American Ethanol will be on center stage at the Michigan NASCAR race this weekend including driver Austin Dillon behind the wheel of the #33 car in a cool black and green ethanol paintout.
Dillon says the use of 15% ethanol blended fuel as a clean burning alternative has had great benefits for NASCAR racing. “If you look back on our history on performance and see how clean our engines burn, it’s been an easy transition from our old fuel to American ethanol,” he says. “Our engines run great and create horsepower each and every race and you don’t have a fuel problem as far as running out of fuel and you can still run the long runs over a long period of time.”
Dillon also uses ethanol in his everyday car because he believes it is helping to create a better, greener future for future generations. “The fuel speaks for itself, the way that it’s enabling us to have cleaner burning fuel,” he said. “To be able to go out and really perform well and still have a fuel that burns clean is awesome. I want my kids to be able to enjoy the same things that I have been able to enjoy with our country and I feel like moving to a green initiative like American ethanol is important for everyone.”
As the grandson of racing legend Richard Childress, Dillon and his family have been involved in the racing business for generations and he says having American Ethanol as a sponsor has opened their eyes to the benefits of ethanol to the environment for the future.
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is questioning the results of a recent study from Rice University and University of California that looked 40 years ahead at farming and climate change. The study finds corn ethanol has water issues that outweigh potential reductions in tailpipe emissions. In response, NCGA is saying they need to go back to the “research table”.
“At a time when meteorologists struggle to tell you what the weekend will be like, it’s odd to see a report that tries to so specifically pinpoint the weather 40 years from now,” said NCGA President Pam Johnson. “But that’s only one of the problems we have with this very problematic study.”
The report, forecasts that the yield of corn grown for ethanol in the U.S. would be reduced by an average of seven percent over the next four decades, and the amount of irrigation needed for the corn would increase by nine percent.
Among its other flaws, Johnson noted:
The report news release clearly states the bias of the authors, who “have long questioned the United States’ support of biofuels as a means to cut vehicle emissions,” the release said. It’s no wonder, then, that the report looks ahead a full four decades to criticize an ethanol policy, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which only cover renewable fuels for the next nine years.
An Idaho ethanol plant is producing distillers corn oil that could go in to biodiesel production. Pacific Ethanol Inc. announced that it is using ICM Inc.’s Advanced Oil Separation System™ to get the corn oil at its 60 million gallon a year Magic Valley, ID plant.
Neil Koehler, the company’s president and CEO, stated: “Corn oil is a high value co-product with multiple markets including animal feed and biodiesel. Corn oil sales at our Magic Valley plant diversifies our revenue streams, providing greater financial stability to the plant, and is expected to contribute as much as $4.5 million or seven cents per gallon of operating income annually.”
Pacific Ethanol, Inc. touts itself as the leading marketer and producer of low-carbon renewable fuels in the Western United States, with an 83 percent interest in and operating four ethanol plants in the West with a combined operating capacity of 200 million gallons.
The Corn Farmers Coalition is educating policymakers in D.C. about how U.S. family farmers produce corn, (also used to produce ethanol) the top crop in the nation. Sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and its state affiliates, the campaign showcases how innovative and high-tech corn farmers have become by introducing a foundation of facts about farmers and farmers. The campaign will also benefit consumers, who according to a recent ZimmPoll, ag marketing is “not so good”.
“This has always been a crucial time of year in Washington to make sure our lawmakers and those who influence them remember the importance of corn farming to our nation and our economy,” said Pam Johnson, NCGA president and a corn grower in Iowa. “Our state corn checkoff programs have seen the importance of this program each year for educating a very important audience about this essential crop and its high value.”
The campaign launched June 1, 2013 with a major advertising presence in Washington that puts prominent facts about family farmers in front of thousands on Capitol Hill, starting with “station domination” at Union Station through the month of June. The large-format ads will travel to the Capitol South Metro station for July. In addition, online advertising will appear influential Hill publications. Continue reading →
The National Corn Growers Association recently submitted comments on the impact of the Renewable Fuel Standard to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in response to their second white paper, “Agricultural Sector Impacts.” In these comments, NCGA addressed how the RFS affects commodity products including corn, agricultural output and economics, RFS flexibility, food prices, cellulosic feedstock and global impacts.
The comments began by noting that corn farmers have responded to the increased demand of ethanol from the Renewable Fuel Standard by producing more corn and doing so in a more environmentally friendly manner. “In the last 30 years, corn production has improved on all measures of resource efficiency, by decreasing per bushel: land use by 30 percent, soil erosion by 67 percent, irrigation by 53 percent, energy use by 43 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 36 percent.”
Comments also noted the energy security and environmental benefits attributable to the RFS. “RFS has increased national energy security by creating a market for renewable fuel as a substitute for non-renewable petroleum-based fuel, thereby accelerating the nation’s progress toward a low greenhouse gas emissions economy. In addition, the RFS has contributed to the reduction of petroleum imports.”
The remainder of the comments directly addressed questions posed by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce about impacts of the RFS. Topics of particular interest included impacts attributable to the RFS on corn prices, food prices, job creation, economic growth and land use change. NCGA comments provided a detailed look at the myriad of factors involved in each area that are often overlooked in discussions about this standard including: the impact of export demand for soy from China; the direct impact of the drought on beef production; alternative models and theories concerning the idea of indirect land use change; the impact of rising global labor and diesel costs on food cost; and the inherent flexibility of the standard.
Since ethanol production has grown under the Renewable Fuel Standard over the past six years, government farm program payments for corn growers have declined to their lowest levels in recent history, which is saving taxpayer dollars.
In a new E-xchange Blog post, Renewable Fuels Association VP for Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper shows how the RFS has helped boost corn prices above cost of production since 2007, which decreases program payments. Prior to 2007, going back to 1990, the market price for corn exceeded the cost of production only once (1996) between 1990 and 2006. In some years (e.g., 1993, 1998-2000, 2005), the cost of production was nearly $1 per bushel higher than the harvest price paid to the farmer.
Between 1990 and 2006, producing corn was a losing business proposition. In all but one of those 17 years, the average farmer’s cost of producing corn was higher than the returns earned from selling the corn. In other words, corn cost more to produce than it was worth. As a result, U.S. grain farmers became increasingly reliant on government payments as a source of income—and as a means of survival. Due in part to the emergence of the ethanol industry and the certainty provided by the RFS, this dynamic has changed.
Cooper notes that since passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) and expansion of the RFS in 2007 corn prices have been above the cost of production, and government payments have fallen. “Though not reflected in the above figures (due to lack of 2012 cost of production data), government payments to corn farmers in 2012 are forecast to be their lowest in 18 years and less than one-quarter of 2006’s outlays,” Cooper writes. “As a consequence of the grain sector’s economic resurgence, Congress is now considering sweeping changes to the Farm Bill that would further reduce the program’s impact on taxpayers and the federal budget.”
The campaign is hosting a National Tree Planting initiative this month encouraging racing teams, tracks, drivers, partners and fans to pledge to plant some trees today – Earth Day – to help offset carbon emissions produced over the three national series over the season. Through the course of one mature tree’s lifetime, it absorbs about one metric ton of carbon dioxide – the same amount of carbon dioxide emitted by a NASCAR Sprint Cup™ car driving 500 miles.
American Ethanol has pledged to plant a tree for every mile raced in April. With almost 4,000 miles fuels by Sunoco Green E15 over the month, the 4,000 trees planted will be enough to offset the carbon emissions of all the miles driven on American-made ethanol in practices and qualifying laps.
“American Ethanol shares the commitment of NASCAR to operate sustainably and do our part to protect and preserve the environment,” said National Corn Growers Association board member Jon Holzfaster of Nebraska. “Farmers manage their farms every day with the tandem goals of making a profit but doing it in a way that is better for the environment. So we are proud to expand our commitment to NASCAR Green.”
NASCAR has also released a 30-second TV ad featuring Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle and spotlighting the use of ethanol. “So, wanna be eco-friendly?” the announcer asks Biffle, who answers “Of course.”
ANNCR: “Ok, got corn?”
BIFFLE: “We got that.”
ANNCR: “Got some of it blended into fuel?”
BIFFLE: “Got it.”
ANNCR: “Got a car to use that fuel?”
BIFFLE: “Sure do.”
According to Fuels America, the biofuels industry is getting its green on with improved sustainability measures adopted throughout the biofuel chain. The chain – from farm to fiber to fuel– is meeting needs for energy, food and fiber in a more environmentally sensitive manner each day. During a press call this week, farmers and ethanol industry experts gave a briefing on the increased sustainability measures taken in renewable fuel production from farm to fuel tank.
Despite significant efficiencies in water use, energy efficiency, and soil and land conservation, ethanol opponents are still insisting that biofuels are non environmentally friendly. But the agricultural industry and the biofuels industry explain this is simply not true. During the briefing, expert Fred Yoder, farmer and pas president of the National Corn Growers Association touted some of the new sustainable farming and harvesting technologies and noted that his father said he would leave the land is better health to his son and that he must pass on the land in better condition that it arrived to him.
Finally, Adam Monroe, president of Novozymes North America, talked about the cutting edge enzymes they have developed with partners throughout the biofuels chain to help improve the fermentation and ultimate production of biofuels.
Domestic corn use for 2012/13 is projected 100 million bushels lower as a 50-million-bushel increase in corn used to produce ethanol partly offsets the lower projection for feed and residual disappearance. Larger-than-expected March
1 corn supplies, lower corn prices, and favorable margins for producing and blending ethanol limit the expected year-to-year decline in ethanol production during the second half of the marketing year (March-August).
The report also projects higher world corn production, increasing 1.5 million tons for Brazil, 1.4 million tons for Europe with upward revisions to production in Spain, Hungary, and Poland and a bit more for Russia on the final government estimate.
As we reported earlier this week, the latest USDA 2013 Prospective Plantings report says corn acreage will be at its highest level ever, but soybeans are expected to be lower. You would think that could be bad news for biodiesel makers, who make the green fuel primarily from soybeans. But Biodiesel Magazine points out that biodiesel refineries are already clamoring for ethanol plants’ corn oil, and the expected increase in corn at ethanol plants could increase the amount of corn oil being made into biodiesel:
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, corn oil use for biodiesel production almost doubled in the U.S. from 2011 to 2012, jumping from 304 million pounds to 571 million pounds, despite nearly the same volume of biodiesel produced both years. U.S. biodiesel producers used more corn oil last year than tallow, poultry fat or white grease, nearly matching yellow grease. In December alone, corn oil for biodiesel production was surpassed only by soybean oil.
Now soybean oil is still king in the biodiesel feedstock world, so we’ll have to keep an eye if the uptick in corn acres (and the oil it produces) will be able to pick up any slack from the downtick in soybean acres.
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has developed a comparison of the environmental impacts of ethanol and petroleum as transportation fuels. Using scientific data, the side-by-side comparison examines a wide array of environmental factors. Most know today that petroleum, made from oil, is not “renewable”. Created over millions of years, it will takes thousands of years for more oil to be developed. However, ethanol made from corn is renewable, with each new crop, a new crop of ethanol can be produced.
Here are some other key highlights of NCGA’s comparison:
Ethanol is a tiny single substance that is non-toxic. Petroleum is a mixture of hundreds of different molecules and is toxic to biological organisms.
Corn used for ethanol in the United States is grown on approximately five percent of our nation’s cropland. For perspective, ethanol production uses less than three percent of all grain crops grown over the entire world. Petroleum is mined across the entire globe and must be extracted from deep underground. In order to collect petroleum, landscape fragmentation and the generation of toxic, hazardous and potentially radioactive waste streams often occurs.
Most corn-to-ethanol production facilities are located within 15 miles of the farms where the crop was produced. Since petroleum extraction happens across the globe wherever deposits can be found, it must be shipped to a facility where it can be refined.
Based on the results of scientific testing, the EPA considers corn starch ethanol as producing 23 percent less greenhouse gas emissions compared to making and burning gasoline from petroleum. Recent evidence shows multiple ways of producing ethanol with 50 percent or less GHG compared to gasoline production.
The U.S. oil and gas industry generates more solid and liquid waste than municipal, agricultural, mining and other sources combined.
NCGA says that looking at how the production of these fuels compares side-by-side, it becomes evident that ethanol is truly renewable and produced in a greener manner than its fossil fuel counterparts. Where petroleum creates reliance upon a fuel pulled from the ground and imported from abroad, ethanol improves our environment while increasing our national and energy security. Click here for the full comparison.
“This will be the highest total amount of acres for those two crops that we have on record,” said USDA chief economist Joe Glauber.
Corn growers intend to plant 97.3 million acres of corn for all purposes in 2013, up slightly from last year and 6 percent higher than in 2011. If realized, this will represent the highest planted acreage in the United States since 1936 when an estimated 102 million acres were planted. “While farmers struggled with drought last year, they remain resilient and dedicated to producing an abundant corn crop in 2013,” National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Martin Barbre said. “This report shows that the innovative American farmer understands the increasing global demands of corn for food, feed, fuel and fiber and that they see the importance of meetings those needs.”
The majority of acres gained lie outside of the traditional Corn Belt, with only Minnesota, North Dakota and Ohio projecting increased acreage planted to corn within that area. Acres planted to corn outside of the Corn Belt made gains in Arkansas, Georgia, Texas and Mississippi. Final planting projections remained close to last year’s acreage as Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota all project planting at least 100,000 fewer acres than in 2012, with Illinois projecting acres planted to corn will drop by 600,000 acres from 2012. The actual number of planted acres will be released in USDA’s June 28 report.
Soybean acres are estimated at 77.1 million acres, down slightly from last year but the fourth highest on record.
“Some crop rotation and tillage combinations are more environmentally benign than others,” said Ben Gramig, a Purdue agricultural economist and the study’s lead researcher. “But there are water quality and greenhouse gas tradeoffs when collecting stover.”
As Gramig explains, stover is the parts of a corn plant that remain after grain harvest. Greenhouse gases from cropfields are released into the atmosphere when carbon escapes disturbed soils during stover removal. Emissions also occur when nitrogen fertilizer is applied to the land or crop residues decompose. Plowing fields loosens soil and, when combined with removing stover, causes increased soil erosion.
The study examined the environmental effects and costs of stover collection from eight corn-soybean rotation and continuous corn systems in a watershed typical of the eastern Corn Belt. The comparisons were made by combining results from watershed and greenhouse gas computer simulation models and minimizing the cost of stover collection, to select which farming practices to use in an agricultural watershed.
Beginning in summer 2012, the prices of ethanol and corn reached levels where production costs at relatively simple ethanol plants exceeded revenue. These simple plants, which are not able to recover corn oil, make up a diminishing portion of the ethanol industry. Reacting to the market conditions, several ethanol plants temporarily shut down. By January 2013, the number of idled ethanol plants had grown to at least 20.
Relatively simple ethanol plants produce ethanol and distillers grains from corn. More advanced plants are able to recover other products, like corn oil, from a portion of the distillers grains. Ethanol plants with corn oil recovery units are able to earn more revenue, so they usually have higher profit margins than plants without corn oil recovery, even if their production costs are slightly higher.
According to the EIA report, corn oil recovery is one of several strategies that the ethanol industry is developing to improve margins. “Others involve switching to processes that are more advantageous under the renewable fuels standard (RFS). For instance, Aemetis in Keyes, California, is changing its feedstock from corn to sorghum and replacing its natural gas consumption with biomass. Other companies plan to produce butanol rather than ethanol, or integrate cellulosic feedstock, such as wood waste or corn stover (e.g., leaves, stalks, and leftover cobs after the corn harvest). These approaches allow their products to qualify as advanced biofuels under the RFS, a category that specifically excludes ethanol produced from cornstarch, which has been the dominant feedstock for the U.S. ethanol industry.”
Read more here.
Projected corn use for ethanol this season remains unchanged at 4.5 billion bushels, which is down 10 percent from last year on lower gasoline use, according to USDA Deputy Chief Economist Rob Johansson. “Obviously we expect that will increase towards the end of this year when the new crop comes in,” said Johansson.
Corn exports were lowered 75 million bushels, imports were increased 25 million, and feed usage was increased by 100 million – due in part to “continued expansion in poultry production.” The projected season-average farm price for corn was lowered by 20 cents a bushel to $6.75-7.45.