Senate Rejects Obama Push to End Oil Subsidies

Despite a last minute plea by President Obama, the Senate today rejected a plan to end oil company subsidies.

“Right now, the biggest oil companies are raking in record profits –- profits that go up every time folks pull up into a gas station,” said Obama in a Rose Garden speech this morning. “But on top of these record profits, oil companies are also getting billions a year — billions a year in taxpayer subsidies -– a subsidy that they’ve enjoyed year after year for the last century.”

The president stressed the need for increased domestic oil and gas production, but also for alternative energy. “It also means that we’re going to keep developing more advanced homegrown biofuels, the kinds that are already powering truck fleets across America,” he said. “We’re going to keep investing in clean energy like the wind power and solar power that’s already lighting thousands of homes and creating thousands of jobs.”

Truman Project Fellow and Operation Free Veteran Terron Sims was present at the Rose Garden address (top center in photo) and said he was proud to stand with the President and offer support for the administration’s energy initiatives to reduce dependence on foreign sources of oil. “I’m glad that my Commander in Chief is doing what it takes to make sure we have true energy independence by taking steps to reduce our oil use and increase clean, renewable sources of American energy,” Sims said. “I hope Congress will work with the President on these goals for the sake of America’s security.”

Sims is a former US Army Captain and Iraq War veteran. Operation Free, a campaign of the Truman National Security Project, is a national coalition of US military veterans working to send the message that America’s security relies on ending our addiction to oil and establishing clean, renewable sources of energy.

The attempt to curtail oil company tax breaks was defeated in a Senate filibuster this morning to prevent the legislation from advancing. Republicans against the measure were joined in opposition by Democrats from oil-rich states.

GROWMARK Tracking Biofuels Legislative Issues

Legislative issues related to biofuels on both the Illinois state level and the national level are priorities for the GROWMARK agricultural cooperative system this year, according to government affairs director Chuck Spencer.

On the state level, Spencer says Illinois will be looking at updating sales tax incentives this year with the pending introduction of 15% ethanol blends in the consumer marketplace. “The state of Illinois has been very good at recognizing the benefits and values of biofuels, not only for the economic opportunities but also for consumers,” he said. “Right now we have a tax credit focused on E10 and as we know E15 is making it through the approval process on the national level so we’re looking at how we can adjust our state programs to match up with the increased levels of renewable fuels, 15% or even higher for ethanol in the gasoline supply.”

On the national level, maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard is important for GROWMARK and its grower members. “We are one of the larger renewable fuel distributors in the nation,” Spencer said. “We can foresee the productivity of supply on the ethanol side continuing to provide a benefit in keeping fuel costs down for consumers and we’re getting ready to plant one of the largest crops we’ve seen in quite a while so agriculture is ready to meet the demand and we’re hopeful that the rest of the country understands how important that is.”

Since GROWMARK is part owner in a Missouri-based biodiesel plant, Spencer says renewal of the biodiesel tax incentive is also important to them.

Listen to my interview with Chuck Spencer here: GROWMARK's Chuck Spencer

Novozymes CEO Named BIO 2012 George Washington Carver Award Winner

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has named Novozymes President and CEO Steen Riisgaard as the recipient of its 2012 George Washington Carver Award for innovation in industrial biotechnology.

A panel selected Riisgaard as this year’s winner “to recognize his significant contributions to the industrial biotechnology field.”

Under Riisgaard’s leadership, Novozymes is creating tomorrow’s industrial biotechnology solutions and improving the use of our planet’s resources, while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Riisgaard will receive the award and also deliver a short address during a May 1, 2012 plenary lunch session at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing. The conference is being held at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando April 29-May 2.
Washington Carver Award Recipient

“I am honored to receive the 2012 George Washington Carver Award,” Riisgaard said. “At Novozymes, we see biotechnology as a way to reshape the world’s economy and create balance between better business, a cleaner environment and better lives. This award is a mandate to continue innovating with our customers, moving towards a world where everyday products are made with organic materials instead of oil.”

The award honors the original vision of George Washington Carver, an originator of the “chemurgy” movement who, more than a century ago, achieved world renown by combining agriculture and science to produce everyday biobased products, changing the nature of farm economics and sustainability. Industrial biotechnology is the modern-day equivalent, combining biotech innovations with renewable biomass to create solutions that can revitalize manufacturing and energy.

W. Scott Thurlow Joins CRFA

W. Scott Thurlow has joined the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA) as the new president effective April 2, 2012. Thurlow, a lawyer, has past experience in government relations, legislation and regulation. Most recently, he was a Vice President with Temple Scott Associates where he provided strategic government relations advice to both corporations and nongovernmental organizations.

Tim Haig, Chair of the CRFA Board of Directors said of Thurlow’s appointment, “Scott brings an exceptional blend of strategic and resourceful skills to the CRFA. I am impressed with his emphasis on communication, leadership and his vision for the future development of the industry.”

Thurlow also has extensive experience with local and federal policy. In a past position, he served as Director of Parliamentary Affairs for the former Minister of Natural Resources.

“I embrace the opportunity to work with the CRFA membership, the board of directors, and the talented professional staff,” said Thurlow. “Renewable fuels are already a significant part of Canada’s energy mix, and I look forward to collaborating with the CRFA’s membership to help them work with all levels of government to promote the use of renewable fuels.”

Quick Brief Delves Into Bio-Industry Sustainability

How do we make the biofuels and bioproduct industry sustainable? This question is answered in the lastest “quick brief” published by Advanced Biofuels USA. According to the paper, the key is the development of low cost, decentralized biomass to biofuel production systems that can economically increase the travel distance of biomass. It is also important to make biomass available year round. Subsequently the industry could become a seamless system ready to meet market supply and demand and bioenergy producers would no longer have to rely on single crops grown close to home.

The quick brief was authored by Robert Kozak and in the paper he describes the sustainable system as able to “efficiently convert harvested field crops, slash timber, and agricultural residues at their point of production into biofuel and bioproduct precursors [oils or sugars] with sufficient value so they may be economically transported in excess of 500 miles.”

Upon completion of the journey, the paper continues, the biomass arrives at a large-scale biorefinery designed to produce bioproducts from multiple sources of biomass. In many cases, the biorefinery would be co-located with existing petroleum refineries.

Joanne Ivancic, Executive Director of Advanced Biofuels USA noted, “This paper makes clear the importance of committing to decentralized/centralized research in the 2012 Farm Bill. Turning these innovative ideas into realities will allow agricultural communities to remain viable and will bring badly needed jobs to depressed industrial areas. A commitment to this exciting future makes it clear that the Farm Bill benefits all Americans; not only farmers and farming communities.”

Ethanol Supporters Flock to DC for Biofuels Fly-in

More than 60 grassroots members of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) are on Capitol Hill this week for the “Biofuels Beltway March” annual fly-in.

The ethanol advocates were greeted on Tuesday by U.S. Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and John Thune (R-SD) and they have nearly 200 meetings scheduled with Congressional representatives and staff over the course of two days to share ethanol information to lawmakers representing 47 states. The group’s priorities include highlighting the effectiveness of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), emphasizing how ethanol helps lower prices at the pump, the safety and affordability of E15 ethanol blends, and other issues such as oil subsidies and the clean octane value of ethanol.

“With gasoline prices and energy issues taking center stage in the national discussion recently, I can’t think of a better time our grassroots members to make the case for how ethanol is part of the solution to moderating pump prices and reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” said Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of ACE.

Fly-in participants come from 13 different states, and represent a diverse group of ethanol plants and other companies with an interest in agriculture and the biofuels industry.

For members who are not able to be a part of the DC fly-in, ACE has for the second year organized a “Virtual Fly-In,” which makes it possible for ethanol supporters to send email messages to Members of Congress to coincide with the group’s face-to-face meeting. The messages urge Congress to continue to keep the Renewable Fuels Standard intact. Messages may be sent this week through ACE’s Legislative Action Center at www.capwiz.com/ethanol.

Ethanol Advocates Unite for RFS

Eight ethanol-advocating organizations joined together to champion the success of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in a letter to Congressional leaders this week.

The letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker John Boehner(R-OH) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) highlighted “ethanol’s proven ability to lower gas prices and reduce this country’s dependence upon foreign oil” and pointed out that any changes to the RFS “could dampen investment in the development of next generation biofuels.”

The groups signing the letter were the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC), Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the Energy Future Coalition, Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), and the 25×25 Alliance.

“Today, ethanol is approximately $1 cheaper than gasoline and blending ethanol into U.S. gasoline saves consumers at the pump,” the letter noted. “Thanks in part to the RFS, U.S. oil imports fell below 50 percent in 2010 for the first time since 1997, and, oil imports stand at just 45 percent today. Ethanol accounts for 81 percent of all new domestic fuel production since 2005.”

Ethanol advocates are also meeting with Congressional representatives this week on Capitol Hill to talk about the importance of renewable, domestic fuels. “This week, I am with a number of other corn growers and leaders in the biofuels industry in Washington to drive home the message that the ethanol industry is an important part of the rural economy and that it plays an important role in moving our nation’s energy independence forward,” said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer, a corn grower from Illinois. “The Renewable Fuel Standard is an important tool to help decrease our reliance on foreign oil by supporting jobs here at home.”

More than 60 grassroots members of the American Coalition for Ethanol are in Washington this week for the annual “Biofuels Beltway March.”

Dates for 2012 Process Optimization Seminar Announced

It may seem like only yesterday the last Process Optimization Seminar took place but the next seminar is right around the corner. You do not want to miss out; every past seminar has been sold out well before the deadline. This year’s conference will be taking place on July 17-18, 2012 at the Hilton President Kansas City.  The seminar is targeted for operators of ethanol plants and is focused on helping a plant achieve its highest level of profitability from its fermentation process.

The seminar features four separate areas of education:

  • Antimicrobials – This session will focus on solutions for and preventing infection and is sponsored by Phibro Ethanol Performance Group.
  • Water Treatment – This session will build on the basic of proper water treatment and is sponsored by Fremont Industries.
  • Yeast Management – This session will address the specific needs of the bioethanol producer in terms of fermentation performance and is sponsored by Fermentis.
  • Enzyme Management – This session will address optimization needs from an enzyme perspective in bioethanol processing facilities and is sponsored by Novozymes.

Attendees will be broken into groups and during the two-day seminar will attend each in-depth session. The knowledge gained by the operator will be able to be put to immediate use in the plant.

The Process Optimization Seminar is not just all about hard work and invaluable information, it is also about fun. All attendees will also have the opportunity to attend a Kansas City Royals versus Seattle Mariners game on July 17th and will watch the game in a suite at Kauffman Stadium. So don’t miss out! Early registration is now open for the investment of $325 and ends on July 6th. Registration after July 6th is $375 based on availability. You can register at  www.processoptimizationseminar.com.

Low Carbon Fuel Standard Could Double Gas Prices

A new study released today by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) indicates that a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states could result in doubling gasoline prices and other negative economic impacts.

The study, “Analysis of the Economic Impact of a Regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard on Northeast/Mid-Atlantic States,” estimates that an LCFS over ten years would result in the loss of 147,000 jobs, decrease disposable income by $28.8 billion, and result in a combined negative economic impact of $306 billion.

Eleven Northeast and Mid-Atlantic (NE/MA) states have been evaluating the implementation of a LCFS through an initiative coordinated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), which released a final report in August of last year – an analysis that CEA believes was “lacking in depth, methodology and analysis, and failed to account for the region’s energy needs.”

CEA Executive Vice President Michael Whatley said their study found that “NESCAUM relied on flawed assumptions about the market’s ability to secure an adequate supply of biofuels, the infrastructure needed to support that demand, and the projected replacement of existing vehicles. These findings further support an analysis conducted by IHS-CERA in October 2011 that found NESCAUM’s economic analysis to be deeply flawed and riddled with unrealistic assumptions regarding the availability and price of advanced biofuels, electric and natural gas powered vehicles during the timeframe of the potential LCFS mandate.”

Listen to or download comments from Whatley during a press conference this morning: CEA's Michael Whatley

Read the study here.

All-Florida Ag Show Announced

April 25-26, 2012 is the date for the new All-Florida Ag Show sponsored by Florida Grower and the Highland County Farm Bureau. The event will take place at the Highlands County Fair Convention Center in Sebring, Florida and will bring together a diverse group of agribusiness leaders ranging from fruits to vegetables to livestock to biofuels. There will also be a wide array of topics discussed during the show including labor, water, alternative energy, crop opportunities and more.

“The All Florida Ag Show is an important event to support as it provides a unique opportunity to anyone who has interest in Florida’s agriculture to meet under one roof and learn about new opportunities, as well as common challenges that our industry faces today and in the future,” stated Scott Kirouac, president of Highlands County Farm Bureau.

Several speakers have confirmed including Rich Budell, FDACS Water Policy Chief and Jack Payne, senior vice-president, UF/IFAS, John Hoblick, president, Florida Farm Bureau. In addition, Adam Putnam, Florida Agriculture Commissioner has been invited along with many other agricultural experts. There is also an expansive trade show area planned for the event.

For more information visit: www.allfloridaag.com.

Volkswagen Partners to Promote Renewable Fuels

In a collaborative partnership to promote the use of renewable diesel in its current and next-generation clean diesel passenger vehicles, Volkswagen of America Inc. is partnering with Amyris Inc. and Solazyme Inc., two of the world’s leaders in renewable fuels, to evaluate emissions reductions and demonstrate the performance of Volkswagen’s TDI Clean Diesel technology.

Under the agreements, Volkswagen will provide each company with two products—a new 2012 Passat TDI and a 2012 Jetta TDI—in order to closely examine the effects that the fuels produced by Amyris and Solazyme will have on Volkswagen clean diesel technology and the environment.

“Partnering with two leaders in advanced biofuel technology supports Volkswagen’s goal of offering a competitive suite of technologies that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve fuel efficiency and fit the diverse needs of our customers,” said Jurgen Leohold, head of Volkswagen Group Research. “In order to achieve our long-term desire of bringing CO2-neutral mobility to the market, advanced gasoline and diesel engines like TDI Clean Diesel technology must play a major role; and renewable energies to power these advanced powertrains are needed on a large scale.”

During the year-long evaluation, Volkswagen will measure the environmental impacts from the use of cleaner burning renewable diesel formulas. Initial analysis indicates that while advanced biofuels are comparable to standard diesel blends in terms of performance, there are tremendous opportunities to reduce vehicle emissions.

“Amyris’ renewable diesel’s proven superior cold weather performance, high cetane and comparable energy density to petroleum diesel have enabled us to obtain one of the highest blending registrations certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” said Mario Portela, Chief Operating Officer, Amyris. “Our partnership with Volkswagen, like our work in Brazil, where nearly 200 buses are running on various blends of Amyris diesel, is another important milestone in expanding OEM acceptance by showing our fuels eliminate the performance challenges of first generation biofuels while still enabling significant reductions in greenhouse gas and tailpipe emissions.”

“Volkswagen has continually been at the forefront of automotive innovation providing safe, quality, and environmentally sound vehicles to consumers,” said Rogerio Manso, Chief Commercialization Officer, Solazyme. “Solazyme’s 100 percent drop-in renewable diesel is compatible with existing infrastructure and vehicles, and provides the world-class engine manufacturer with an advanced diesel replacement that drives significant Greenhouse Gases (GHG) as well as ground-level emission reductions.”

IFRA: Back Biodiesel

The rule to increase the 2013 Biomass-Based Diesel volumes under the RFS to 1.28 billion gallons needs swift action by President Obama according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IFRA). The organization sent a letter to the president urging his administration to keep its track record of support for biodiesel and approve the requested increase for 2013.

IRFA President Brad Albin said that with biodiesel plants in nearly every state in the U.S, including 13 plants in Iowa, the increase in volumes would “support family-wage, skilled, green-collar jobs while decreasing our reliance on costly foreign oil and harmful tailpipe emissions.”

According to a study by Cardo ENTRIX, the .28 billion increase would support more than 10,000 new jobs. In total, the industry would contribute $2.7 billion to household income and $4.9 billion in GDP. As a U.S. Senator, Obama was an active biodiesel supporter. However, at the end of 2011, his administration announced that it would delay the decision on the RFS volume increase and the industry is still waiting for an answer.

“This is an important issue for the biodiesel industry and absolutely critical here in Iowa. IRFA calls on the Obama Administration to approve this modest volume increase as soon as possible,” said IRFA Biofuels Manager Grant Menke. He added that by the end of 2011, the industry was operating at a capacity of 1.4 billion gallons and is capable of meeting the increased target.

USDA Plays Biofuels “Matchmaker”

USDAThe U.S. Department of Agriculture will be hosting a “match making day” later this month to promote connections between agricultural producers of energy feedstocks with biorefiners seeking to produce biofuels for commercial sale and consumption.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Navy, U.S. Department of Energy, and the Federal Aviation Administration will also attend the March 30 event at USDA headquarters with the goal being to improve awareness and increase understanding of the biofuels supply-chain links between those involved in feedstock production and the processors of that feedstock into biofuels, including logistical challenges, potential roles of service providers, and potential pitfalls.

At this meeting, federal officials will provide a short profile of each section of the supply chain and representatives from the participating stakeholders will respond with brief presentations that outline their experiences in that respective supply chain sector, barriers encountered and lessons learned. They will outline potential growth and opportunities.
Short presentations will be made at the top of each hour leaving time for discussion at each table, at which a representative from each of the sectors of the biofuels supply chain should be seated, as well as one or more government official.

The event is free but participants must register by sending an email to: OSEC-RESupplyChain@osec.usda.gov with information on company, names and titles of attendees and position on the biofuels production value chain (i.e., feedstock seed developer or provider, feedstock grower or harvester, feedstock processor, feedstock transporter, feedstock storer, bio-refiner, feedstock machinery manufacturer/provider, other). More information is available by calling 202-401-0461.

Cobalt Forms New Bio n-Butanol Partnership

The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) is in the final stage of a biojet fuel project using bio n-butanol produced by Cobalt Technologies. Albemarle Corporation, a chemical company, will use NAWCWD technologies to process Cobalt’s fuel into renewable jet fuel. The project is underway in Albemarle’s Baton Rouge, Louisiana processing facility.

Dr. Michael D. Seltzer, head of NAWCWD’s Technology Transfer Program said its production run of Cobalt’s bio n-butanol is proving to be another attractive pathway to create sustainable jet fuel for both the military as well as commercial aviation.  “We are proud to be working in partnership with Cobalt and Albemarle to create this renewable jet fuel and we look forward to testing the end result.”

The project is funded by NAWCWD and was launched in February 2012. Once completed the bio jet fuel will be tested by the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center – Aircraft Division as part of the process to achieve military certification for the use of the fuel. The next step after testing will be to engage in larger production runs and additional test flights.

“This is a significant milestone not only for our collective team, but for the greater industry looking to advance sustainable jet fuels,” commented Bob Mayer, CEO of Cobalt Technologies. He added that it has been a pleasure working with the U.S. Navy to advance testing and are pleased with the choice of Albemarle as their processing partner.

Susie The Biodiesel Bike Ready For The Highway

The COO for the National Biodiesel Board, Donnell Rehagen, proudly displayed Susie, the Biodiesel Bike, to a local audience at the organization’s headquarters in Jefferson City, MO. The event happened just in time for National Biodiesel Day on March 18.

National Biodiesel Board member CIMA Green partnered with Paul Sr. and Orange County Choppers to craft a high performance diesel motorcycle ready to run on biodiesel. The motorcycle will be featured on two episodes of the hit Discovery Channel show American Chopper on March 19th and April 9th.

Originally unveiled at the Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, the bike is scheduled for several stops from coast to coast to promote biodiesel.

• March 22-24, Mid-America Trucking Show – Louisville, KY
• May 1-3, Atlantic Region Energy Expo – Atlantic City, NJ
• May 14-17, ACT Expo – Long Beach, CA
• August 28 – September 3, Farm Progress Show – Boone, IA
• October 2-3, Green Fleet Conference – Schaumburg, IL

You can listen to my interview with Donnell here: Interview with Donnell Rehagen