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

2015 Commodity Classic Photo Album

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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.

New Treatment to Cut Biofuel Costs by 30% or More

wyman1A new pretreatment could cut the costs of biofuels by 30 percent or more. This news release from the University of California, Riverside says researchers at the school have invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut those production costs by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

As partners in the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), the team from the Bourns College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) have shown that this new operation called Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF) could eliminate about 90 percent of the enzymes needed for biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels compared to prior practice. This development could mean reducing enzyme costs from about $1 per gallon of ethanol to about 10 cents or less.

The BioEnergy Science Center is a U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center focused on enhancing science and technology to reduce the cost of biomass conversion through support by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Department of Energy Office of Science..

“As recent months have shown, petroleum prices are inherently unstable and will likely return to high prices soon as expensive sources are taken off line,” said Professor Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. “We have created a transformative technology that has the potential to make biofuels an economic sustainable alternative to petroleum-based fuels.”

Wyman’s findings were outlined in a just published paper, “Co-solvent Pretreatment Reduces Costly Enzyme Requirements for High Sugar and Ethanol Yields from Lignocellulosic Biomass,” in the journal ChemSusChem.

State of the Ethanol Industry – RFA CEO Bob Dinneen

This morning at 8am central we will live stream the session from the National Ethanol Conference featuring Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen. Bob will deliver this annual state of the industry address a few minutes after 8am and we’ll be recording it so that you can watch and listen later if you miss the broadcast or want to review it. All you’ll have to do is click on the player button in the video embed below when we’re live.

Post Update: Below is the recording of the presentation.


Live stream videos at Ustream

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

New President for POET-DSM Joint Venture

POET DSM logoPOET-DSM Advanced Biofuels has announced that Dan Cummings will serve as first president for the joint venture.

“Dan has more than 25 years of experience in the energy sector, and we’re excited to have him leveraging that knowledge to grow cellulosic ethanol production for the world,” said Jeff Lautt, Chairman of the POET-DSM Board. “We look forward to Dan taking the reins and leading this joint venture into 2015.”

cummingsCummings, who previously served as President and Director of INEOS New Planet BioEnergy, will oversee day-to-day operations of POET-DSM, represent the joint venture publicly, and coordinate functions between the parent companies. He will also act as the central point of contact for external relations, which includes all technology licensing activities for POET-DSM worldwide.

“This joint venture has already proven it can change the world, and I look forward to working with the individuals who helped make that happen,” Cummings said. “After two decades in the energy and clean tech sectors, I’m excited to start this new journey with POET-DSM.”

POET-DSM announced the startup phase in September for its 20 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant, which will later ramp up to 25 million gallons per year. The Emmetsburg, Iowa plant, dubbed “Project LIBERTY,” uses corn cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk to make renewable fuel. The joint venture is now marketing its LIBERTYTM Technology package to third parties for continued energy development.

Bacterium, Nitrogen Gas to Partner for Ethanol

nitrogenbacteria1Researchers at the University of Indiana might have come upon a way to partner bacterium with nitrogen gas to make more ethanol. This news release from the school says biologists there have found a faster, cheaper and cleaner way to increase ethanol production by using nitrogen gas, the most abundant gas in Earth’s atmosphere. The discovery could help make cellulosic ethanol more competitive with corn-based ethanol.

The raw materials for cellulosic ethanol are low in nitrogen, a nutrient required for ethanol-producing microbes to grow, so cellulosic ethanol producers are estimated to spend millions of dollars annually on nitrogen fertilizers like corn steep liquor and diammonium phosphate. But an IU team led by biologist James B. McKinlay has found that the bioethanol-producing bacterium Zymomonas mobilis can use nitrogen gas (N2) as a nitrogen source, something that the more traditional ethanol-producer, baker’s yeast, cannot do.

“When we discovered that Z. mobilis could use N2 we expected that it would make less ethanol. N2 utilization and ethanol production demand similar resources within the bacterial cell so we expected resources to be pulled away from ethanol production to allow the bacteria to grow with N2,” McKinlay said. “To our surprise the ethanol yield was unchanged when the bacteria used N2. In fact, under certain conditions, the bacteria converted sugars to ethanol much faster when they were fed N2.”

Knowing the bacterium could use N2 without hindering ethanol production, the team reasoned that N2 gas could serve as an inexpensive substitute for nitrogen fertilizers during cellulosic ethanol production.

“Until recently, ethanol has been produced almost entirely from food crops, but last year there was a surge in cellulosic ethanol production as several commercial facilities opened,” McKinlay said. “Cellulosic ethanol offers more favorable land use and lower carbon emissions than conventional ethanol production. Even so, cellulosic ethanol is struggling to be cost-competitive against corn ethanol and gasoline.”

The researchers believe N2 gas, which can be produced on-site at production facilities, could save an ethanol production facility more than $1 million dollars a year. They have filed for a provisional patent on the idea.

Process to Make Renewable Fuel for Under $1/Gallon

duckweedusaA new process looks to make renewable fuel out of algae, waste water and even vegetable for under $1 per gallon. Duckweed USA says its new thermodynamically reversible process can make clean jet fuel, diesel fuel or gasoline from the less common feedstocks.

Using the patented Linear Venturi Kinetic Nozzle changes the aquatic-mass-to-energy process to one that requires no high-heat processes nor chemicals. 90% of the energy used in production is recoverable and feedstock is self-replenishing. With 3 variables in production cost nearly eliminated, the ideas of energy independence and financial self-sufficiency are now viable options at any level. For investors, no plummet in oil prices can spoil profitability projections when production is under $40 per barrel. Domestically and globally, this breakthrough opens doors to new opportunities of growth never before seen.

For stakeholders at any level, the bottom line is, as Michael Rigolizzo states, “Our system turns energy liabilities into assets. Every school bus that needs gasoline to every jet that needs fuel is a point of profit for synfuel-producing communities instead of a cost.” Duckweed believes its patented process could revolutionize the President’s action plan, the combination of energy types needed and especially the costs to be incurred by taxpayers. “By the time the 5-year initial phase of the action plan would be completed, the Duckweed process could be established – and turning profits – in every community along the Keystone Pipeline,” says Rigolizzo.

Duckweed says it already has interest from groups, such as Sparta, Georgia, Rutgers University and countries from Europe to Africa.

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.