EPA Response on RFS and CARBIO Plan

EPA_LOGOI just received the following response information from the EPA attributed to Byron Bunker, Director, Compliance Division, Office of Transportation and Air Quality. The EPA representative I spoke with says the agency knows of the biodiesel industry concerns and wanted to provide a response to those concerns. The response is in the form of eight bullet points:

1. EPA is committed to getting the RFS program back on track.

We understand industry’s desire for certainty. EPA is committed to getting the RFS program back on track. We expect to take action on 2014, 2015 and 2016 this spring. We look forward to talking with all stakeholders throughout the process.

2. The CARBIO plan DOES NOT lower the RFS sustainability standards for Argentinian biodiesel producers.

Any claim that the CARBIO plan decreases environmental oversight is flatly wrong. The sustainability standards are exactly the same for all parties. This Alternate Biomass Tracking plan is simply one mechanism by which Argentinian producers can meet the record keeping requirements of the program.

The sustainability standards were defined in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. Namely, in order to qualify for the RFS program, planted crop and crop residue used as feedstock for biofuels must be harvested from agricultural land cleared or cultivated prior to December 2007 (the date of EISA’s enactment).

The RFS regulations Congress established in 2007 apply to both foreign and domestic producers. Any foreign or domestic renewable fuel producer or renewable identification number (RIN) generating importer may meet the recordkeeping requirements for tracking feedstock from qualified lands with an alternative biomass tracking program that has been approved by the EPA. In fact, several countries already import biofuel under the existing regulations.

3. The CARBIO program actually provides for more rigorous oversight of Argentinian producers who choose to participate in this program.

For example:

· The plan is intended to ensure that qualifying fuel can be traced to pre-identified and pre-approved lands from which “renewable biomass” may be harvested consistent with regulatory definition of that term. The alternate biomass tracking program is a robust program that covers the whole soybean biodiesel supply chain, from soybean production through intermediate processing, to biodiesel production.

· CARBIO’s method for tracking chain of custody relies on a product transfer document called a cartas de porte, or waybill that has been mandatory in Argentina since 1998. In addition CARBIO will use land cover data from satellite imagery to identify land that was cleared or cultivated prior December 19, 2007 and actively managed or fallow and non forested on December 19, 2007.

· Any volumes that would qualify under this plan would need to have all steps verified by the approved third-party auditor before a RIN can be generated.

· Any and all other necessary RFS regulatory requirements also apply per the regulations.

4. Why would Argentine producers appeal to EPA for more stringent requirements?

It’s like someone asking a professional tax preparer to do your taxes. They know the codes, the regulation and how to manage the documentation. People want certainty and protection that they are complying with the extensive laws, which most common people don’t know or understand, and so they want the protection of the professional tax preparer. This is no different for the parties in Argentina.
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Southeastern Effort to Promote Alternative Fuels

se-fuelsThe Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition has joined sister Clean Cities organizations in the Southeast to promote the use of alternative fuels and vehicles. The joint effort includes U.S. Department of Energy designated Clean Cities coalitions in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

“Drivers recognize that gas prices historically won’t stay at these lower prices for long,” said Mark Bentley, executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition. “We suggest fleets ‘bank’ their current fuel savings to invest in new advanced technology vehicles. We recognize alternative fuels have advantages that go beyond the price tag at any particular point in time.”

Bentley said alternative fuels offer fleets in the public and private sectors more stable and predictable costs, as well as lower vehicle maintenance costs. They also offer environmental advantages and economic benefits to local communities.

Bentley notes that the Southeast is a big growth market for alternative fuel vehicles. “For example, Atlanta ranks second only to San Francisco as a market for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Similarly, in 2013, Tennessee ranked ninth in the country for electric car registrations.” He adds that they expect the trend to continue in the region.

Iowa RFA “Ready to Roll” in 2015

Iowa’s renewable fuels industry is “ready to roll” in 2015 if Tuesday’s 9th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit is any indication.

iarfa-15-nixonSpeakers at the summit included Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who represented the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, former North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan, and General Wesley Clark (Ret.), Chairman of Growth Energy.

iarfa-15-santorumAlso speaking was former Pennsylvania Senator and potential presidential candidate Rick Santorum who appeared over the weekend at the Iowa Freedom Summit. Santorum’s most tweeted quote from the summit was that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is “Pro competition, pro environment & pro American jobs.”

Addressing the state of the industry, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw was very optimistic. “Today, I can say with absolute confidence that Iowa’s renewable fuels industry is ready to roll!,” said Shaw. “We’ve never been in a better position for the availability and diversity of feedstocks; the industry is coming off a profitable year; new markets are being developed; and new technologies are out of the lab and producing on a commercial scale. There is simply no question that this industry is ready to roll. The question is whether the President and Congress are going to allow the renewable fuels industry to “hit it,” or leave us stuck in neutral.”

The IRFA also released a study conducted by ABF Economics economist John Urbanchuk that found 2014 was a record-breaking year for the renewable fuels industry despite significant challenges. “Ethanol and biodiesel producers are part of a manufacturing sector that adds substantial value to agricultural commodities produced in Iowa,” said Urbanchuk. “The first and second-generation feedstocks used to produce renewable fuels are produced primarily by Iowa farmers, and the R&D expenditures for renewable fuels provide important support for Iowa’s universities. Combined, these activities make a significant contribution to the Iowa economy.”

The study found that the renewable fuels industry in Iowa accounts for more than $4.9 billion, or about 3.5 percent, of Iowa GDP, generates $2.5 billion of income for Iowa households; and supports more than 46,700 jobs throughout the economy.

First RFS Education Ad in Des Moines

AmRenewFuture adAfter kicking off the new America’s Renewable Future campaign on Thursday last week, the first ads starting appearing in the Des Moines Register on Friday as potential Republican presidential candidates began to gather for the Iowa Freedom Summit.

“We want to send an unmistakable message to both parties about the remarkable, bipartisan success story of the Renewable Fuel Standard in creating jobs and making America more energy independent,” said Eric Branstad, Executive Director for America’s Renewable Future. “Iowa’s renewable fuel production has more than doubled under the RFS, and now supports more jobs and families than ever before. Candidates who support the RFS has always done well in Iowa, but it will be an even bigger issue in 2015 and 2016.”

The Des Moines Register ad noted the RFS supports 73,000 Iowa jobs, more than 50 ethanol biodiesel refineries across Iowa and has helped put foreign oil imports at a 20-year low. It’s call to action is a pretty straightforward message to candidates and caucus goers alike: “Don’t put Iowa out of business. Support the Renewable Fuel Stand… Take a stand.”

Grain Demand for Biofuels Expected to Stagnate

afbf15-westhoffA bumper crop has helped lower feedstock prices for grain-based biofuels, but the industry is still expected to stagnate. Patrick Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, told attendees of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 96th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show that this year’s bumper crop and low prices is good news for those buying the green fuels’ feedstocks, but lower expected demand for biofuels will still hurt.

“We’ll have significantly smaller corn yields in 2015/16 caused in part by the low demand for ethanol. Yield numbers will change.”

Due to corn prices dropping to levels not seen in years, Westhoff said that farmers will plant less corn in the next two years. More than 90 million acres were planted in 2014 and he projected that only 87.9 million acres will be planted in 2015 and 89.7 million acres in 2016.

Westhoff said large corn and soybean crops will weigh on grain and oilseed prices in the short run, and that although average corn prices remain low by 2007-2012 standards, they are still above pre-2007 levels.

Livestock producers are expected to benefit from the big crop with lower prices for their animal feed. But we’ll need to see what happens to that industry if those smaller grain crops sizes driven by lower biofuels demand come to fruition.

2015 AFBF Convention photo album

Corn Growers: Not the Time to Cut RFS

ncga-logo-newTwo record corn crops and low prices for the grain – that’s not the time the U.S. should be cutting the amount of ethanol to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply. That’s the message coming from the National Corn Growers Association, as the group laments the fact that altering the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) couldn’t come at a worse time.

“Corn ending stocks – the amount above and beyond current demand – are estimated at nearly 2 billion bushels this year, thanks to two back-to-back record harvests,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling, a corn farmer in Maryland. “And with corn selling at low prices, any legislative attempt to cut one of our key markets will drive prices even further below cost of production. We have a policy that works well not just for the environment and energy security – but for the rural economy. We need to support farmers, not bankrupt them.”

NCGA also shot back at an attempt in the U.S. Senate to attach an anti-ethanol amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline legislation, pointing out the many benefits ethanol brings and why it’s an important part of the fuel supply.

“Corn ethanol is better for the environment than fossil fuels and has historically lowered the cost of filling our tanks by nearly a dollar,” said NCGA Director of Public Policy Beth Elliott. “It has been proven that ethanol does not have an impact on the price of food. The Renewable Fuel Standard is working – creating clean, renewable, American-grown energy and good American jobs.”

NCGA says it wants to work with the new Congress to support the RFS.

Iowa Coalition to Promote RFS as Candidate

americas-futureIowa Governor Terry Branstad today announced a major new bi-partisan campaign called America’s Renewable Future that will promote the Renewable Fuel Standard in the 2016 Iowa Presidential caucuses.

“I’m very passionate about the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Governor Branstad during a conference call to announce the effort. “It’s made a real difference for farm income and good jobs, reducing our dependency on foreign oil, improving the environment – so I’m really excited to see this strong, bi-partisan effort being made to educate people that come to Iowa and presidential candidates.”

America’s Renewable Future will be co-chaired by former Iowa State Representative Annette Sweeney, a Republican, and former state Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, a Democrat, as well as Iowa renewable fuels industry leader Bill Couser.

Sweeney, who is a corn, soybean and cattle producer, says it’s important to educate lawmakers and the public about the RFS. “Once it’s explained, (they see) what a great thing renewable fuels are for this country,” she said.

Coordinating the effort will be Governor Branstad’s son Eric, a public affairs specialist and campaign operative. “We have partners coming in from all over the country and those partners have committed millions to fund this effort,” said Eric Branstad. “We are designing it to look like a presidential campaign and the RFS is our candidate.”

From now until the Iowa Caucuses, America’s Renewable Future “will wage a mulitimillion dollar, multi-platform effort” to educate presidential candidates about the benefits of the RFS and ask them to take a stand.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to be part of this grassroots organization and being able to bring these candidates to our farms and our feedlots,” said Couser, who is a livestock and crop producer and ethanol plant co-founder. “We’re very excited about meeting these candidates on a bi-partisan partnership, bringing them here and educating them.”

The group also intends to build a statewide campaign organization to educate Iowa caucus-goers in both parties about which candidates support the RFS. The campaign will include advertising, earned media, public opinion research, stakeholder engagement, digital and social media outreach.

Listen to the conference call announcing the effort here: America's Renewable Future campaign announced

Caucuses, Higher Blends, Policy All Talk of IRFA Summit

irfaThe Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) is gearing up for its big annual meeting next week just outside of Des Moines. The group says the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona on January 27th is free and open to the public and will feature a variety of conversations, including how energy policy might impact the 2016 Iowa caucuses and general elections, as well as discussions on higher ethanol blends and the future of energy policy in this country.

“The Iowa caucuses kick off the 2016 election cycle and we’ve already seen potential candidates swarming to Iowa,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “In addition, Iowa is one of only a handful of states that will be truly ‘in play’ during the general election. We saw energy policy play a major role in Iowa’s 2014 senate race. This panel will discuss how energy policy may impact the 2016 elections.”

A panel of fuel retailers and marketers who will talk about the benefits and opportunities of offering E15 includes panelists Lance Klatt of the Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Stores Association, Jason Stauffer of STAR Energy, and Todd Garner of Protec Fuel Management:

“Each of these well-qualified panelists has years of experience with higher ethanol blends, and can provide a unique perspective on the benefits of offering E15 to 2001 and newer vehicles,” stated IRFA Managing Director Lucy Norton. “Summit attendees will not only learn a great deal about consumer choice and cracking the oil monopoly, but they’ll also learn about the benefits of using E15 from this expert panel.”

U.S. energy policy experts at the summit will include James Massie of The Alpine Group, Aaron Whitesel of DuPont, and Catharine Ransom of the Glover Park Group to discuss the future of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the Farm Bill, tax policy as it relates to energy, and much more.

“The 2015 Summit will have a great group of well-qualified energy experts take center stage to shine a spotlight on the RFS and other policies impacting renewable fuels,” stated Shaw. “Each one of these experts brings years of federal policy experience to the table to evaluate how the latest political changes could impact the future of US energy policy.”

More information is available here.

GRFA: Sustainability Week Needs to Recognize Biofuels

GRFA1As attendees gather in the Middle East gather for the 8th Annual World Future Energy Summit (WFES), one group is telling them to bring biofuels to the top of the sustainability, economic and climate change agenda. The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) says the 30,000 delegates from 170 different countries need to be talking about the green fuels during the flagship event of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

“The economic, environmental, agricultural and social success story of biofuels is a natural fit for the World Futures Energy Summit’s series of panels and presentations and throughout the events as part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week,” stated Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA.

“We need attendees to demand the inclusion of biofuels in this conversation because they create much needed rural jobs, significantly curb green house gas emissions, reduce our reliance on crude oil, and encourage energy diversity – all stated priorities of the Summit” concluded Baker.

GRFA says global biofuels production contributed $277.3 billion and supported nearly 1.4 million jobs in all sectors of the global economy in 2010, with job numbers forecasted to top 2.2 million by 2020. In addition, the International Energy Agency says biofuels, such as ethanol, will have to play an increased role in reducing greenhouse gases, already removing 106 million tonnes of the emissions from the environment, the equivalent of taking 21 million cars off the road.

President Touts Domestic Energy in SOTU

sotu15“We are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years,” said President Barack Obama in the first few minutes of his 2015 State of the Union address Tuesday evening.

“We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet,” said Obama. “And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.”

President Obama also hit on climate change in his address, noting that “over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it.”

Responding to the president’s address, Novozymes Americas President Adam Monroe said they are excited to see President Obama focusing on climate change and said that the United States “has an opportunity to lead the world in reducing atmospheric carbon by investing in science.”

“The United States also has a chance to be the world leader in alternative fuels,” said Monroe. “The Renewable Fuel Standard has been successful in moving our cars and trucks away from fossil fuels. If President Obama wants to reduce emissions today he should put this policy back on track and support cleaner, domestic biofuels.”

FAO’s Chief Comments on Biofuels Welcomed by GRFA

GRFA1Comments by a key United Nations agency chief that biofuels should be part of the energy mix is being welcomed by renewable fuel advocates. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva told attendees at the recent Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in Berlin that biofuels should be seen as a key part of the global agriculture complex, remarks welcomed by Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA).

Throughout his remarks, the Director-General praised biofuels for their social, agricultural and environmental benefits and the necessity for agriculture to accommodate both food and fuel.

“We applaud the FAO Director-General for stating what over 62 countries with biofuel-friendly policies have known for years — that biofuels deliver much needed rural jobs, significantly curb green house gas emissions, reduce our reliance on crude oil, and encourage energy diversity, “ stated Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA.

According to the GRFA, global biofuel production is making a significant contribution to the global economy, having contributed $277.3 billion and supported nearly 1.4 million jobs in all sectors of the global economy in 2010. By 2020 the global biofuel industry is forecasted to grow to support over 2.2 million jobs in all sectors of the global economy.

GRFA also cited numbers that showed global ethanol production hit nearly 25 billion gallons of the green fuel, removing the equivalent of 21 million cars worth of greenhouse gases, equal to all of the cars registered in Malaysia.

Ag Secretary Stresses Biofuels Support at AFBF

afbf15-vilsack-stallmanReal farmers from around the country had a chance to ask Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack questions during an informal town hall-style meeting at the American Farm Bureau convention this week in San Diego.

The last question he took was from a South Dakota farmer who asked about continuation of strong biofuels policy in the United States. Vilsack detailed his continued support for the industry, particularly in the area of exports. “I am a firm believer in the future of the biofuels industry,” he said. “Ethanol production is at record levels…we’re now beginning to see great interest in the export market, not just for ethanol but also for dried distillers grains.”

Beyond the Renewable Fuel Standard, Vilsack said USDA is working hard to encourage the Defense Department to use more biofuels. “They are scheduled this year to begin a process of buying hundreds of millions of gallons of biofuels for jets and ships,” he said.

The last point the secretary made was on the need to update the research on ethanol in particular, especially when it comes to indirect land use. “A lot of the push back to the industry is based on studies that took place 15 years ago, 10 years ago, and there have been enormous increases in productivity of American farmers, that basically suggest the indirect land use calculations are not as accurate as they need to be,” he said.

Listen to the secretary’s comments on biofuels here: Secretary Vilsack at AFBF on biofuels


2015 AFBF Convention photo album

EPA Seeks Comments on Sorghum-to-Biofuels GHGs

epa-150The federal government is seeking public comment on its preliminary analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to the production of biomass sorghum feedstock to make biofuels. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invited the comments after a recent study by the agency that showed biomass sorghum is suitable for the same conversion processes as approved cellulosic feedstocks such as switchgrass and corn stover and would qualify for cellulosic biofuel (D-code 3) renewable identification numbers (RINs) or cellulosic diesel (D-code 7) RINs.

This notice explains EPA’s analysis of the growth and transport components of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from biomass sorghum, and describes how EPA may apply this analysis in the future to determine whether biofuels produced from such biomass sorghum meet the necessary GHG reductions required for qualification under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) program. Based on this analysis, we anticipate that biofuels produced from biomass sorghum could qualify for cellulosic biofuel renewable identification numbers (RINs) if certain fuel production process technology conditions are met.

More information on the comment process and period is available here.

Genetics to Help in Biomass-to-Biofuel Conversion

Researchers might have found a more efficient way to turn biomass into biofuel using plant genetics. This article from Phys.org says plant geneticists Sam Hazen at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Siobhan Brady at the University of California, Davis, have sorted out the gene regulatory networks that would have the biggest impacts on the green fuel production.

The authors say that the most rigid of the polymers, lignin, represents “a major impediment” to extracting sugars from plant biomass that can be used to make biofuels. Their genetic advance is expected to “serve as a foundation for understanding the regulation of a complex, integral plant component” and as a map for how future researchers might manipulate the polymer-forming processes to improve the efficiency of biofuel production.

The three key components, found in plant tissues known as xylem, provide plants with mechanical strength and waterproof cells that transport water. Working in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, Hazen, Brady and colleagues explored how a large number of interconnected transcription factors regulate xylem and cell wall thickening. Results appeared in an early online edition Dec. 24 in Nature.

An invited commentary in the journal on the significance of this discovery points out that “understanding how the relative proportions of these biopolymers are controlled in plant tissue would open up opportunities to redesign plants for biofuel use.” Hazen, Brady and colleagues’ study identified hundreds of new regulators and offers “considerable insight,” the authors say, “into the developmental regulation of xylem cell differentiation.”

The authors of the study were able to find that most of the proteins including regulators of cell cycle and differentiation bind directly to cellulose genes and to other transcription regulators, giving plants a huge number of possible combinations for responding and adapting to environmental stressors.

Greenbelt Resources Recognized for Biofuels System

new_economy_awards_logoA company that turns locally available feedstocks into biofuels, as well as fertilizer, animal feed and filtered water, is being recognized for its green efforts. Greenbelt Resources picked up the “Best Biofuels and Biochemicals Solution” in The New Economy magazine’s annual 2014 Clean Tech Awards.

Greenbelt Resources’ small scale systems, can be more energy efficient than traditional large-scale plants due to its patent-pending energy saving membrane-based dehydration module. Where deployed, these systems reduce waste outflow, reduce transport of the F’s, minimize environmental impact, produce overall cost savings and foster local job retention.

“Our unique modular local-scale technology turns industry assumptions upside-down and proves the practicality of cost-effective local resource utilization,” says Floyd Butterfield, chief technology officer of Greenbelt Resources. “Recognition by The New Economy proves that global business leaders share our vision of a distributed energy source future.”

“We envision future off-grid installations to be capable of converting locally grown crops into fuel for both transportation and home appliances, fertilizer, animal feed, distilled water, heat, electricity, and connectivity,” emphasizes Darren Eng, CEO of Greenbelt Resources. “For example, a community in Africa could utilize the system to convert local feedstock into fuel for vehicles and heating stoves, distribute excess electricity to a local grid providing children light at night for their studies, and provide families with clean drinking water.”

The award will be presented at the London Stock Exchange in March of 2015.