RFA President Addresses Ethanol Gathering

FEW 2010As he has done for many years, Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen addressed the world’s largest gathering of ethanol producers at the opening of the general session for the 2010 Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in St. Louis on Tuesday.

“We meet here today as an environmental catastrophe continues to unfold in the Gulf of Mexico. The economic and environmental cost of which is simply unimaginable,” said Dinneen. “More than ever before, now is the time to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity of America’s heartland and break our addiction to oil; now must be the time to seize control of our energy future. That future begins with the expertise and the creativity of the people in this room.”

Dinneen addressed the immediate concerns facing the ethanol industry, increasing the blend rate to 15 percent and renewing the tax incentives set to expire at the end of the year, and expressed optimism that both will yet be accomplished as long as the industry works together.

“The issues we must confront cannot be solved with press releases or a speech at an ethanol conference. In order to ensure the long term viability of this industry and those members of this industry to come, we must not shy away from hard work,” said Dinneen. “Let’s get to work.”

Listen to or download Dinneen’s speech in the player below and check out photos from FEW on Flickr.

Team Ethanol is Back on the Track

There was some big news announced during the Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) – Team Ethanol is back. Dave Vander Griend, the founder of ICM and one of the three original sponsors of the Team Ethanol IndyCar program, delivered the news that Team Ethanol will be back on the track for the first time in nearly two years at the upcoming Iowa Corn Indy 250 on Sunday, June 20th. Ryan Hunter-Reay will be returning as the driver, as part of Andretti Green Racing.

I asked Dave how the return of Team Ethanol came to be and he explained, “We thought this is an excellent opportunity to showcase the fact that fuel ethanol is also biodegradable.” He continued, “Some of the things that are happening here in the Gulf Coast and some of the issues surrounding this oil spill would not be as severe if there was a higher use of ethanol and a lower use of non biodegradable fuel in our tanks.”

Team Ethanol was a successful tool in creating awareness about higher blends of ethanol for many years. With the move to approve the option for consumers to choose higher blends at the pump, such as E15, the program demonstrates the incredible performance levels cars can achieve when using high blends of ethanol. The IndyCar Series uses 100 perfect fuel-grade ethanol.

Vander Griend said the program will bring more awareness to the public that ethanol is a good fuel. Andretti Green has four drivers, three of which are American and have a stake in what happens to our coastlines, explained Vander Griend,who also noted that they will be good spokespersons for ethanol.

ICM is a title sponsor of the Iowa Corn Indy 250 and will be a supporting sponsor through the remainder of the season. They are also hoping to raise sponsorship dollars so that Team Ethanol can compete in several more races this season.

Vander Griend concluded that the best thing about the renewable fuels industry is that they produce fuel year after year and the money stays in America. “When we spend our money on foreign oil, we use the oil up, burn it in our cars, the fuel’s gone. The money’s gone. With renewables, the fuel may also be gone but we still have the money. And that is probably the most important thing if we want to revitalize our economy.”

You can listen to my interview with Dave below and check out photos from FEW 2010 in our Flickr photo album.

26th Annual Fuel Ethanol Workshop Underway

FEW 2010The 26th Annual Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo is officially underway and the mood is much more upbeat than it was last year.

FEW 2010“The industry has been through a couple of very difficult years,” said Mike Bryan, Chairman of BBI International, which sponsors the event. “So, we’re really glad to see the industry coming back, getting revitalized. We’re kind of sticking our heads out of the foxhole again and looking around on the horizon and so that’s very encouraging.”

Bryan says there are about 2200 attendees this year and 386 exhibitors, with 25 percent of those in attendance actual ethanol producers, making it the largest gathering of producers in the world.

FEW 2010One person not here this year who is sorely missed is Mike’s wife, Kathy Bryan, who passed away in July of last year after a valiant battle with cancer. “She actually started the Fuel Ethanol Workshop 26 years ago, this was her baby right from the beginning,” Bryan says proudly. To honor her memory, they are selling commemorative beer mugs to fund ethanol industry scholarships. “She started the scholarship a number of years ago and it was very dear to her heart to provide an opportunity for young people to get into the ethanol industry,” said Bryan. Already they have sold enough of the mugs to fund two $2,000 scholarships!

Listen to my interview with Mike Bryan in the player below, and check out photos from FEW 2010 in our Flickr photo album.

Ethanol Issues at Corn Utilization Conference

cutc geoff cooperIndirect land use change and DDGs quality were two of the ethanol-related topics that were featured at the 2010 Corn Utilization and Technology Conference (CUTC) sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association and held last week in Atlanta.

Geoff Cooper with the Renewable Fuels Association took part in the event and chaired one of the technical sessions. “Five or six years ago if you had come to this conference, you would not have heard many mentions of greenhouse gases and carbon footprint and things like that, but those issues are front of mind with the industry today and those themes really permeated a lot of the sessions this year.”

Cooper says there was some discussion about an environmental group lawsuit over the Renewable Fuel Standard that claims EPA did not account for the “Global Rebound Effect.” “In essence, what the theory suggests is that by using more biofuels in the United States, we’re driving down oil consumption, which results in oil prices decreasing, and because oil prices are lower then people in other parts of the world start using more oil,” Cooper said. “So they’re suggesting that would occur as a result of the RFS 2 and that those emissions should be attributable to biofuels like ethanol.”

Of course, he points out that the goal of the RFS 2 is to reduce oil consumption. “So we find it a little questionable that now they would be suggesting that it’s a bad thing that we’re reducing our oil consumption in the U.S. as a result of that policy,” Cooper said.

The theme of the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference was “Corn: America’s Renewable Resource” and Cooper says since this year’s crop is expected to be another big one, increasing markets continues to be important. “Corn is a great crop with a lot of utility, let’s put it to work,” he said.

Listen to an interview with Geoff Cooper in the player below and see photos from the conference on Flickr.

Revving up for Iowa Corn Indy 250

The state of Iowa is getting in the racing mood this week as the 4th annual Iowa Corn Indy 250, presented by Pioneer, is upon us. The race will be held on Sunday, June 20 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton.

Iowa Corn Growers CEO Craig Floss says the race has provided them with a great platform for positive messages about corn use in food, fuel and feed for the livestock industry. “The momentum that was created the first couple of years is still paying dividends to us,” said Floss. “We’re reaching more people than ever. We have a nationwide television audience. The name recognition has really grown here in Iowa and beyond throughout the Midwest.”

Floss says they have a number of events planned this week in advance of the race. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is helping to kick off the week on Tuesday by traveling to work at the Iowa state capitol in a modified 2-seater Indy car celebrating the fact that the race will be running on locally-grown corn ethanol.

On Thursday, the Iowa corn growers and Pioneer will be sponsoring a pump promotion in Des Moines, offering E85 for just 85 cents a gallon and regular E10 for 10 cents off. Marco Andretti with Andretti Autosports and sponsored by Venom energy drink will be signing autographs and pumping ethanol for customers and fans at the event to be held at the Guthrie Street Kum & Go from 5:30-7:30 pm.

Iowa corn growers have retained the sponsorship of this race as the only IndyCar Series race to run on corn ethanol since Brazil’s ethanol industry took over sponsorship of the series and provides fuel for the rest of the races. “Ethanol is good for Iowa, it’s good for Indy, and the only difference between an Indy driver using it and the general consumer is the speed limit,” Floss says.

Listen to or download an interview with Craig Floss in the player below.

New Yeast Strain For Cellulosic Ethanol Production

Purdue University scientists have improved a strain of yeast that can produce more biofuel from cellulosic plant material by fermenting all five types of the plant’s sugars.

purdueThe researchers used genes from a fungus to re-engineer a yeast strain developed at Purdue. The new yeast can ferment the sugar arabinose in addition to the other sugars found in plant material such as corn stalks, straw, switchgrass and other crop residues.

The addition of new genes to the yeast strain should increase the amount of ethanol that can be produced from cellulosic material. Arabinose makes up about 10 percent of the sugars contained in those plants.

In addition to creating this new arabinose-fermenting yeast, the scientists also were able to develop strains that are more resistant to acetic acid, which gets into yeast cells and slows the fermentation process, adding to the cost of ethanol production.

Making the Case for Getting Rid of Biofuels Subsidies

As the biodiesel industry anxiously awaits Congress’ renewal of the federal $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax credit, an energy consulting company that specializes in biodiesel and ethanol operations is actually calling for elimination of these types of credits for all biofuels.

This opinion piece in Biofuels Digest
from Sklar & Associates makes the case that we don’t have to give the biofuels industries government money to make them competitive with petroleum (which, by the way, gets plenty of government funds):

Although these blenders’ credits have had the effect of keeping biofuels prices comparable to prices received for petroleum based transportation fuels, while providing biofuels producers with enough additional revenue to allow them to remain in operation at a time of falling petroleum prices, it appears that blenders’ credits programs will ultimately prove to be inadequate.

First, they do not provide the certainty that adequate biofuels prices can always be obtained. The obvious problem is structural, as the blenders’ credits are set by legislation as a fixed amount per gallon, and subject to change, without regard to changes in fuels market prices.

Second, blenders’ credit legislation that is passed is subject to potential revision, discontinuance or repeal, depending on the prevailing mood in the Congress. And investors in projects that rely on price floors that are propped up by blenders’ credits, have no assurance that these floors would be sustained over the project’s life.

So what’s the solution? The article goes on to say that while more taxes on petroleum-based fuels are bad ideas, there are a couple of things that can be done that would equalize cost differentials that different blenders actually incur:

a) A biofuels use mandate imposed by the Federal Government on blenders of gasoline and diesel fuel to create a demand for biofuels; and,

b) A biofuels cost equalization program similar to the FEA’s Old Oil Entitlements program that would make those blenders who do not blend the mandated percentage of biofuels into their petroleum fuels products, to pay the added cost they would have incurred for doing so, to those resellers who blend more than the mandated percentage at a higher cost.

It’s an interesting concept, but I think I would feel better if we got rid of the subsidies to Big Oil and cut the biofuel makers a bit a slack. But, hey, I’m no consultant.

EIA Releases Weekly Ethanol Supply & Production Info

Beginning this week, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) will release weekly ethanol supply and production numbers. In tandem with this change, the Renewable Fuels Association announced that it will begin providing a weekly note in addition to these statistics as well as offer any additional information that the organization feels is important to the market.

For the week ending June 4, 2010, EIA has reported that domestic ethanol production averaged 839,000 barrels per day (b/d). This equates to more than 35 million gallons per day. In addition, EIA noted that more than 768.6 million gallons of ethanol are in storage. For comparison, total finished gasoline demand (including conventional gasoline, reformulated gasoline or RFG and imports) averaged more than 386 million gallons daily for the week.

Due to the fact that this is the first week of data available, there is no historic data with which to compare. However, as a point of reference, the average daily production for June was 694,000 b/d.

For more information on current ethanol production numbers and historical data, visit RFA’s website at www.ethanolrfa.org.

ICM Recieves $25M From DOE for Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

ICM has announced that they have received $25 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to aid in the construction and operation of its cellulosic ethanol pilot plant located in St. Joseph, Missouri. The company is also contributing $6 million of its own funds required for the cost-share element of the DOE program. The $31 million cooperative agreement is administered by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

“We’re excited to have completed the award agreement with the DOE and look forward to commencing the first phase of pilot plant construction,” said Dave Vander Griend, ICM President and CEO. “ICM understands the importance of utilizing Recovery funds to help strengthen our nation’s energy independence, foster job creation across rural America, and produce cleaner, more sustainable fuel.”

Construction is expected to begin in August of 2010 and ICM anticipates that the first demonstration phase will be up and running by January 2011 and fully operational by 4th quarter 2011. The company will modify its existing dry fractionation grain-to-ethanol pilot plant located at LifeLine Foods, LLC to begin producing fuel ethanol from captive corn fiber and along with two cellulosic feedstocks switchgrass and energy sorghum. Novozymes will be providing the enzymes used in the process.

The company has developed new technology and will be testing pretreatment, hydrolysis and fermentation processes, all critical elements of cost competitive cellulosic ethanol production. Another strategy the company is applying is co-locating the cellulosic plant next to an existing grain ethanol plant to increase efficiencies and accelerate the production of cellulosic ethanol to commercial scale.

Vander Griend concluded, “DOE’s funding of this award will help our industry continue to displace imported petroleum with domestically produced fuels and help accelerate ethanol production targets that were mandated in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).”

ADM Calls for the Approval of E12

While ethanol supporters continue to wait on the fate of the E15 Waiver, ADM has spoken out today and requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pass E12 (twelve percent ethanol and 88 percent gasoline). The “Green Jobs Waiver,” also known as the “E15 Waiver” is a request that would allow conventional vehicles to use up to a 15 percent ethanol blend (E15) in their tanks. The ruling must be given by the EPA and the latest rumors coming out of Washington are that the waiver will be passed but with a stipulation on what vehicles would be approved for the higher ethanol blend (potentially cars manufactured 2001 or after).

Today, ADM submitted a formal request to the EPA seeking approval of ethanol-gasoline blends containing up to E12 for all cars. In addition, they also formally requested that the EPA alter its Clean Air Act interpretive rule to allow for the higher oxygen content in E12. The Clean Air Act is the piece of legislation that would need to be changed to legally allow any blends of ethanol in addition to E10 and E85.

In a company statement ADM said, “We commend the EPA for its thorough consideration of the E15 waiver request. ADM continues to support full implementation of the E15 waiver request, but believes that limiting E15 to model year 2001 and newer cars will not meet the goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) or the President’s goal of tripling biofuels production over the next twelve years.”

“We believe immediate interim approval and implementation of E12 for all cars provides a sound path to advance our nation’s renewable energy goals,” concluded ADM.

The ethanol industry reacted to ADM’s call to action today Continue reading

Iowa Indy Race Spotlights Corn Ethanol

Dario FranchittiThe only Indy race to still run on homegrown corn ethanol is just around the corner. The 2010 Iowa Corn Indy 250, presented by Pioneer, will once again showcase 100% race powered corn-ethanol during the 4th annual race in Newton, Iowa on June 20.

2010 Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti won the very first Iowa Corn Indy in 2007, when the series first started using 100 percent ethanol. He says Indy’s transition to ethanol was a winner. “It was a big deal for us when we first switched over to ethanol,” he said during an Indy racing press conference Monday. “We’ve had tremendous success as a series with ethanol and had a really seamless transition. It’s just been a real win-win situation for the IndyCar Series.”

The Iowa Corn Indy 250 has been a win-win for Franchitti, who won it again in 2009. He hopes to be able to take home a third fuel-pump designed trophy this year.

The Iowa Corn Indy 250 is presented by Pioneer, with support from the Iowa Corn Promotion Board and the Iowa Corn Grower’s Association. It is the only Indy race this year to run on corn ethanol, since Brazil’s ethanol industry has taken over sponsorship of the series and provides fuel for the rest of the races.

Listen to or download Franchitti’s comments about ethanol in the player below:

USDA Chief Confident of Ethanol Blend Increase

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack believes that the Environmental Protection agency will increase the amount of ethanol allowed in regular gasoline above the current ten percent.

“I’m very confident that we’re going to see an increase in the blend rate,” said Vilsack in a telephone press conference from Iowa on Friday.

Vilsack also said that long-term extensions of the ethanol subsidies are needed in order to attract private capital to meet the mandate of 36 billion gallons of ethanol production by 2022. “We need a plan. We need to show that there’s a way to get to 36 billion gallons,” he said. “We want to find out how many refineries we need to build, we need to find out what feedstocks need to be advanced in terms of research and development. We need to figure out how to do things more efficiently with our current systems and how we might be able to incent those efficiencies. We need to figure out a distribution system and how many blender pumps are we gonna need and where are they going to be located and how do we get started doing that.”

The secretary says he has a team working on that plan and hopes to have it ready by the end of summer.

New Central Florida E85 Station

Motorists in Central Florida with Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) can now fill up with 85 percent ethanol in Lakeland.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Protec Fuel have announced the availability of E85 for both the general public and government fleets at the Fleetwing retail station in Lakeland, which is near Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The station utilized Protec Fuel’s turnkey E85 fuel program which included the conversion process to an E85 fueling pump, E85 supply and promotional marketing. Protec’s fuel supply and marketing program for Fleetwing is built around a strong strategic partnership with the Renewable Fuels Association, General Motors, Testing LLC and many other reputable companies. Fleetwing also supplies a private fleet E85 fueling station in Lakeland.

RFA Market Development Director, Robert White says efforts to install more of these types of fueling stations are underway with a goal to at least triple the availability of these blends within the next few years. “Florida alone has added several new E85 fueling stations installed within the past two months,” he said.

Brazil Invests in Next Generation Ethanol

The Brazilian Innovation Agency, FINEP (Research and Projects Financing), and Brazil’s National Development Bank have entered into a new partnership to promote bioethanol development, providing up to $540 million in financing to the country’s biofuels sector to promote innovation in the field of bioethanol.

The funding will be invested in technology projects over the next three to four years, which would advance the use of sugarcane bagasse and straw, to produce second generation ethanol and new products such as polymers, special oils and biodiesel. This is an initial step toward the development of an industrial complex for ethanol in Brazil, following a similar model to that of Brazil’s petrochemical industry. The goal is to double Brazil’s ethanol production capacity in the country without increasing the area necessary to plant sugarcane.

ZeaChem Breaks Ground on Biorefinery

ZeachemBiomass refinery developer ZeaChem broke ground last week in Boardman, Oregon for a 250,000 gallon-per-year facility that will eventually be used to turn wood and other feedstocks into cellulosic ethanol.

The plant will initially use ZeaChem’s technology to produce ethyl acetate, which the company says is a salable chemical intermediate and precursor to cellulosic ethanol. With a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the company is scheduled to begin production of cellulosic ethanol in 2011.

ZeaChem has contracted with GreenWood Resources (GWR), a Portland-based timberland investment manager, to obtain sustainable hybrid poplar tree feedstock from nearby farms. Because the technology is feedstock agnostic, ZeaChem will also process trials of herbaceous crops, agricultural residuals and other renewable biomass resources.