Retailers Tell Ethanol Story at ACE Fly-in

Fuel retailers in ethanol producing states had compelling stories to tell at the American Coalition for Ethanol Biofuels Beltway March last week in Washington DC. Several of them sat down with reporters during the event to talk about their success selling higher ethanol blends, as well as the hurdles they had to overcome to do so.

ace14-dc-badenhopGlenn Bedanhop is a third generation farmer who is also president and CEO of American Freedom Energy in the small town of Liberty Center, about 30 miles west of Toledo, Ohio. “It’s rewarding knowing the value you’re putting back in your local community,” said Badenhop, who became the first retailer in Ohio to offer E15 in January because he believes in consumer choice. “It’s their choice,” he said. “We’re not mandating that they buy Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper – it’s just like the fuels.” Interview with Glenn Badenhop, Ohio fuel retailer

ace14-dc-goodCharlie Good has been in the fuel retailing business for 34 years as a convenience store operator and auto mechanic and he started offering higher ethanol blends at his Good and Quick store in Nevada, Iowa last August despite his supplier’s objections. “I had to de-brand because the oil company didn’t want that under their canopy,” said Good. “My sales are up 20-25% a month and of the gallons that they’re up, virtually all of it is the ethanol fuels.” Interview with Charlie Good, Iowa fuel retailer

ace14-dc-vollanBruce Vollan started using blender pumps at his rural Baltic, South Dakota convenience store six years ago. “My experience has been pretty incredible,” he said. “You see a lot of people actively seeking out blends.” Vollan has seen his small business has grown to 13 full and part time employees and he says the negative publicity about ethanol doesn’t bother him because he believes he’s on the right team. He was happy to take time away from his business to take his story to Washington DC and let lawmakers and bureaucrats know what is really happening. “That’s what the ethanol industry is all about,” he said. “It’s about telling the truth.” Interview with Bruce Vollan, South Dakota fuel retailer


2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

IRFA: Strong Plantings Report Calls for Strong RFS

IowaRFAlogoExpected big plantings of corn and soybeans underscore the need for a strong Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). New estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show a possible record amount of soybeans expected to be planted this year and the fifth largest corn acreage to be planted as well. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says these factors show why a strong and growing RFS is needed this year.

“The past eight years were prosperous for agriculture because the RFS was allowed to act as a sponge, soaking up additional corn and soybeans when needed,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “The vast amount of corn and soybeans expected to be planted in 2014 demonstrates the importance of a strong and growing RFS. If the EPA’s proposal to essentially gut the RFS is allowed to become final, we could see huge carryovers, crop prices plummet below the cost of production, and family farms placed in jeopardy.”

Nearly 92 million acres is expected to be dedicated to corn this year and a record 81.5 million acres for soybeans, a six percent increase from last year.

EPA’s Feeling About RFS? Depends Who’s Asking

epa-logoHow does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) feel about its proposal to cut the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply? Well, that depends on who the folks at the agency are talking to.

Speaking before the House Appropriations Committee last week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy seemed to backtrack on last January’s statements before biofuels advocates when she told them that her agency “heard loud and clear that we didn’t hit that right,” indicating the EPA could be changing its stance. But when grilled by Congressman David Valadao (R-CA) who represents California agriculture and oil interests, McCarthy had a different response.

“We’re going to make sure to take a reasonable approach that recognizes the infrastructure challenges and the inability at this point to achieve the levels of ethanol that are in the law,” she said.

It’s also interesting that McCarthy did not challenge part of the premise in Valadao’s original question that stated how consumers’ vehicles could not handle higher blends than being offered right now, specifically E10. Biofuels advocates have long made the claim that most vehicles can handle at least 15 percent ethanol blends (E15), and two years ago the EPA approved E15 for use in 2001 and newer vehicles.

You can hear for yourself what McCarthy said here: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Before House Appropriations Committee

Sen. Thune Meets with Ethanol Supporters

ace14-dc-thune-groupA team of four biofuels supporters had the chance to meet with Sen. John Thune (R-SD) last week while in Washington DC for the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Biofuels Beltway March.

In an interview following that meeting, Thune talked about some of the issues facing the biofuels industry, in particular the EPA proposal to lower volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Trying to reverse the EPA’s decision on this is what we’ve been focused on since it came out,” said Sen. Thune.”Going down to 13.1 gallons is horrible for the industry so we hope they make some accommodation for getting beyond the blend wall.”

Thune says he expects to Congress to get a package of expired tax credit extensions passed soon, including renewable energy credits for wind, advanced biofuels, and biodiesel. “It’s very hard for people to plan to invest when they don’t know what the rules are going to be,” he said.

The senator also talked about the rail delays that have been impacting shipments of ethanol and grain. “The railroads are going to have to do a better job,” he said, noting that the problem has been caused by both the long, cold winter and increased shipping of crude oil from North Dakota. “It’s important that the railroads recognize that agricultural commodities need to be shipped too.” Interview with Senator John Thune (R-SD)

2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

Shaw has Ethanol Support for Congress

A candidate for Congress believes his background in ethanol will help him in the upcoming primary and general election. And for Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw, who has served in that role for nearly 10 years and now is running for the 3rd Congressional District seat, that background runs pretty deep.

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis and Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen both on the side of Monte Shaw for Congress

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis and Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen both on the side of Monte Shaw for Congress

“This is Iowa. If agriculture does well, Iowa does well,” said Shaw during an interview in Washington DC last week, pointing out how the renewable fuels has helped power the ag industry and the overall economy in the Hawkeye State. “So when people talk about how we need to get the economy going a bit more, we need more jobs, we need more robust economic growth, I have been part of that. And that’s something I want to put to work in Congress.”

Shaw says Big Oil has been fighting the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) hard, and Iowans need a representative on the inside in Washington who will fight for the economic interests that alternative energy brings.

“I think it would be good for the industry to have someone like me in the House Republican Caucus. There’s a lot of petroleum folks in there, and sometimes they like to forget all the tax credits and mandates and loan guarantees that petroleum gets, and I’d be happy to go there and point those things out out,” he said.

Shaw is facing five other Republicans in the June 3rd primary, so he is hitting the campaign trail as hard as he can while still working full time for Iowa RFA, with the flexibility granted to him by the association board of directors. If elected to Congress, he feels confident in the many renewable energy leaders back in Iowa who can step up in his place.

“As one of my board members is fond of pointing out to me, the graveyard is full of indispensable men,” he said, laughing.

You can read more about his campaign here.

And you can hear all of Cindy’s interview with Monte here: Interview with Monte Shaw, Iowa Congressional Candidate

BIO Report Says Lowering RFS Will Increase GHG

biologo2A new white paper from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) finds that lowering the volume requirements for biofuels under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) as proposed by the administration will lead to an increase in emissions of greenhouse gases next year.

According to Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section and lead author of the special report, the proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency could “reverse progress on one of the central goals of the law – reducing climate-changing emissions from the U.S. transportation sector.”

The paper utilizes Energy Information Administration projections of fuel use from 2014 to 2022 to estimate volumes of petroleum and biofuel use for each year. The authors then assigned estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from the GREET1.2013 model to the volumes and added up year-by-year emissions. Based on EPA’s proposed requirements for 2014, the United States would emit 6.6 million more metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases than it did in 2013. If EPA followed past practice, allowing the overall requirements to remain at the statutory level, the achieved reduction in GHG emissions would be 21.6 million metric tons CO2e. The difference between the increase and the achievable decrease is equivalent to putting 5.9 million additional cars on the road next year. Under other available options for setting the RFS volume requirements, the United States could still achieve carbon emission reductions, the paper finds.

Read the report here.

API Runs Additional Biofuel Attack Ads

The American Petroleum Institute (API) will be running additional advertisements criticizing biofuels and the ethanol industry is once again fighting back.

“Once again, API has decided to perpetuate misinformation to protect their bottom line. They will do anything to protect their record profits and market share, even at the expense of consumer savings and a cleaner environment,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

oil spill lake michigan“This recent series of ads are nothing more than fear mongering and misleading information. Time and again, the facts show that there is no substantial correlation between ethanol production and food prices,” continued Buis. “If Big Oil wants to point the finger at those who are driving up food prices, they should look no further than a mirror. In fact, a 2013 World Bank study has proven that crude oil prices are responsible for at least 50 percent of the increase in global food prices since 2004.”

Buis notes that marine and small engines are warrantied to use up to 10 percent ethanol and are not legally allowed to use E15 or other higher ethanol blends. He said the campaign has been designed to scare consumers, E15 is voluntary for use, and any suggestion that consumers are required to use E15 in small engines is completely misleading and false.

While the ads lay blame on the biofuels industry for additional environmental damage, Buis said that Big Oil a long history of ignoring environmental damage they are directly responsible for. “The sheer nerve to accuse biofuels of causing environmental harm on the 25th anniversary of the massive Exxon-Valdez spill, and the present-day oil slick off the coast of Texas, as well as another spill in Lake Michigan just yesterday, shows that Big Oil has a complete disconnect with reality and only cares about lining their pockets at the expense of the American consumer and our environment,” concluded Buis.

Ag Secretary Takes Time on Ag Day for Ethanol

ace14-dc-vilsackThere are lots of activities for National Agriculture Day going on today in Washington DC, including a big celebration unveiling a statue of Dr. Norman Borlaug in the Capitol, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack still took time to meet with members of the American Coalition for Ethanol in town this week to visit Congressional offices

“The country needs a robust renewable fuel industry,” said Vilsack. “It provides choice for consumers and less cost gas at the pump. It helps to create hundreds of thousands of jobs which is important for the economy. It stabilizes farm income, it’s better for the environment, and it makes us a safer nation because we’re less reliant on others for our energy and fuel sources. So we need to continue to have a robust commitment to this industry, we need to expand it and grow it.” Brief interview with Secretary Vilsack after ACE visit

The secretary spoke to the more than 80 ethanol industry about what USDA is doing to achieve that goal, including finding creative ways to increase higher ethanol blend pumps, promoting exports of ethanol to Japan, India and China, and continuing to work towards encouraging use of higher blends in this country.

2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Coverage is sponsored in part by Patriot Renewable Fuels

Biofuel Organizations Call for Tax Credits Extensions

US Capitol at dusk photo Joanna SchroederLeaders from several biofuel trade organizations are calling for the extension of some federal advanced biofuel tax credits. The Advanced Ethanol Council, Advanced Biofuels Association, Algae Biomass Organization, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, and Renewable Fuels Association have sent a letter to the Senate calling for the restoration of the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit.

The letter reads, in part, “The advanced biofuels industry is at a critical stage of development. Despite a difficult financial market, we are now operating commercial plants across the country and continue to make progress on dozens of additional projects in the final stages of development. Advanced biofuel tax credits have allowed the biofuels industry to make great strides in reducing the cost of production and developing first-of-kind technologies to deploy the most innovative fuel in the world.

“As leaders in a critical innovation sector in the United States, we are well aware of the financial constraints facing this country. However, the United States’ global competitors are offering tax incentives for advanced biofuels and in fact are attracting construction of new facilities – and associated high skilled jobs. If Congress wants American companies to continue developing these homegrown technologies in the United States, it must extend these credits. Biofuel producers are also competing with incumbent fossil energy industries who continue to enjoy tax incentives on a permanent basis.”

The letter marks the latest effort by biodiesel and ethanol producers and their backers to get better federal government support for their green fuels. Late last year, the Environmental Protection Agency undercut the industries when it proposed drastic reductions in the amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be mixed into the Nation’s fuel supply. In addition, Washington also let these vital federal tax credits expire at the end of the year.

Stop Protecting Big Oil’s Bottom Line

A new TV advertising campaign is being launched in Washington, D.C. this Sunday by Americans United for Change calling for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop supporting Big Oil’s bottom line. The EPA is currently reviewing comments of their 2014 proposed rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The goal of the TV ad is to underscore the consequences for rural jobs and all American consumers if they ultimately give Big Oil what they want: crippling their cheaper, cleaner renewable fuels competition.

‘Bottom Line’ follows two previous Americans United TV ads in support of the RFS, “Simple Choice” and ‘Why Mess With Success?”, and its digital ad campaign ‘Big Oil Is the Real Winner’, fighting back against the oil industry’s lies.

“Big Oil needs another giveaway from Washington like our coastal environment and economies need another BP deep-water spill,” said Caren Benjamin, executive director of Americans United for Change. “The industry already enjoys absurd loopholes that allowed the biggest companies among them to pay no taxes or even negative taxes in recent years. And while the ethanol industry voluntarily gave up their tax credit at the end of 2011, Big Oil runs attack ads against lawmakers who dare to suggest they don’t need $4 billion a year in taxpayer subsidies at a time when they’re posting $100 billion in profit. And how does Big Oil pay back the taxpayers for all their generosity? By shaking them down at the pump and polluting their ground water.”

Benjamin noted that Big oil gets whatever they ask for from Washington and said they are now asking the EPA to help put out of business their 70 cent cheaper and cleaner renewable fuels competition. “It’s time to draw the line not just because gutting the RFS is another giveaway to Big Oil, but because it’d be a huge takeaway from our rural economies, our national security, environment, and innovation towards cleaner renewable fuels of tomorrow.”

With a call to action to stop messing with the RFS Benjamin concludes that it doesn’t make sense to “mess with the success of the RFS.”

An Energy Enthusiast Version of March Madness

March Madness is upon us. For those not living in the United States, it’s the two weeks where college men and women’s basketball teams battle it out on the court until the last team is standing and crowned champion. Now that the NCAA teams have been announced and the brackets determined, people are filling out their official tournament forms with hopes of also being the last one standing (this assures bragging rights for one year).

This year, the Americans United for Change has released its own version of March Madness: the 1st Annual Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination Tournament. Jeremy Funk, communications director, notes that there is only one possible upset in this tournament and its a long shot and that is the renewable energy industry coming out the victor. He says “everyone knows the fix is in at this tournament if the EPA ejects the RFS and guarantees victory for 1st seed team Big Oil over the 16th seed team, The American Consumers”.

tumblr_n2n687cBjP1ts83mmo1_1280The EPA is currently reviewing more than 100,000 comments submitted in response to its 2014 proposed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – an energy policy designed to reduce the use of imported oil while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Big Oil has been working the refs in Washington for decades, complaining they need billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, even when they’ve got $100 billion in profits on the scoreboard,” added Funk. “Now the oil industry has a full court press on Washington to once again rewrite the rules in their favor by ejecting the cleaner, cheaper renewable fuels competition from the game. Without a strong Renewable Fuel Standard promoting healthy competition, Big Oil would be free to give consumers the Bobby Knight treatment at the pump.”

He says he is confident that when the EPA’s referees review this call, they’ll see the RFS has been an incredible Cinderella Story for rural communities when it comes to creating jobs, income and opportunity.

Funk concluded, “They’ll see the RFS has meant our troops have has been playing stronger D by reducing our dependence on oil from unstable regions overseas. They’d see the RFS has been a slam dunk for innovations in cleaner burning, next generation renewable fuels to combat climate change. We’re confident in the end, the EPA will reverse this terrible call and make Big Oil play fair for a change.”

CARB Stresses ILUC Update is Preliminary

carb-14-2California Air Resources Board (CARB) staff spent four hours on Tuesday afternoon detailing reviews made of Indirect Land Use Change (iLUC) models and analysis for the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), strongly stressing that their results are preliminary.

“This is a work in progress,” said Air Resources Engineer Anil Prabhu as he began his power point presentation detailing the history of the iLUC analysis used by the agency, recommendations by the Expert Work Group (EWG), and much technical scientific information. Staff also stressed repeatedly that CARB is seeking feedback from all stakeholders on the preliminary conclusions presented.

carb-workshopThe 84 slide presentation of details on how CARB arrived at the values they are proposing for corn ethanol, sugarcane ethanol, soy biodiesel, canola biodiesel and sorghum ethanol was interspersed with dozens of questions from stakeholders and scientists present or listening in on the webcast.

Among those challenging the CARB results several times was Steffen Mueller with the University of Illinois-Chicago and Genscape, a member of the original CARB EWG. “There’s a lot of basic information missing (here) to engage in a productive discussion,” Mueller said, noting that the Agro-Ecological Zone – Emissions Factor (AEZ-EF) model presented was from 2011 and wondering when they would be able to see the updates CARB made to the model. “There’s been a lot of republications since 2011,” he said, to which CARB staff responded it would be updated “probably within the next week or two.”

Much of CARB’s data was presented based on Purdue University’s GTAP (Global Trade Analysis Project) work, including some research done by agricultural economist Wally Tyner, who called in to set the record straight. “What’s been presented today is really CARB’s work and not Purdue’s work,” said Tyner, who mainly called to dispute the Yield Price Elasticity assumptions made in the CARB presentations, which he says is “basically incorrect.” Wally Tyner comments and CARB staff response

Tyner also noted that there “is a lot of uncertainty in emission factors” as well as a great deal in land use change, and that seemed to be the theme of the entire meeting with nearly a quarter of the power point presentation being devoted to “Evaluation of Uncertainty” and “Why Results Vary Between Studies.” While the CARB staff repeatedly reminded those present that they welcomed any new or updated data that could be supplied, it was overwhelmingly clear that there is no scientific consensus whatsoever on the topic of indirect land use change. Continue reading

Better Sites for Algae Helps Biofuels Production

ABOA new process for identifying and evaluating algae production facilities could help with biofuels production. The article, “Siting Algae Cultivation Facilities for Biofuel Production in the United States: Trade-Offs between Growth Rate, Site Constructability, Water Availability, and Infrastructure,” in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, talks about the new method developed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Sapphire Energy and was welcomed by the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO), the trade association for the algae industry.

“Effectively siting algae cultivation facilities for commercial biofuel production is critical to the success of every commercial algae project,” said Margaret McCormick, chair of the Algae Biomass Organization and CEO of algae company Matrix Genetics. “The biology is so complex, existing ‘off-the-shelf’ measurement tools fall short. Because this analysis considers numerous variables along with real-world algae cultivation data, it offers project developers a much more complete and rigorous evaluation of sites.”

Site selection for large construction projects is a complex task, but a particularly challenging one in the case of algae cultivation in open ponds, where facilities could be thousands of acres in size. The factors that drive success include: a warm and sunny climate, available water, economically available land with soils good for construction, and proximity to transportation and utility infrastructure. In addition, special consideration must be given to local issues that are difficult for national-scale models to address, such as regulatory constraints, tax incentives, receptivity of local populations and ecological constraints.

The study found that there is good potential for cultivating green algae along the Gulf of Mexico, especially on the Florida peninsula. It also says that the type of algae to be grown is a big factor when choosing a site.

California to Consider Updating ILUC for Biofuels

carb-14The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is holding two public workshops regarding the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) this week – one to discuss general updates to the LCFS regulation, and the second to discuss updates to the indirect land use change (iLUC) values. Stakeholder feedback is being solicited for both workshops.

The board will discuss a proposal to update iLUC values for corn ethanol, sugarcane ethanol, and soy biodiesel, as well as proposed iLUC values for canola biodiesel, sorghum ethanol, and palm biodiesel.

According to a staff concept paper released prior to the meeting, based on recommendations provided by an Expert Working Group, “(p)reliminary results indicate reductions in the iLUC values for soy biodiesel, sugarcane ethanol, and corn ethanol.” The paper states that ARB staff “contracted with experts to refine and improve the iLUC analysis” and as a result “has incorporated significant changes in the estimation of iLUC for biofuels.”

Among the model and data updates that were included in the new estimates are re-estimated energy sector demand and supply elasticity values; improved treatment of corn ethanol co-product (DDGS); improved treatment of soy meal, soy oil, and soy biodiesel; modified structure of the livestock sector;improved method of estimating the productivity of new cropland; adopting a consistent model version and set of model inputs for all biofuel pathways; and revised yield and demand responses to price.

The question is whether the reduction for corn ethanol will be significant enough to be what the industry believes is closer to reality. Some scientists consulted by CARB believe that they are still not using the most updated modeling methods to determine iLUC and that analyses conducted since the LCFS was adopted in 2009 show emissions for corn ethanol are less than half what was estimated at the time.

The adjustments will be presented by staff at the iLUC workshop, scheduled for Tuesday, March 11, from 1:00 – 5:00 pm.

The Rise of E85

The latest edition of Today in Energy follows the rise of E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gas). According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), Minnesota leads the nation with 336 E85 retail locations, while states outside the Midwest are adding E85 stations most quickly. Today, 2 percent of all retail stations in the U.S. offer E85 serving 5 percent of the U.S. light-duty vehicle market, including flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) that can use E85.

In 2007, the majority of E85 stations were located in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin: the same states leading the nation in corn-ethanol production. Today, these states continued to add E85 stations while California, New York, Colorado, Georgia E85 retail stations by stateand Texas added 49 E85 stations through 2013. As a result, the share of nationwide E85 stations in the five traditional ethanol-producing states of the Midwest fell from 54 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2013.

California and New York have seen some of the fastest growth in new E85 fueling stations, increasing from fewer than a dozen stations combined in 2007 to more than 80 stations each in 2013. Only two states (New Hampshire and Alaska) currently have no E85 fueling stations, compared to nine that had none of these stations in 2007.

Growth in the number of E85 fueling stations has slowed in the past two years. The number of E85 fueling stations in the country nearly doubled between 2007 to 2011, from 1,229 to 2,442, but only increased by 7 percent from 2011 to 2013, when the total reached 2,625. Notwithstanding the increase in the number of retail outlets selling E85 since 2007, the vast majority of the nation’s approximately 156,000 retail motor fuel outlets do not offer E85.