Iowa Lawmakers Honored for Support of Renewables

Three retiring state lawmakers in Iowa have been honored for “their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels.” The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says the outgoing lawmakers were given the “Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels” award for their long, distinguished careers and steadfast support of renewable fuels.

IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill, former Sens. Nancy Boettger and Daryl Beall, and IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill, former Sens. Nancy Boettger and Daryl Beall, and IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

“It’s bittersweet to see these distinguished individuals leave the state legislature after long, successful careers, and we wish them nothing but the best in the future,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “Their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels issues will be greatly missed, and we sincerely thank them for their enduring accomplishments.”

The Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels awards were given to:

State Senator Daryl Beall of Fort Dodge, Iowa. Sen. Beall was an enthusiastic supporter of renewable fuels who worked tirelessly to promote ethanol and biodiesel both inside and outside the state legislature.

State Senator Nancy Boettger of Harlan, Iowa. As a farmer, Sen. Boettger was a rock solid supporter of renewable fuels who was critical in winning support for Iowa’s renewable fuels policy, including tax credits for retailers offering higher ethanol and biodiesel blends and fuel dispensing equipment grants for renewable fuels upgrades.

State Senator Hubert Houser of Carson, Iowa. Sen. Houser was also instrumental in passing the framework of today’s renewable fuels policy in Iowa, and was active in the creation of Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE), an ethanol production facility in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

With 43 ethanol refineries producing more than 3.8 billion gallons annually and 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce nearly 315 million gallons annually, Iowa is the nation’s renewable fuels leader.

Deck Stacked Against Ag and Biofuels in Report

bpcThe Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) appears to be a bit partisan in a new report released this week on “Options for Reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

The report was produced after several meetings during the year with an advisory group that consisted of 23 members, seven of which were oil companies representatives. Only five members of the group represented agriculture or advanced biofuels and biodiesel producers. The rest were a mix of academia (2), big business (4) with two of those representing Toyota, environmental groups (2), and policy organizations (3).

Both of the agriculture representatives were from the National Farmers Union (NFU), president Roger Johnson and vice president of programs Chandler Goule. “It was very important that agriculture that supports the renewable fuels industry be present at the table,” said Goule, who said the meetings were held in a very professional manner. “The problem with the meetings is that they were heavily skewed toward big oil.”

NFUlogoThe report concluded that improvements to the RFS are needed, but did not recommend actual repeal of the law. Goule says NFU has major objections to two of the policy recommendations made in the report. “The flattening of the total renewable fuel mandate at its current level going forward, but continuing to increase the three advanced categories, we have significant concerns about what that would to do ethanol and biodiesel,” he said. “Even more concerning was removing the total renewable fuel mandate and only mandating the three advanced categories. Basically what they are doing is giving in to Big Oil’s conclusion that a blend wall exists, which it does not.”

Chandler talks more about the BPC report in this interview: Interview with Chandler Goule, NFU

USDA Looks to the Forests for Renewable Energy

usda-logoHarvesting biomass from forests is not only helping those forests’ health, it’s helping the country achieve energy independence. This news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) has removed 200,000 tons of biomass that could have been a fire risk and was turned into biofuels.

“This initiative helps to retrieve forest residues that are a fire risk, but otherwise are costly to remove,” said [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “In just three months, working with private partners across the country, the program helped to reduced fire, disease and insect threats while providing more biomass feedstock for advanced energy facilities.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency administered the program earlier this year. Eligible farmers, ranchers or foresters participating in BCAP received a payment to partially offset the cost of harvesting and delivering forest or agricultural residues to a qualified energy facility. Up to $12.5 million is available each year for biomass removal.

This past summer, 19 energy facilities in 10 states participated in the program.

Evolution of Minnesota Biofuels Industry – Part 2

The Minnesota biofuels industry has been evolving since its inception, which was discussed in Part 1 of this feature article. In this part, we look at how the industry is taking shape in Minnesota and what some of the most promising new technologies are on the horizon.

An interesting element of the biofuel industry is that while it is evolving on a national level, it has also evolved locally. Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, explains that states and regions have differing available resources as well as differing types and tons of biomass available.

Al-Corn Clean Fuel ethanol plant“Biofuel producers in any particular region adapt to the availability of various resources including, for example, access to energy, water, transportation infrastructure and so on,” says Rudnicki. “The availability of these important resources helped to accelerate the evolution of the biofuel industry in Minnesota and is what has made, and will continue to make, Minnesota one of the leading states when it comes to the production of biofuels.”

It’s interesting to review what could be deemed the top improvements that the ethanol industry has adopted over the past few years. Randall Doyal, CEO of Al-Corn Clean Fuel, says that since the plant went online they have adapted their process and technology to reduce down time, increase throughput and increase yield.

Al-Corn was designed as a 10 million gallon per year plant, and today they are operating at 50 million gallons per year. “We have increased our fuel ethanol yield from two and a half gallons per bushel to over two point nine gallons per bushel,” says Doyal. “We have added CO2 recovery, distillers corn oil recovery, and focused on our distillers grains quality to add value to our ethanol production.”

So, what are the new best technologies coming down the pipeline? Rudnicki says the future is very exciting because it will involve many facets including the interface between biological processes and technology. He believes some of the processes to watch include technologies that will enable corn oil to be more efficiency extracted as well as the use of existing biomass.

From an ethanol plant perspective the next three to five years could bring big changes. Continue reading

Biofuels Economic Outlook

asta-css-14-basseBack again by popular demand this year at the American Seed Trade Association CSS 2014 and Seed Expo was AgResource Company president Dan Basse giving his economic outlook for the year ahead.

Basse told attendees that the biofuels market is mature now, which means more stagnant demand for corn. “We have an EPA that can’t even make a decision on what the mandate should have been for 2014 and surely can’t make one for 2015,” he said. “We’ll still see corn demand for ethanol somewhere in the vicinity of five billion bushels, but there’s not that growth engine we’ve had in the last five years.”

Basse notes that this crop year is historic in that it’s the first time we’ve seen record world production for corn, wheat and soybeans. “So something agronomically is afoot here,” he said. “World producers are starting to pick up on some of the traits that American farmers are using – whether more seeds per acre, better seeds, better fertilizer…we’re not sure what it is but we’re impressed what the world is producing for grain.”

Lots more in this interview with Basse here. Interview with Dan Basse, Ag Resources

DOE Honors Alabama Clean Cities Leaders

Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition Executive Director Mark Bentley and President Phillip Wiedmeyer have been honored for their work in making Alabama cities cleaner places to live, work and play by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). National Clean Cities Co-Director Linda Bluestein recently inducted the pair into the Clean Cities Hall of Fame where representatives from nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions from across the country gathered for the 2014 Clean Cities Coordinator Workshop.

In 2013 alone, the Alabama coalition saved more than 3 million gallons of petroleum and averted more than 12,000 tons of greenhouse gases through the deployment of alternative and renewable fuels, advanced vehicles, idle reduction and fuel economy improvements. The coalition has developed effective programs to support fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel, natural B-W Alabama Clean Fuelsgas, propane, electricity and hydrogen. These accomplishments contributed to Clean Cities’ major milestone in 2013 of reducing U.S. petroleum consumption by one billion gallons in a single year for the first time ever.

“For many years, Mark and Phillip have proved themselves to be true pioneers and have made a significant impact in the deployment of alternative fuels and advanced vehicles, both in their coalition area as well as nationally,” said Bluestein.

Bentley has been the executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition since 2006. Wiedmeyer has served as president for the coalition since 2002.

“It’s been our privilege over the years to promote the use of alternative fuels that are better for our environment, easier on our wallets, good for our local economy and a step toward energy independence for our country,” Bentley said. “We are delighted to be recognized for this important work.”

The Evolution of Minnesota’s Ethanol Industry

The Minnesota ethanol industry is evolving even in the face of growth challenges including continued uncertainty around the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Since 2007 the industry has improved by leaps and bounds in terms of technological advancements, energy efficiency and sustainability.

“Minnesota ethanol producers are continually evolving with respect to the use of technology and processes to decrease the inputs of energy and water while increasing their output of ethanol and co-products such as DDGs and corn oil,” explains Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association.

Water usage gas v ethanolAccording to a 2011 report from the Argonne National Laboratory, ethanol producers have cut water use in half within a 10-year period. In fact, Rudnicki notes that some producers are using less than two gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of ethanol. When comparing water use with the production of oil, depending on where the oil is extracted, oil production can require more than seven times that much water to produce one gallon of gas. Other ways ethanol producers are infusing sustainability within water use is by using storm water and treated municipal wastewater.

Specifically, the Al-Corn Clean Fuel ethanol plant has completely eliminated any process water discharge. Randall Doyal CEO of the Claremont, Minnesota-based plant says, “This cut our water consumption down to just over two gallons per gallon of ethanol. The water that is used is for cooling and is evaporated, so it returns to the atmosphere to recycle back as rain. We continually recover water in the process to reuse again and again.” Continue reading

Pacific Ag CEO to Speak at BIO Pacific Rim Summit

pacific-agThe CEO and founder of the nation’s largest agricultural residue and forage harvesting business will be discussing biofuel feedstocks on a panel at the BIO Pacific Rim Summit in San Diego this week.

Bill Levy of Oregon-based Pacific Ag will take part in the panel which will explore the realities faced by feedstock producers in today’s marketplace. Panelists will delve into issues in production and logistics, feedstock availability, ability to scale, competing applications for feedstock use, and new markets.

“There are many concerns surrounding the economic feasibility of harvesting biomass for food and fuel. The biggest hurdle of biomass conversion is price and volume predictability,” said Levy of his panel remarks. “What Pacific Ag offers is a sustainable supply at a consistent price necessary for industrial uses of biomass.”

Pacific Ag is leading the biomass harvesting revolution and has been expertly handling biomass logistics for more than 16 years – longer than any other U.S. company. Today, Pacific Ag is the exclusive biomass harvesting and logistics company for Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol plant located in Hugoton, Kansas and is also working with DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol facility expected to go online in early 2015.

The “Feedstocks: A Global Comparison” panel is taking place Tuesday, December 9, at 8:00 am PT during the BIO Pacific Rim Summit.

Quad County’s Delayne Johnson Featured on Car Clinic

Bobby Likis Car ClinicThe first cellulosic ethanol plant to go online in the U.S., Quad County Corn Processors, is being featured in an upcoming “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” program. Quad County CEO Delayne Johnson will be live on air this Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 11:25 am Eastern at WatchBobbyLive.com.

During the interview, Johnson will shine light on many renewable fuels related topics including a deeper look into the differences between cellulosic vs. conventional ethanol, the many benefits ethanol offers and what is in store for the future of cellulosic ethanol.

tN_112580_delayneJohnson expands on the benefits of cellulosic ethanol, “Quad County Corn Processors is proud to be one of the first companies out of the gate to produce cellulosic ethanol. The ethanol produced at our facility is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping lower America’s dependence on foreign oil. I am excited to join Bobby Likis to explain to listeners how cellulosic ethanol is made and the benefits of next-generation biofuels.”

Likis adds, “On Car Clinic globalcasts, I’m committed to expand listeners’ and viewers’ knowledge base beyond ‘the rumor mill’ so often associated with renewable fuels. Delayne will clear the air about how, specifically, cellulosic ethanol production is accelerating solutions on many levels.”

Group Debunks ‘Food-vs-Fuel’ and Other RFS Myths

As we wait (and wait and wait and wait) for the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision regarding the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, one group is taking the time to debunk some myths that might be giving the EPA a reason to hesitate. Media Matters has issued a report debunking the “food-versus-fuel” myth, along with several possible Renewable Fuel Standard-stopping myths.

MYTH: Renewable Fuel Standards Raise Food Prices…

FACT: Ethanol Production Does Not Divert Food Or Raise Prices

CBO Report: RFS Will Not Significantly Alter Food Prices. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzed how the RFS will impact the economy beyond 2014 and determined that it will have no significant impact on food prices. The CBO also stated that if the standards were increased to meet the initially proposed requirements by 2017, it would result in increased spending on food by just one-quarter of 1 percent…

MYTH: Ethanol Will Harm Your Vehicle…

FACT: Rigorous Studies Show That Ethanol Does Not Harm Engines

DOE: Industry-Funded Study Claiming Ethanol Hurts Engines Is “Significantly Flawed.” Patrick B. Davis, the manager of the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Program, published an article critiquing the CRC study that found E15 and E20 (a gasoline blend with 20 percent ethanol) hurt auto engines. The DOE concluded that the study was “significantly flawed” because it did not establish a proper control group and that it cherry-picked vehicles “already known to have durability issues”

The report also presents plenty more facts debunking myths about how ethanol is supposed to actually be bad for the environment and how biofuels are heavily subsidized, among others.

Iowans Weigh in on EPA’s RFS Delay

With Iowa being one of the nation’s leaders in ethanol and biodiesel production, it’s no wonder state officials and industry groups joined the national chorus weighing in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to once again delay a final decision on the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) until next year.

Northey, 2014Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said while he’s glad the EPA seems to be responding to public sentiment against what was proposed, he’s also worried about the uncertainty the renewable fuels industry in the state face:

“The past year has been an exciting time in the renewable fuels industry with the first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plants coming online. However, we have missed opportunities for even more growth in the industry due to the uncertainty created by EPA’s initial RFS proposal. Hopefully the withdrawal of this rule signals a larger change in course within EPA where they will be less adversarial and more responsive to the concerns of rural America.”

Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, is also optimistic the delay means the proposal will be revised more favorably to his group’s fuel, he shares Northey’s concerns over uncertainty:

GrantKimberley“An increased RVO for biomass-based diesel would mean good news for Iowa, the number one biodiesel-producing state. Uncertainty has hurt the biodiesel industry and created a ripple effect through the farming community, major ag suppliers and equipment companies. But the EPA has the chance to reverse this.

“The Proposed Rule as it stood would have taken biodiesel backwards from the volumes produced in 2013. The Administration has a chance to make it right by finalizing a 2014 rule that sets the Renewable Fuel Standard’s biomass-based diesel volumes at or above the nearly 1.8 billion gallons consumed in 2013. We also urge them to fix the RVO process so we don’t have to face this disruptive uncertainty every year. We need to put biodiesel back on the course of diversifying America’s fuel supply, supporting green jobs and boosting economic development.”

Hear Biofuels Reps Talk About RFS Delay

epa-150Biofuels industry representatives spent Friday afternoon fielding calls from reporters to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency decision to put off finalizing 2014 volume standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard program until next year.

Domestic Fuel caught up with four of the industry groups, starting with Bob Dinneen with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), already posted previously.

Listen to the interviews below:

American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE)Interview with ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings

Growth Energy
Interview with Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis

National Biodiesel Board (NBB)Interview with NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel

On Monday, biofuels industry leaders will hold briefings for Capitol Hill staff and the media to discuss the implications of the decision and where we go from here. The Fuels America briefing will feature Buis, Dinneen, Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman, and Brent Erickson with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

EPA Decision Impacts Advanced Biofuels

The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to hold off on issuing a final rule for 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) continues the atmosphere of uncertainty for the advanced biofuel industry, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

BIO logo“We appreciate that EPA will not be finalizing a proposed 2014 RFS rule containing a flawed methodology for setting the renewable fuel volumes,” said BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood. “Unfortunately, the delay in this year’s rule already has chilled investment and financing of future projects, even as first-of-a-kind cellulosic biofuel plants are right now starting up operations. The industry needs a final rule that is legally appropriate and continues to support our efforts.”

aeclogoAdvanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman says that pulling back on the 2014 RFS rule is “the right thing to do at this stage in the game when it comes to preserving the integrity of the program.”

“While the cellulosic biofuel industry will not get the policy certainty it needs from this decision, it does suggest that the Administration is listening when it comes to our concerns about giving oil companies too much power to avoid its obligations under the RFS going forward,” Coleman added. “This battle was never about the 2014 volumes for the oil industry, and we appreciate the Administration’s willingness to pivot in the right direction this late in the game. The key now for advanced biofuel investment is to move quickly to fix what needs to be fixed administratively so we can reestablish the RFS as the global gold standard for advanced biofuel policy.”

abfaThe Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) president Michael McAdams says the announcement was a surprise.

EPA hit the big reset button. Given the fact that we are already at the end of 2014, we appreciate EPA’s recognition that the real importance is to set the program on a clear glide path for 2015 and 2016. The numbers do matter, and utilizing the actual production will be a positive step from what was a proposed. We appreciate how EPA recognized that cutting requirements for advanced biofuels would be a mistake. This emerging industry deserves better considering it has already demonstrated the capacity to generate 3.2 billion gallons of advanced biofuel annually. But, at least EPA’s decision leaves the glass more than half full and allow us to get back on track next year.

EPA Delays Final RFS Rules

epa-150The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed a Notice of Delay today to be published in the Federal Register announcing they will not be finalizing the the 2014 applicable percentage of standards under the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) until next year.

“The proposed rule, issued in November 2013, generated a significant number of comments, particularly on the proposal’s ability to ensure continued progress toward achieving the law’s renewable fuel targets,” said the EPA statement. “Due to the delay in finalizing the standards for 2014, and given ongoing consideration of the issues presented by the commenters, the agency intends to take action on the 2014 standards rule in 2015. Looking forward, one of EPA’s objectives is to get back on the annual statutory timeline by addressing 2014, 2015, and 2016 standards in the next calendar year.”

“The proposal has generated significant comment and controversy, particularly about how volumes should be set in light of lower gasoline consumption than had been forecast at the time that the Energy Independence and Security Act was enacted, and whether and on what basis the statutory volumes should be waived. Most notably, commenters expressed concerns regarding the proposal’s ability to ensure continued progress towards achieving the volumes of renewable fuel targeted by the statute. EPA has been evaluating these issues in light of the purposes of the statute and the Administration’s commitment to the goals of the statute to increase the use of renewable fuels, particularly cellulosic biofuels, which will reduce the greenhouse gases emitted from the consumption of transportation fuels and diversify the nation’s fuel supply.

The agency will also be making modifications to the EPA Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) to endure that Renewable Identification Numbers (RINS) generated in 2012 are valid for demonstrating compliance in 2013.

Iowa Ethanol, Biodiesel Makers Call for Tax Extenders

IowaRFAlogoEthanol and biodiesel producers in Iowa are joining in the growing chorus calling on Congress to extend some important tax credits. This news release from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says nine of the state’s advanced biofuel producers sent a letter to the entire Iowa Congressional Delegation encouraging the swift passage of a tax extenders package which includes provisions for biodiesel blending, cellulosic production, and accelerated depreciation, prior to final adjournment of the 113th Congress.

“Iowa’s entire congressional delegation has shown steadfast support for these important policies, and today we’re calling on them to take concrete steps to advance legislation extending these vital provisions that support energy security, American jobs, and a cleaner environment,” stated Western Iowa Energy Board Member Denny Mauser. “In the face of more than 100 years of preferential tax treatment for petroleum—a literal Century of Subsidies—these incentives keep advanced biofuel projects moving forward to the benefit of all Americans.”

The letter states, “It is absolutely critical to our industry that this Congress pass a tax extenders package, which includes provisions for biodiesel blending, cellulosic production and accelerated depreciation, prior to final adjournment.”

The letter goes on to point out the advantages the petroleum industry continues to enjoy in tax subsidies and says if Congress does nothing on the extenders package, the “U.S. will be left with a defacto petroleum mandate.”