USDA Presents Climate Change Initiative

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and presidential advisor Brian Deese visited Michigan State University Thursday to announce a comprehensive national strategy to partner with farmers, ranchers and forest land owners to address the threat of climate change. The new initiative, “Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry”, will utilize voluntary, incentive-based conservation, forestry, and energy programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration and expand renewable energy production in the agricultural and forestry sectors.

climate-vilsack“American farmers and ranchers are leaders when it comes to reducing carbon emissions and improving efficiency in their operations. That’s why U.S. agricultural emissions are lower than the global average,” said Vilsack. “Through incentive-based initiatives, we can partner with producers to significantly reduce carbon emissions while improving yields, increasing farm operation’s energy efficiency, and helping farmers and ranchers earn revenue from clean energy production.”

Vilsack outlined details of the ten USDA Building Blocks for Climate Action, which includes promoting renewable energy technologies and improving energy efficiency. “We’ve incentivized the shift from fossil-based energy to renewable sources of energy in rural communities,” said Vilsack. “According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, 57,299 farms reported using a renewable energy producing system in 2012. That’s more than double the 23,451 operations that reported the same in 2007.”

The Secretary also talked about the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and the funding of anaerobic digesters to help farm operations produce electricity from captured methane.

Vilsack announcement on climate change initiative

Farmers Live #EarthDay Every Day

earth-day-2015This year marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day but farmers have been living the spirit of stewardship for natural resources for generations and have been leaders in the generation of renewable energy sources like biofuels, wind and solar.

“For hundreds of years, America’s farmers have been working our land and providing the country and the world with high quality food, feed, fiber and fuel,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “Today, on Earth Day, we are proud that our industry will keep getting cleaner, keep farming more efficiently and keep discovering new ways to fuel America with biomass and waste products that represent a smarter, cleaner, homegrown alternative to foreign oil.”

TV Ad Marks 5th BP Spill Anniversary

americans-changeMarking the fifth anniversary of the BP oil spill, Americans United for Change is running a television ad in Des Moines and Chicago calling it “no rare incident.”

While BP airs their own ads congratulating themselves for their cleanup efforts despite the lingering economic and environmental fallout in the Gulf region, AUFC is kicking off Earth Day week with a message that the Deepwater Horizon disaster was only a drop in the bucket for an industry responsible for 14,000 oil spills every year. The message to lawmakers: Don’t help make a bigger mess by repealing the Renewable Fuel Standard or denying consumers the choice of cleaner alternatives like ethanol at the pump.

The spot called “Rare Incidents” features American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard’s outrageous 2011 comments downplaying the BP disaster as “clearly a rare incident”. The Iowa version is targeted to presidential candidates and concludes: “If Washington guts the Renewable Fuel Standard, expect plenty more ‘rare incidents.’ The version in Chicago is aimed at local leaders who are considering a “E15 Clean Air Ordinance.”

The six-figure effort kicks off an aggressive and ongoing campaign around a new website, www.RareIncidents.com.

New Report Highlights Bioenergy’s Sustainability

SCOPEA new report shows the positive relationship between bioenergy and sustainability. The research from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and developed under the aegis of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) is based on more than 2,000 references and major studies taking a comprehensive look at the current bioenergy landscape, technologies and practices.

Considering an extensive evaluation of current bioenergy resources status, systems and markets, potential sustainable expansion and wider adoption of this renewable resource the authors highlight recommendations for policy and deployment of bioenergy options: liquid biofuels, bioelectricity, biogas, heat, bio-based chemicals.

This assessment is a collective effort with contributions from more than 130 experts from 24 countries, encompassing scientific studies ranging from land use and feedstocks, to technologies, impacts, benefits and policy.

The authors considered how bioenergy expansion and its impacts perform on energy, food, environmental and climate security, sustainable development and the innovation nexus in both developed and developing regions. The report also highlights numbers, solutions, gaps in knowledge and suggests the science needed to maximize bioenergy benefits.

The panel discussion with the release of the report included experts from academia, industry and NGOs presenting and discussing the current status and trends in biomass production and its possible implications for policy, communication and innovation strategies for a sustainable future.

Iowa Gov Branstad to Address BIO World Congress

biologoLongtime advocate for biobased fuels Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will speak at this summer’s Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) World Congress in Montreal, Canada. This news release from BIO says Branstad is slated to speak during the July 20 plenary session titled, “State and Regional Approaches to Developing the Biobased Economy.”

“Governor Terry Branstad is a true champion of our industry and the creation of a national biobased economy. He has voiced support for the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, advanced policies at the state level for a stronger rural bioeconomy and supported more research to advance second-generation biofuels,” said Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). “BIO could not imagine a better person than Governor Branstad to kick off the world’s largest conference on industrial biotechnology.”

“Governor Branstad has regularly provided leadership in articulating the importance of the biotechnology industry to our state,” said Joe Hrdlicka, executive director, Iowa Biotech Association. “We’re thrilled he will have the opportunity to share Iowa’s vision at such a critical industry event with an international audience.”

“Iowa is the nation’s premier leader in the renewable fuels industry and is capitalizing on its success in agriculture and its research capabilities in plant, animal and human biosciences to build a thriving biosciences industry within the state,” said Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority. “Iowa’s bioscience enterprises are discovering the innovations that will spur future economic growth and create jobs, improving the quality of life for people on a global scale — Governor Branstad is poised to tell our story.”

More information on the conference is available at www.bio.org/worldcongress.

EPA Sets Timeline for RFS Volume Requirements

epa-150Under a court settlement with the oil industry, the Environmental Protection Agency today announced they will propose the 2015 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) renewable volume obligations by June 1, 2015, and issue the final 2014 and 2015 RFS blending targets by November 30, 2015. In addition, EPA will also release the proposed 2016 RFS RVOs by June 1 and the 2016 numbers will be finalized by Nov. 30.

The biofuels industry reacted immediately to the announcement. “This consent agreement is a good start,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “We are particularly pleased that the Agency has committed to addressing the 2016 RVO in the same time frame even though that is outside the scope of the consent agreement.”

“By taking this action, they are ensuring that the RFS is back on a path to certainty for the biofuels industry, providing the necessary guidance for the industry to continue to thrive and advance alternative fuel options for American consumers,” Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said.

“ACE has consistently said it is much more important for EPA to get the RFS done right than it is for them to get the RFS done quickly, and that bears repeating given today’s announcement that the RFS will be getting back on track for implementation,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive VP Brian Jennings.

National Biodiesel Board is pleased the EPA announcement said they would “re-propose volume requirements for 2014, by June 1, that reflect the volumes of renewable fuel that were actually used in 2014.”

“The volumes for Biomass-based Diesel in 2014 were approximately 1.75 billion gallons so EPA reaffirming its commitment to “actual use” appears to be a step in the right direction,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel.

Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) executive director Brooke Coleman says the announcement sends a good signal to the advanced biofuels industry. “Now that we have a better idea of when it will happen, we look forward to working with EPA to make sure that the new RFS proposal supports the commercial deployment of advanced biofuels as called for by Congress.”

EPA intends to issue a Federal Register Notice allowing the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed consent decree.

Farmers Union Concerned Over RFS Omission

nfu_logo1The National Farmers Union (NFU) is concerned that Pres. Obama has left the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) out of his plan to cut greenhouse gases. This news release from the group says NFU President Roger Johnson isn’t pleased about the omission in the president’s formal submission of a plan to the United Nations that would cut the United States’ greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.

“The RFS offers America a cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuel sector with its support for biofuels,” said Johnson. “The president is ignoring agriculture’s great potential to help the country cut GHG emissions and mitigate climate change by excluding the RFS from his plan.”

Johnson noted that climate change poses a great risk to agriculture. Family farmers and ranchers are willing and able to help build climate resiliency.

“America’s family farmers and ranchers are already feeling the impact of increased weather volatility, resulting in fewer workable field days, increased potential for soil erosion, and increased crop insurance claims,” said Johnson. “The RFS provides these farmers and ranchers with a tool to help the country cut GHG emissions and mitigate the climate change that directly impacts their livelihoods.”

Johnson says he is also concerned that the president’s plan did not include any other ways agriculture or rural communities can be involved in reducing GHG emissions.

Texas Researchers Develop New Yeast for Biodiesel

texasyeast1Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a new strain of yeast that will make biodiesel production more efficient. This news release from the school says the scientists used a combination of metabolic engineering and directed evolution to develop the yeast which will help make the biofuel more economically competitive with conventional fuels.

Hal Alper, associate professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, and his team have engineered a special type of yeast cell, Yarrowia lipolytica, and significantly enhanced its ability to convert simple sugars into oils and fats, known as lipids, that can then be used in place of petroleum-derived products. Alper’s discovery aligns with the U.S. Department of Energy’s efforts to develop renewable and cost-competitive biofuels from nonfood biomass materials.

“Our re-engineered strain serves as a stepping stone toward sustainable and renewable production of fuels such as biodiesel,” Alper said. “Moreover, this work contributes to the overall goal of reaching energy independence.”

Previously, the Alper team successfully combined genetically engineered yeast cells with ordinary table sugar to produce what Alper described as “a renewable version of sweet crude,” the premium form of petroleum. Building upon this approach, the team used a combination of evolutionary engineering strategies to create the new, mutant strain of Yarrowia that produces 1.6 times as many lipids as their previous strain in a shorter time, reaching levels of 40 grams per liter, a concentration that could make yeast cells a viable platform in the creation of biofuels. The strain’s high lipid yield makes it one of the most efficient organisms for turning sugar into lipids. In addition, the resulting cells produced these lipids at a rate that was more than 2.5 times as fast as the previous strain.

The development is expected to also help in the production of biochemicals.

Growth Energy Points to Cruz Record on Biofuels

growth-energy-logoAs Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announces his candidacy for president, Growth Energy is reminding voters of what the ethanol group calls his “pro-fossil fuel, pro-drilling legislation attempts to kill the homegrown renewable fuels industry.” This news release points to Cruz’s American Energy Renaissance Act, which Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, says will promotes Big Oil and deny consumer choice.

“The recent legislation introduced by Senator Cruz is not only shortsighted in terms of a comprehensive energy policy, but it seeks to stifle all production and growth of homegrown, sustainable biofuels that help create American jobs and reduce our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels. This legislation fails to factor in the important role biofuels play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while also providing consumers with a choice and savings at the pump.

“Senator Cruz seems to believe that he is exercising leadership by attacking the only energy policy that has contributed to our economic, energy and national security. Yet Senator Cruz fails to challenge or acknowledge the excessive subsidies oil companies have received for 102 years and counting at the expense of the American taxpayer. Let’s be clear – this is not ‘profiles in courage,’ this is pandering to Big Oil.

“He says there are no benefits from renewable fuels; however, the Renewable Fuel Standard has helped reduce our dependence on foreign oil by nearly 50 percent, from 60 to 33 percent, saved consumers at the pump, cleaned our air and revitalized our rural economy. Furthermore, his legislation is a direct attack on America’s farmers, the backbone of this nation, who are working overtime to feed the world and fuel America.”

Growth concludes that Cruz’s legislation would take away the freedom of choice for consumers to choose higher performing, less expensive fuel for which there is a demand.

Emerging Issues Forum Features Biz Issues & Trends

The 10th annual Ethanol 2015: Emerging Issues Forum is set for April 16-17, 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska hosted by the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB). The event is designed for ethanol producers and others integrally involved in production, technology, policymaking and marketing of ethanol and its co-products.

NEB has announced that Paul Argyropoulos, senior policy advisor to the Office of Air Quality and Transportation at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will be the featured speaker April 16th.  Argyropoulos will address EPA’s plans for the final rule on NEB logoRenewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2014 and plans for 2015 and 2016. In addition, he will address issues associated with the RFS including steps EPA is taking to get the RFS back on track.

“Paul is as knowledgeable as they come on these issues and we are absolutely delighted that he will be able to join us this year,” said Todd Sneller, NEB administrator. “He has worked on fuel and air quality programs for more than 20 years and with new ozone standards, the Tier 3 program and fuel economy standards all impacting the future of ethanol. It is a very timely addition to the program.”

Other topics during the forum include ethanol marketing challenges; domestic and international ethanol marketing opportunities and barriers; emerging trends in ethanol co-products; low carbon fuel standards; and integrating technology for efficiency, profitability and sustainability.

Lallemand Announces TransFerm Yield Patent

Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits (LBDS) along with Mascoma, LLC have been awarded a patent for the technology used in TransFerm Yield+ in the US (US 8,956,851 B2). As explained in Lallemand company materials, this yeast product provides for novel metabolic pathways that reduce or Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 1.56.54 PMeliminate glycerol production subsequently increase ethanol yield by yeast or other microorganisms.

“We are extremely proud to have introduced these products into the marketplace. This drop-in, game-changing technology is one example of how our Mascoma business unit has produced real results,” said Angus Ballard, president, LBDS. “To be able to increase yields and thus increase the profitability of ethanol plants, at a time where margins are tight, is huge. This is just the beginning of a long line of Mascoma developed products that will be brought into the market by our team.”

During the past three years, LBDS and Mascoma introduced TransFerm and TransFerm Yield+ yeasts into the ethanol industry citing that the products help reduce the amount of glucoamylase needed in fermentation and also provide a substantial yield increase through the introduction of the glycerol reduction pathway. Today more than 50 ethanol plants have utilized the TransFerm platform producing over 4 billion gallons of ethanol.

Kevin Wenger, executive vice president of Mascoma, added, “Development of this technology is the result of years of dedicated R&D effort by Mascoma. We are quite pleased that the U.S. Patent Office has allowed the patent; we believe it shows how innovative and significant this new approach really is. TransFerm Yield+ is truly the first product of its kind to offer this type of step change technology in ethanol production.”

New Oregon Gov Ends Sunset on Clean Fuels Law

katebrown1The new governor in Orgeon has signed a measure that ends the sunset on the state’s clean fuels law, something which is seen as a boost to biodiesel and ethanol on the West Coast. Governor Kate Brown cited global warming concerns and neighboring areas’ own rules on alternative energy for signing the Clean Fuels legislation:

“I strongly support SB 324’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is difficult to deny that we are seeing the effects of a warming planet. This year, 85 percent of our state is experiencing drought, with 33 percent experiencing extreme drought. This directly impacts 1.5 million Oregonians, hitting our rural communities the hardest. With California, Washington, and British Columbia moving forward with their own clean fuels programs, which will shape the West Coast market, it is imperative not only that Oregon does its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also that we build a program that meets the needs of Oregonians.

“I appreciate the years of work by countless Oregonians who helped develop this law, and I applaud the Oregon Legislature for its thorough examination of these issues. The work begins now to ensure this program is well implemented and well managed.”

The measure ending the sunset of the Clean Fuels program passed by a very narrow margin in the state legislature. It also comes on the heels of the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission approving earlier this year phase two of the Oregon Clean Fuels Program. The new rules, developed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, went into effect February 1.

Moms Fight Colorado Roll Back of Renewable Energy

CO_MomsKnowsBest1A group of moms in Colorado are fighting proposed changes in that state’s legislature to Colorado’s renewable energy standards. The group, Colorado Moms Know Best, say they oppose the changes that would rollback from 30 percent down to 15 percent of the energy produced and consumed in the state.

“Moms believe we have a moral obligation to protect children’s health and future, ensuring they have clean air is one of the very basics,” said Data Gutwein with Colorado Moms Know Best. “The reality is that chopping the state’s renewable energy standard in half would mean relying more on coal-fired plants and more kids dealing with asthma and other respiratory problems.”

Colorado has been a leader in renewable energy. In 2004, Coloradans passed the first state ballot initiative to establish a renewable energy standards; 29 states and the District of Columbia have since adopted similar standards. In the years since, Colorado has added tens of thousands of clean tech jobs with an average salary of $78,000, according to the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Energy Cluster report.

“Renewable energy is not only good for kids’ health, it’s also great for their future career options,” said Colorado Moms Know Best’s Dana Gutwein. “If Colorado can remain on the cutting edge of the renewable energy industry, our children will be able to prepare for plentiful high-paying, clean tech job opportunities.”

The group has previously helped influence Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission to adopt stricter air quality standards for oil and gas operations in the state of Colorado.

Vilsack Stresses RFS Support at #Classic15

classic15-vilsack-1Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke to over 7000 agricultural producers and industry members during his 6th appearance at Commodity Classic on Friday. Sec. Vilsack began by stating that he “was in the presence of greatness” and went on to thank farmers for all that they do on a daily basis. He also thanked farmers for their work on the Farm Bill when it came to grassroots support and involvement in motivating legislation.

Among the many issues Vilsack addressed was the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “There are a multitude of positives about this industry,” said Vilsack, who addressed members of Growth Energy on Thursday. “I’m going to educate my friends at EPA about the importance of this industry.”

classic15-vilsack-rfaThe secretary was applauded when he spoke adamantly in support of biofuels. “There’s a good news story here,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to tell America this is a good, solid industry.”

Strolling through Commodity Classic trade show after his address, Secretary Vilsack stopped by a few booths, including the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) where he picked up a couple of E15 VW bug stress balls for his grandchildren.

Listen to Secretary Vilsack’s complete remarks about biofuels here: Vilsack Addresses Commodity Classic - Biofuels Comments

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USDA Gives Biomass Energy Development $8.7 Mil Boost

usda-logoUp to $8.7 million in federal funding is being made available for next-generation bioenergy development in biomass. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding the bioenergy research and education efforts and will be publishing the final rule for a program that provides incentives for farmers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy.

“USDA’s support for innovative bioenergy research and education supports rural economic development, reduces carbon pollution and helps decrease our dependence on foreign energy,” said [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “These investments will keep America moving toward a clean energy economy and offer new jobs and opportunities in rural communities.”

USDA will publish the final rule on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in tomorrow’s Federal Register. BCAP provides up to $25 million each year in financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and non-industrial private forest land who wish to establish, produce, and deliver biomass feedstocks to a qualifying energy facility. The rule includes modifications to cost sharing, eligible types of biomass and other definitions. Stakeholders are encouraged to visit www.regulations.gov to review program details and provide comments during a 60-day public comment period. Comments are due by April 28, 2015. The full program will resume in 90 days on May 28, 2015. Additional information on application dates will be announced this spring. For more information on the program, visit the web at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.

USDA is also looking for applications for research and education grants through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), a joint program through NIFA and the U.S. Energy Department (DOE) to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products to help replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles, and diversify our energy portfolio.