Fuels America Launches Pro Biofuels Campaign

Fuels America has launched a new TV and radio campaign thanking American renewable fuels supporters Minnesota Senator Al Franken, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry and Michigan Rep. Gary Peters for fighting for local jobs and working to end America’s reliance on foreign oil.

The ads, on the radio in Minnesota and in Michigan and on television in Nebraska, thank the elected officials for supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the policy that allows domestic renewable fuels to compete in the motor fuel market.

Ads include:

  • Michigan Statewide: Radio ad titled “Our Pockets” about Gary Peters’ support of the RFS and fight to break America’s addiction to foreign oil, and how the Koch Brothers and Big Oil have spent millions against Peters.
  • Minnesota Statewide: Radio ad titled “Next Caller” highlighting Senator Franken’s support of the RFS and his work pushing the Obama Administration to increase production of renewable fuels.
  • Minnesota’s 7th District: Radio ad titled “Change Course” highlighting Collin Peterson’s support for a strong RFS, reduced reliance on foreign oil, and a stronger rural economy.
  • Nebraska’s 2nd District: TV ad titled “Solution” highlighting Lee Terry’s support of the RFS.

RFA Hammers CARB on ILUC Analysis

Renewable Fuels Association’s (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen has submitted a letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) where he expresses concern over their analysis of indirect land use (ILUC). He writes, “serious concerns about the openness, transparency, and scientific integrity of staff’s new indirect land use change (ILUC) analysis for the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).”

On September 29, 2014 CARB hosted a workshop where they disclosed they were planning to disregard the latest published research on ILUC. They have committed to using the current ILUC modeling despite the voluminous amount of stakeholder comments received.

RFANewlogoRFA, along with near 40 other stakeholders, submitted detailed technical comments in April 2014 aimed at improving CARB’s analysis, but “it was abundantly clear that the information submitted by stakeholders in the spring had been wholly disregarded” by the time CARB held its September public workshop. CARB staff gave no reason as to why it ignored the comments “even when stakeholders explicitly asked for staff’s rationale for ignoring new information.” CARB staff also remained vague about future plans to examine the new information. Because CARB staff failed to explain why it disregarded the technical comments submitted by RFA in April, the extensive comments were re-submitted.

Moreover, Dinneen’s letter highlighted CARB staff’s misguided belief that it is “not productive” to examine real-world data concerning agricultural land use. Dinneen remarked that, “Any objective scientist would find it prudent to examine the real-world data to determine whether predictive model results agreed with actual observed outcomes… Certainly, it is difficult to disentangle the real-world impact of biofuels expansion from the effects of other factors on actual global land use—but that does not mean CARB staff shouldn’t at least attempt to ground-truth its predictive results against real-world data.”

As an example of the disconnect between CARB’s ILUC modeling results and the real world, Dinneen noted that CARB’s model predicted that roughly 100,000 hectares of forest would be converted to cropland for biofuels production between 2001 and 2015. But real-world data show no U.S. forest loss has occurred; instead, U.S. forestland has grown 7 million hectares since 2001.

Dinneen concluded by calling on CARB to ensure its staff is transparent in its decision making and responsive to legitimate stakeholder concerns, stating, “We urge you to ensure that the CARB staff responsible for the ILUC analysis are held accountable for their decisions and abide by the agency’s long-standing norms for science-based rulemaking.”

The full letter can be found here.

RFA Updates Fueling A Nation, Feeding the World

An updated version of the paper “Fueling a Nation, Feeding the World,” has been released by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The publication outlines ethanol’s contribution to the global food and feed supply and also contains information that RFA said disproves the “fabricated food vs. fuel” debate.

Fueling a nation“The U.S. ethanol industry has quietly evolved into one of the largest feed processing sectors in the world, generating nearly 40 million metric tons of high-protein, high-energy animal feed in the 2013/14 marketing year,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “The RFA publication is a resource intended to educate policymakers and consumers about the industry’s role in producing feed, to counter the nonsensical food vs. fuel notion, and explain the benefits of ethanol production and co-products for both food and feed markets.”

The booklet outlines the co-products of ethanol production, such as distillers grain, corn distillers oil and corn gluten feed. For example, a 56-pound bushel of corn will yield 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 17 pounds of distillers grain, which is commonly fed to beef cattle, dairy cows, swine, poultry, and even fish. The handbook explains that “the feed produced by ethanol plants in 2013/14 would be enough to produce nearly 50 billion quarter-pound hamburger patties — or seven patties for every person on the planet.”

The publication concludes by stating, “Not only are U.S. ethanol producers helping to meet future demands for energy, but they are also helping to meet the increasing food and feed needs of a growing world.”

RFA will be sharing the booklet with international buyers and U.S. producers of ethanol-related co-products, such as distillers grain, at the Export Exchange taking place in Seattle, Washington October 20-22 2014.

Small Biodiesel Maker Closing Indicative of RFS Problem

yokayo1While the closing of one small biodiesel maker in California might not seem like big news, it’s certainly indicative of the problems facing the industry, big and small producers alike. This story from the Ukiah (CA) Daily Journal says that Yokayo Biofuels, which turned waste cooking oil into biodiesel, has closed.

[Kumar Plocher, Yokayo Biofuels' CEO] says the biggest reason for their closure was due to a lack of government support both at the state and federal levels. He explains that the carbon credit programs, those where petroleum companies are required to buy a certain amount of renewable fuels, allowed his company to bank carbon credits, normally valued high based on demand. This year state and federal value levels were very low: the state’s due to tampering by global companies that flooded the market and at the federal’s due to the Obama administration and the EPA. “Every year the federal government is supposed to raise the requirement of renewable fuel that should be purchased. At the beginning of 2014, they did not do that; they kept it static. They waited until September to announce a tiny increase, and by that time the damage was done and carbon credits were worthless all year. Every mid-term election year, the dollar per gallon subsidy that goes to biofuels has been absent; they wait until after the election.”

Plocher’s complaint is a common one among advanced biofuel makers and their advocates this year. In fact, at the recent National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo, Michael McAdams, founder and president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, said the partnership between the federal government and industry has to have clarity and certainty, but that’s not been the case lately.

“What we haven’t had in the last two years is certainty for the people I represent in the advanced and cellulosic sector,” McAdams said.

Similarly, Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), pointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimates that corn prices will hit an eight-year low because of the government’s failure to follow through on the promises made in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“Indeed, today’s USDA report should be the closing argument in the debate over the 2014 RFS final rule,” Dinneen continued. “When farmers made their planting decisions for the 2014 season, they anticipated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House would continue to enforce the statutory RFS volumes. But in one fell swoop, the EPA’s proposed rule wiped away demand for 500 million bushels of corn and grain sorghum. Now, farmers are faced with corn prices below the cost of production and the risk of returning to an era of increased reliance on federal farm program payments.”

There is a little good news in all of this. Plocher was able to sell Yokayo Biofuels’ biodiesel assets to like-minded Simple Fuels.

Advanced Biofuels Conf. – Expo Ribbon Cutting

The 2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo got off to a great start yesterday in Minneapolis. It concludes today and we’ve got more stories and interviews to share.

In the meantime you might enjoy seeing the ribbon cutting from last night in the Expo hall. Tim Portz, BBI International, welcomes everyone before introducing Scott Wangsgard, New Holland, to say a few words and cut the ribbon.

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

East Kansas’ Jeff Oestmann Featured on Car Clinic

Bobby Likis Car ClinicThe ethanol industry was well represented on the nationally syndicated car-talk program “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” when Bobby Likis spoke with East Kansas Agri-Energy’s President and CEO Jeff Oestmann. The show aired Saturday, October 11, 2014 and the two ethanol advocates chatted about local, regional and national issues surrounding ethanol production.

Oestmann, whose career spans 20 years in the bioenergy and grain processing industries, currently serves on the Board of Directors of both the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) & Kansas Association of Ethanol Producers. During the program, Oestmann discussed the consumer benefits of ethanol production and its impact on local communities and the U.S. economy. Oestmann is a non-commissioned officer who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years, including service in the USMC’s elite Embassy Guard.

Jeff Oestmann East Kansas Agri-Energy“I have a question slate lined up for Jeff that addresses ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the U.S economy, engine performance and national security. Consumers – and American citizens – need to hear the message,” said Likis.

Oestmann shared many facts during the program. “We use cutting edge technology at East Kansas Agri-Energy to produce high-quality ethanol that helps consumers save an average of $1.00 per gallon at the gas station and also benefits our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We put a high priority on innovation, and the biofuels we produce – including next generation renewable diesel – help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, which in turn bolsters America’s national security.”

Click here to listen to Oestmann’s interview.

State of the Advanced Biofuels Industry

nabce-14The National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo opened with a conversation about the current state of important federal biofuels policies, including the status of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Among those on the opening panel was Michael McAdams, founder and president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, who talked first about the state of his industry. “There’s an old expression ‘you’re either the bug or the windshield,'” he said. “Unfortunately, in my own association, about 15% (of my members) have become bugs.”

nabce-14-mcadamsThe reason for that, says McAdams, is the uncertainty surrounding federal biofuels policy. “The partnership between the federal government and industry has to have clarity and certainty,” he said. “What we haven’t had in the last two years is certainty for the people I represent in the advanced and cellulosic sector.”

In an interview after the panel, McAdams described the state of the advanced biofuels industry right now as being in “suspended animation” waiting for clarification on policy including volume obligations under the RFS and pathways for new technologies.

Regarding the RVO, McAdams notes that at this point, with no final numbers for this year yet, the administration needs to be focused on rulemaking for 2015. “I’m assuming the week after the election or maybe Friday before the election we’ll see the numbers (for ’14),” said McAdams. The problem with that is that the 2015 numbers are due November 30 “so one could make a rational case that the numbers they actually publish are the numbers for ’15, not for ’14.” He adds that the administration has already said they expect it will be February before they proposed the 2015 volume obligations.

McAdams urges the advanced biofuels industry to keep working “to deliver the innovative fuels of the future.”
Interview with Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association
Remarks from Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

Crop Report Underscores Need for Market Certainty

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released new corn crop estimates that confirm another record setting corn crop and after accounting for the surplus after all demands are met, will hit a 10-year high. The WASDE report predicts the final 2014 corn crop at 14.48 billion bushels based on a record average yield of 174.2 bushels per acre In addition, WASDE estimated global grain stocks will reach a 14 year high.

While the corn crop is at record levels, corn prices are falling. USDA projected prices will average $3.40 per bushel – the lowest in eight years. This is also below the cost of production for more farmers.

“API [American Petroleum Institute] has spent millions upon millions of dollars on ad campaigns trying to sell people on the canard that ethanol drives up food prices in a misguided attCorn Harvestempt to garner opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS),” said Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “But their argument is bankrupt. Because of the RFS, farmers have invested in technology and increased yields to assure ample supply for all users. Today’s report demonstrates the API campaign is intellectually dishonest.

“Indeed, today’s USDA report should be the closing argument in the debate over the 2014 RFS final rule,” Dinneen continued. “When farmers made their planting decisions for the 2014 season, they anticipated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House would continue to enforce the statutory RFS volumes. But in one fell swoop, the EPA’s proposed rule wiped away demand for 500 million bushels of corn and grain sorghum. Now, farmers are faced with corn prices below the cost of production and the risk of returning to an era of increased reliance on federal farm program payments. The White House has an opportunity to help alleviate this situation simply by fixing the badly misguided 2014 RFS proposal and getting the program back on track.”

RFA Brings Ethanol Safety Program to Canada

Ethanol safety has been shared with the Canadians. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) met with Transport Canada’s Emergency Response Action Plan (ERAP) Task Force to educated them on emergency preparedness.

Ethanol Safety SeminarRFA’s Vice President of Technical Services, Kristy Moore, spoke remotely to Transport Canada’s ERAP Task Force and detailed current RFA safety initiatives, outlined transportation methods available for ethanol distribution specifically focusing on rail, and delivered an overview of the U.S. ethanol industry.

“A solid emergency response program is vital to everyone — no matter the country — and I applaud Transport Canada for having the foresight to get ahead of the game and formulate a national emergency response program,” said Moore. “We are excited to begin working with them to translate RFA safety materials into French and help them develop an ethanol safety seminar program similar to the very successful RFA program here in the States.”

RFA has been involved in ethanol education around transportation safety and emergency response for many years. The Association is a founding member of the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition (EERC) and joined TRANSCAER — a transportation safety initiative that focuses on community emergency response — in 2007. RFA worked with the EERC to establish an ethanol safety seminar program that goes around the country educating local firefighters and first responders on the best way to respond to a potential emergency situation. The seminars utilize the RFA’s “Training Guide to Ethanol Emergency Response”. Nearly 150 safety seminars have been held in 27 states.

MIT Boosts Yeast Tolerance

Gregory Stephanopoulos, with the Willard Henry Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT has discovered a way to boost yeast tolerance to ethanol by altering the composition of the medium in which yeast are grown. “Toxicity is probably the single most important problem in cost-effective biofuels production,” said Stephanopoulos. The research was published in the journal, Science.

Ethanol and other alcohols can disrupt yeast cell membranes, eventually killing the cells. The MIT team found that adding potassium and hydroxide ions to the medium in which yeast grow can help cells compensate for that membrane damage. By making these changes, the researchers were able to boost yeast’s ethanol production by about 80 percent. They found the approach works with commercial yeast strains and other types of alcohols, including propanol and butanol, which are even more toxic to yeast.

MIT yeast and ethanol research.jpg“The more we understand about why a molecule is toxic, and methods that will make these organisms more tolerant, the more people will get ideas about how to attack other, more severe problems of toxicity,” explained Stephanopoulos.

The research team began its quest searching for a gene or group of genes that could be manipulated to make yeast more tolerant to ethanol, but this approach did not yield much success. Yet when the researchers began to experiment with altering the medium in which yeast grow, they found some dramatic results. By augmenting the yeast’s environment with potassium chloride, and increasing the pH with potassium hydroxide, the researchers were able to dramatically boost ethanol production. They also found that these changes did not affect the biochemical pathway used by the yeast to produce ethanol: Yeast continued to produce ethanol at the same per-cell rate as long as they remained viable. Instead, the changes influenced their electrochemical membrane gradients — differences in ion concentrations inside and outside the membrane, which produce energy that the cell can harness to control the flow of various molecules into and out of the cell.

Ethanol increases the porosity of the cell membrane, making it very difficult for cells to maintain their electrochemical gradients. Increasing the potassium concentration and pH outside the cells helps them to strengthen the gradients and survive longer; the longer they survive, the more ethanol they make.

Researchers are also working on using this approach to boost the ethanol yield from various industrial feedstocks that, because of starting compounds inherently toxic to yeast, now have low yields.

RSI-CTC Calls for Rail Rulemaking Harmonization

The Railway Supply Institute Committee on Tank Cars (RSI-CTC) has submitted comments to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in response to efforts to create new regulations for the shipment of crude oil and ethanol. While RSI-CTC is glad of the government’s work, they are warning of significant disruption to safety and major sectors of the North American economy is mismatched rules are implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Transport Canada. These disruptions, said RSI-CTC, include the loss of a significant portion of the rail tank car fleet during the modification period, and unintended consequences such as a potential increase in truck shipments of flammable liquids on highways.

To address these potential disruptions and safety hazards, the RSI-CTC called for greater harmonization between the two rulemaking bodies in the U.S. and Canada, and provided insight and specific recommendations across a range of issues that will help reduce the risk of transporting flammable liquids by rail in North America. The comments also urged DOT to focus more on the root causes of most derailments which continue to be track failure and human error, not tank car design.

railway supply institute logo“For years we have been advocating for a holistic approach to safety that will prevent train derailments and address tank car standards, among other issues,” said Tom Simpson, President of RSI. “In our comments today, we reiterated our positions and offered a comprehensive set of practical recommendations that will bring the greatest safety benefit in the quickest ways possible. For instance, we believe the timelines for modifications in the U.S. and Canada should be synchronized and feasible to avoid major disruptions of service. Moreover, the specifications for new tank cars and the rules for packaging of flammable liquids need to match up across North America. Without making these important changes to align the rules, the effect will be to deplete the fleet of tank cars available for service, and those effects to safety and the economy cannot be underestimated.”

RSI-CTC and independent third-party research show that the proposed U.S. rules—in their current form—would effectively force approximately 90,000 tank cars to be withdrawn from service at various times during the modification program and parked until the shop capacity required to carry out the necessary modifications becomes available. Between 2018 and 2020, 30-50 fifty percent of the total crude oil and ethanol tank car fleet would be idled at any given time. To replace the loss in 2017, the year the first compliance deadline hits, theoretically it would require 20,000 trucks carrying more than 370,000 truckloads on North American highways, a practical impossibility and potentially more hazardous outcome given the safety risk associated with transport by truck.

In its comments to PHMSA, the RSI-CTC supports a “commodity-based approach” for selecting the proper tank car that requires shippers to ensure materials are appropriately and safely packaged. The RSI-CTC also asked PHMSA to differentiate the requirements for new and existing cars, which will allow more new or modified cars with enhanced safety features to be put into service more quickly, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

ADM, Mizzou to Open New Biofuel Research Center

cafnr1The University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and its College of Engineering have teamed up with Archer Daniels Midland Company to open a new research center focusing on biofuels and food production. The ADM Center for Agricultural Development was designed to give students more of a hands on approach in learning the latest theories of biofuel development, food production and energy processing.

“As the global population continues to grow, the world is looking toward agriculture to create viable, sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing needs – like an abundant food supply and advanced renewable fuels,” said Michael D’Ambrose, ADM senior vice president and chief human resources officer. “To help our industry meet this challenge, ADM is pleased to invest in the University of Missouri and the next generation of agricultural leaders.”

Leon Schumacher, professor of agricultural systems management helped coordinate the project and said the lab will allow students to step out of the classroom and into the lab where they will team with peers and faculty on projects and equipment typical in the rapidly-changing agricultural industries

Schumacher said the lab allows students to select critical issues facing agriculture and brainstorm solutions, develop a timeline and budget, make decisions, take the initiative to test solutions in the lab, and be accountable for results. Schumacher said this is the best approach to develop team skills needed by industry.

ADM donated $1 million to renovate the labs that will help students to “learn to work as a team and tackle problems in a systematic way,” officials said. They also expect the labs will be key in finding solutions to the problem of fueling and feeding an expected world population of 9 billion by the year 2050.

How to Establish Biobased Production Chains

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RV0), Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research has developed a method that can help companies and government authorities create biobased chains, from source materials to end products. The method was developed out of a need for companies to develop successful production chains for the production of biofuels or biomaterials from biomass-based resources.

According to senior scientist Wolter Elbersen at the institute for Food & Biobased Research, the method is mainly intended for businesses and investors looking to establish a biobased production chain locally, or for export to the Netherlands or other EU countries. “They often have trouble evaluating whether developing a biobased production or export chain is feasible or how it can be done commercially,” said Elbersen. “This method provides an insight into which factors are at play.”

Setting Up International Biobased Production ChainsThe method is a step-by-step plan for the development of a biobased export chain. It includes a classification of the various types of biomass.

Scientist Jan van Dam at Food & Biobased Research explained that an analysis was made of which crops and products are most suitable, and how market demands are expected to develop. “We then described how businesses or investors can use a SWOT analysis to evaluate whether a local crop is a good starting point for the development of a biobased trade chain. This includes factors such as the availability of the crop and the infrastructure, security of supplies, costs and the degree to which the source material can be produced in a sustainable way.”

The method also offers a list of criteria for determining the most suitable location for converting the source material into tradable products. It deals with questions such as which country has the best infrastructure and the most educated employees? Which location offers the lowest operational costs and the best logistics? And where do the co-products or by-products have the most value? This involves issues such as heat for heating networks, CO2 for CO2 fertilisation or lignin for new chemical products.

“PUMP” Coming to a Theater Near You

There is a new documentary coming to a theater near you: PUMP. The film tells the story of America’s addiction to oil. Stories told range from Standard Oil’s illegal tactics to the dominance of oil companies. The goal of the film is to explain why and how consumers can end Big Oil’s monopoly and “win choice at the pump”.

According to the movie’s website, gasoline is our only option of transportation fuel today. With global demand rising and the continued dependence on gas our wallets are thinning. In addition, air pollution is getting worse and Americans are fighting wars in oil-rich countries.

PUMP shows consumers how making a variety of replacement fuels widely available will reduce fuel prices across the board. Diversifying the market with replacement fuels that are cheaper, cleaner and American made will also create jobs, strengthening the economy at home and promoting stability abroad.

The movie features experts including John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Co.; Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, Inc.; Peter Goldmark, former president of the Rockefeller Foundation; our colleague Jim Lane and other noteworthy figures.

To see where the movie is headed and to buy tickets, visit the PUMP website.

Biomass-to-Biofuel Plant Gets USDA Loan Guarantee

coolplanetA Louisiana biomass-to-biofuel operation received a $91 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This news release from USDA says the agency will back the loan under the Biorefinery Assistance Program to finish building the Cool Planet plant at the Port of Alexandria in Louisiana.

The Cool Planet facilities will produce approximately 8 million to 10 million gallons of reformate per year at full capacity. Often referred to as a “drop-in” fuel, reformate is an ingredient in gasoline and jet fuel that can be added during the regular refinery process. Many biofuels, like ethanol, are fuel additives that are instead blended into a finished product to oxygenate fuel. Reformate enhances the energy content of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Pine chips will be the feedstock source for the Cool Planet facility, but the company can use almost any type of renewable cellulosic material.

Another benefit of Cool Planet’s facility is that it will produce biochar, a bioenergy byproduct that has been noted for its ability to sequester carbon and potentially reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.

Google Ventures, BP, ConocoPhillips, GE, Exelon and NRG Energy are also kicking in on the project, in addition to USDA’s contribution. Cool Planet is putting $50 million in its own equity into the project.