have good luck, we just had no luck.”

He says that’s all his team needed in order to snag the best Indy 500 finish in Team Ethanol’s history. Ryan says his team is definitely “punching above [its] weight” as it competes with teams like Ganassi, Andretti Green and Penske, but he says “there’s going to be much better things to come this year.” And a win isn’t out of the question for Ryan. All his team needs, he says, is a bit of luck.

Ryan steadily picked off cars throughout the race, both out on the oval and in the pits. Ryan started in position 20, but successfully passed 15 drivers holding 5th place in the final quarter of the race, before dropping back to a 6th place finish.

“When that line gets shorter and shorter in front of you after each pit stop and after each time you pick off cars and you’re so busy in you’re own little world there as you’re going through a stint. All of a sudden you’re sitting there with fifty laps to go in the race and there’s only four cars in front of you. It was like ‘Okay, we’re in it now.'”

Ryan said he did his homework, watching videos of past races just like a quaterback watches videos of past football games. “I’ve learned a lot of lessons this month,” said Ryan.

As far as the Indy 500 goes, he says, “qualifying doesn’t matter that much unless you’re on the front row.”

You can listen to Ryan’s comments from just after the race here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

Scott Dixon’s Got Milk at 92nd Indy 500

Scott Dixon celebrates his win in Victory Circle for the 92nd Indy 500In a race down to the pits, No. 9 Target Driver Scott Dixon with Chip Ganassi Racing sped past Vitor Meira during the final pit stop during a yellow to take the win at the Brickyard. Reporters commented on the look of shock on Scott’s face at winners circle and Scott confirmed that he was a bit shocked.

“It’s almost like you’re in a dreamland,” Scott said. “It was quite crazy. You know it’s something where you expect somebody to pinch you and you wake up and you’re just sort of asleep in your bed back at home. It still hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Scott’s win is the first Indy 500 win to come after the reunification of the IndyCar Series and the Champ Series. The series split 12 years ago in 1995 and finally merged again this year. Scott said the reunification certainly means the talent pool for this year’s race was a bit deeper, but he says the real competition will come next year when the former Champ Series teams will have had a year to make adjustments.

Scott said his day started off right with his a good night’s rest and his wife’s pancakes for breakfast. He did admit he was a bit anxious going into the race. Scott said the entire month went pointedly smooth with his car and his crew and he didn’t want to see something like a poor pit stop slow his momentum. Scott, who won the IndyCar Series Championship in 2003, said this was his biggest IndyCar win to date.

Scott Dixon celebrates his win in Victory Circle for the 92nd Indy 500“This is much more sweeter because it comes, you know, you work three weeks solidly and it comes down to one day to get it and have everything fall into place. It’s quite special,” Scott said.

Scott averaged a speed of 143.567 mph during the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 and led for the last 29 laps of the race, the longest racing stretch all day.

The race was marked with eight yellow flags and that meant drivers didn’t pit once during a green. That took the pit pressure off the runner-up Vitor Miera. Vitor, who drives the N. 4 car for Panther racing finished second with an average lap speed of 143.547.

Marco Andretti, who drives the the No. 26 car for Andretti Green Racing, finished third with an average lap time of 143.541.

Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay called it before the race. In a speech before EPIC members Saturday night he said the Ganassi cars would be the biggest competitors out on the track at the Brickyard. Ryan was just shy of a top five finish and came in 6th at the Indianapolis 500. Ryan was the top finishing rookie at the race and the 6th place finish marks Team Ethanol’s best Indy 500 finish to date.

When asked about Scott’s win, Ryan said “It’s nice to see the fastest car out there win.”

You can listen to audio from the press conference with Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi and Target Team Managing Director Mike Hull here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

Ethanol and Racing at 92nd Indy 500

EPIC members applaud at the start of the 92nd Indy 500Ethanol isn’t just out on the track, but also in parking lots and parked in the infield at the Brickyard in Indianapolis, IN. And that’s something VeraSun CEO Don Endres (not pictured) is happy to see. Don is up in the Team Ethanol suite watching the 92nd Indy 500 with a few dozen other EPIC members as we speak. Just before the race I caught up with Don to talk about the success, challenges and future of ethanol over the past year with ethanol being showcased in the Indy Racing League. Don says he believes the ethanol industry is on the verge of a revolution with both starch-based ethanol and cellulosic ethanol. He adds that cellulosic ethanol should be a commercially viable option for the fuel industry in three to five years.

You can listen to my interview with Don here:

I also spoke with Jeff Broin (not pictured), CEO and founder of POET. He made a point to debunk claims that ethanol raises the prices of food. We also spoke about the future of ethanol production at POET, including cellulosic ethanol. Jeff wants to see more ethanol out at the pumps and says blender pumps are a big key to getting more ethanol into consumer fuel tanks.

You can listen to my interview with Jeff here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

Indy 500 Race Fans Line Up for Ethanol

Team Ethanol IndyCar Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay autographs a hat for EPIC membersThe Ethanol tent and mobile unit display at the 92nd Indianapolis 500 is a big hit with race fans. When I dropped by there was a large crowd lined up to sign up their email address and consumer information with ethanol. Those that stopped by could also jump in the seat of a Team Ethanol IndyCar replica, play some racing videogames and pick up a tiny replica of the No. 17 car.

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

EPIC Members Get to Know Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay

Team Ethanol IndyCar Driver Ryan Hunter-ReayHe was named rookie of the year for the 2007 IRL season. Ryan is also in the running to be the Rookie of the Year for the 2008 Indy 500.

The 92nd Indianapolis 500 marks the biggest race of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s career to date. Ryan began racing for Team Ethanol last year, making his IndyCar Series debut at Mid-Ohio. That means his rookie run was seven races after last year’s Indy 500 event.

Nonetheless, Ryan set a new record when he became the 2007 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year with the fewest racing starts. The Team Ethanol driver is also in the running to be the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year since this is his first time competing at the world’s largest racing event.

Ryan spoke to members of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council Saturday evening. He told members he was honored not only to compete for Team Ethanol, but to represent ethanol in the public eye.

Ryan says he is looking to give Team Ethanol its best ever Indy 500 finish. Having spent the past month at the track, Ryan says he’s definitely comfortable going into today’s race. Though, he says, driving the 2.5 mile oval at Indy does take some getting used to, especially when going around turn one at 233 mph: “You have to have trust in the car. That’s the hardest part. And when they crash it hurts bad, you know?” Ryan was referring to his crash during Indy 500 qualifying earlier this month.

Team Ethanol IndyCar Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay autographs a hat for EPIC membersBut, he was quick to point out that when the car’s dialed in and everything is running smoothly, “It actually does feel like you’re flying low… it’s amazing those cars can do that really. Cause you don’t believe in it. Until you’re actually in the corner with 4 Gs loaded up and you get out of it.”

Ryan applauded the Team Ethanol strategy and pointed out that his pit crew has proven to be a great crew for making the car better during a race at the pit stops.

He says the biggest competitors out on the track for this year’s Indy 500 are the Ganassi cars, but he insists that he can run with the best of them. He reminded members that, after some quick fixes to the Team Ethanol car mid-race, he was the fastest car out on the track at Milwaukee.

Ryan outlined the benefits of burning ethanol on the track, like better gas mileage, smaller fuel tanks, faster speeds and improved torque. He explained that he got his start in racing through karting, which is a hobby he says he still loves.

You can listen to Ryan’s speech to EPIC members here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

“E-logo” a Hit with Kids

2008 IPL Festival ParadeThe green ethanol flags were a hit with the crowd at the 2008 IPL Festival Parade, especially with the kids. Spectators could spot “e” flags waving at Monument Circle and along the parade route. Some kids were using the flags as drumsticks, beating in time to the college and high school bands that marched past. Well, keeping time in their heads at least. But, the kids weren’t the only ones eager to get there hands on one. Just as one of the brand ambassadors handed out the last flag, a woman came up demanding one for herself. She wasn’t too happy to find out there were none left!

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

LifeLine Foods Just Happens to Sell Ethanol

LifeLine Foods President and CEO Bill BeckerOne of the largest snack suppliers in the U.S. is also the supplier of ethanol fuel for the Indy Racing League. Yup, LifeLine Foods is fueling and feeding the American public. Bill Becker, president and CEO of Lifeline, says that’s just the tip of the iceberg. LifeLine is investing in technology that will allow the company to do much more than just snack food and biofuel. Bill says his company can also remove fiber and protein from the same corn crop that it extracts snack foods and ethanol. These nutrients, he says, could potentially serve as a supplement to the world’s hungry. And that’s still not everything Bill says LifeLine can do with corn.

The story of how a small, farmer-owned company based out of St. Joseph, MO can provide snacks for major food companies, fuel one of the world’s most presitigious motor sports and more is quite a remarkable one. You can listen to my interview with Bill and hear his story about LifeLine here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

Ethanol Supports the 6 “Fs”

UNICA President Marco JankThe discussion on ethanol should be about fuel plus food plus feed plus fibers plus fruits plus forests. At least, that’s what the president of UNICA thinks. Marco Jank spoke at yesterday’s Ethanol Summit and explained how ethanol has become not just a major fuel source in Brazil but also a stimulating proponent in many other industries, particularly food. Marcos adds that as technology continues to progress, the Brazilian ethanol industry will continue to grow. There’s no question. And, he says there’s no question that it will be the same for the U.S. In fact, he says the American ethanol industry is already growing at a faster rate than that of Brazil.

Marcos says, “technology is the solution” for combating a rising scarcity in oil. While he says that ethanol won’t ever become a big competitor with oil, he says it will and should become a leading alternative to oil. He urges leaders in the ethanol industry to appeal to the pulbic and encourage them to make biofuels a part of a worldwide solution to the oil crisis. Marcos says 100 countries have the potential of developing significant ethanol idustries, which in turn, allows for a “more deomocratic and less problematic” solution to the world’s energy needs.

I spoke with Marcos just after the summit. We talked about how ethanol has become a substantial fuel source in Brazil, why Marcos thinks the U.S. should open its doors to imported ethanol and the fuel’s virtually untapped potential in the U.S. You can listen to my interview here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

Ethanol Industry Fights Back

RFA PodcastThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is working hard to combat the campaign against ethanol by food manufacturers and petroleum companies which continues to increase. In this Ethanol Report podcast, President and CEO Bob Dinneen says they have hired new staff and opened a new office and he believes that in the end the facts will prevail.

You can subscribe to the twice-monthly “The Ethanol Report” by following this link.

Or you can listen to it on-line here:

Ethanol: Official Fuel of Indy Racing and Indy Racing Legends

Indy Racing Legend Emerson Fittipaldi at the 2008 Ethanol SummitMany consider Emerson Fittipaldi, a two-time Indy 500 champ, “a true King of the Brickyard.” But not only is Emerson an IRL legend, he’s a BIG supporter of ethanol. Perhaps even a “King of Ethanol.” Emerson is a Brazilian ethanol producer and spoke at yesterday’s Ethanol Summit hosted by General Motors.

The IRL racing legend told the story of his long history, not just with racing, but also racing with ethanol. Although the IRL fully switched from methanol to ethanol last year, Emerson is well acquainted with racing on the biofuel. At age 14, the Indy champ used ethanol in motorcycles and go-karts.

Emerson will get another chance to represent ethanol at the at the races. He is this year’s flex-fuel Corvette Z06 pace car driver. This is the first time the official Indy pace car will run on E85.

“The message of the pace car will be showing to the world that a passenger car even a high performance car like the corvette will run E85 and runs beautiful”,” Emerson said.

He added that the Indy Racing League itself is setting a worldwide example “of how a motor race can show the world, show the public how efficient the engines run with ethanol.” He called the IRL’s switch to 100 percent ethanol, “the endorsement of ethanol in the world through motor race.”

Just after the Summit I spoke with Fittipaldi one-on-one about racing with ethanol as a boy and being a part of ethanol’s growing success in Brazil today. You can listen to my interview here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

Evidence that Ethanol Works

IndyCar Driver Jeff SimmonsThe ethanol industry in Brazil has been developing some major traction. Marcos Jank, President of UNICA, says the demand for ethanol in Brazil is now matching that of the demand for gasoline. He says ethanol is gaining ground and Brazil “won’t move back to gas.”

Marcos was one of seven speakers at today’s Ethanol Summit held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. General Motors sponsored the event. The object of the Summit was to explore Brazil’s strong and sustained success with ethanol while also taking a look at where and how the U.S. ethanol industry has room to grow.

Marcos and Indy racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi – a Brazilian ethanol producer – highlighted a number of milestones the Brazilian ethanol industry has already attained:

  • All fuel sold in Brazil contains a 20 to 25 percent blend of ethanol
  • The unsubsidized ethanol industry offers a fuel that is on average one dollar below the price of gasoline
  • Virtually all 33,000 gas pumps offer E100
  • Just one percent of the 40 percent of arable land in Brazil is being used to produce sugarcane ethanol
  • Forty-five percent of fuel for cars is from sugarcane
  • Sugarcane ethanol production is 100 percent self-sufficient
  • The food industry is growing faster than the ethanol industry
  • Ninety percent of all new automobiles sold are flex-fuel automobiles
  • One-hundred percent of GM vehicles produced in Brazil are flex-fuel
  • Twenty percent of all cars are flex-fuel vehicles today
  • Fifty percent of all cars will be flex-fuel vehicles by 2012
  • Three percent of electricity is from sugarcane
  • Honda and Yamaha are introducing flex-fuel motorcycles this year

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Catching Up with Former Team Ethanol Driver Jeff Simmons

IndyCar Driver Jeff SimmonsJeff Simmons: not just a racing pro but a national writing champ!

I caught up with former Team Ethanol Driver Jeff Simmons today. Although Jeff is no longer with Rahal-Letterman Racing he will still be out at the Brickyard competing this year… and not just once, but twice. Jeff is racing in both the Indy Lights Series Freedom 100 and the IndyCar Series Indy 500. You can watch for Jeff in the #41 ABC car for A.J. Foyt Racing for the Indy 500.

Jeff and I had a little chat during the driver interviews and we covered everything from his “Indy two-step,” to choking down boiling water in a boiling cockpit to his editorial for EPIC winning the top honor at NAMA this year.

You can listen to my chat with Jeff and another reporter here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album