Big Oil / Big Auto E15 Study ‘Biased’ & ‘Inconclusive’

The ethanol industry is responding today to a recent study designed to test vehicle compatibility with E15 and higher blends of ethanol. The study, “Mid-Level Ethanol Blends Catalyst Durability Study Screening,” was conducted by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC), a non-profit organization funded by the auto and oil industry. According to Growth Energy, the research is “inconclusive” because it failed to complete sufficient vehicle testing and it ignored a ‘pile of data’ from academic, government and third-party research that has shown that E15 does not harm engine and emission systems or affect durability or drivability.

As disclosed in the CRC report, the organization’s aim was to show higher temperatures in certain vehicles using various blends of ethanol. They did in fact accomplish this goal but the average temperature change in the 4 cylinder vehicles was only a 2.0- 2.7 degree increase from E10 to E15 but there was a degree variance of 200 degrees among some of the vehicles. The reason for this could be that some of the vehicles were not designed to run on ethanol blends so the computer systems were not programmed to adjust to the alternative fuels. This said, these computer systems could be re-programmed to run on mid-level ethanol blends with no negative effects.

In addition, CRC did not disclose that of the 25 makes and models chosen for testing, several of them are more prone to catalysis failure than others regardless of the intermediate blend in the tank – meaning that particular car’s design is a bad design and will fail even if using straight gasoline.  Continue reading

Plant Makes Fuel from Waste and Fiber

An Iowa corn ethanol plant has been converted to produce commercial cellulosic biofuels from fiber and municipal waste.

fiberightClean technology company Fiberight announced today that it has started “commenced production at the nation’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant using enzymatic conversion technology and industrial / municipal solid waste (MSW) as feedstock.” According to a company release, Fiberight converted a former first generation corn ethanol plant in Blairstown, Iowa to cellulosic biofuel production. Following a total $24 million investment, the facility will be scaled to final commercial production capacity of approximately 6 million gallons of biofuel per year in 2011.

fiberightFiberight provides a new paradigm for environmentally sustainable waste management by offering a strong economic solution for over 60% of the trash stream, by turning it into valuable biofuel as a commercially viable alternative to traditional landfill disposal or incineration. In addition to solving a major trash disposal problem, Fiberight’s biorefineries will fulfill the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mandates under the National Renewable Fuel Standard program (known as RFS2) that provides statutory requirements for the incorporation of renewable biofuel, including cellulosic ethanol, as part of the nation’s transportation fuel. For 2011, the cellulosic standard has been set for 250 million gallons (mg) increasing to 16 billion gallons (bg) by 2022. Fiberight is well positioned to support this renewable biofuel goal as reaffirmed by the Obama Administration under 40 CFR part 80 this past February.

The Blairstown facility will use initial feedstock from paper pulp wastes from a paper plant in Cedar Rapids, IA followed by integration of other industrial wastes and processed MSW from Fiberight’s operations in Lawrenceville, VA. By mid-summer, operations are projected to begin use of MSW from the Benton County municipality and other Iowa landfills. At targeted full production, the Blairstown plant will be processing over 350 tons of wastes per day into valuable biofuel, at a cost of less than $1.65 per gallon.

Courts Consolidate Corn Oil Extraction Lawsuits

In February, DomesticFuel brought you a story regarding GreenShift Corporation’s lawsuit against Big River Resources Galva, Big River Resources West Burlington and Cardinal Ethanol. GreenShift claims that the plants, using ICM’s corn extraction technology, are infringing upon their U.S. patent covering its corn oil extraction technology. In a companion matter, ICM filed a lawsuit against CleanTech, the affiliate of GreenShift Corporation, in federal court in Kansas last October requesting that the court declare CleanTech’s patent invalid. In addition, ICM filed motions on behalf of their plants to stay the proceedings and consolidate them with the Kansas case.

During the past several weeks, courts in Indiana and Illinois has ruled in favor of the ethanol plants and all cases will be tried in the Kansas court alongside the request to invalidate CleanTech’s patent.

Brian Burris, ICM’s General Counsel, stated, “ICM is pleased with the recent rulings by the U.S. District Courts in Indiana and Illinois regarding the litigation proceedings with GS CleanTech. As we have previously stated, ICM strongly believes that GS CleanTech’s alleged patent claims are and will be proved to be invalid. Since our inception in 1995, ICM remains committed to our industry and our customers – whether through creating revenue-enhancing products and services, or assuming their defense in cases such as this.”

Ethanol Demand a Topic at Clean Energy Forum

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other administration officials joined rural stakeholders for a clean energy economy forum at the White House on Wednesday, which was the one year anniversary of President Obama’s Biofuels Directive.

clean energy forum“Renewable energy production is a key to sustainable economic development in rural America,” Vilsack said. “We must rapidly escalate the production of biofuels to meet the 2022 Federal Renewable Fuels standard goal, and much of this biofuel will come from feedstocks produced by America’s farmers and ranchers. This will be an increasing source of income for rural America and it represents an opportunity to increase the number of green jobs available not only to farm families, but to residents of rural communities.”

Two panels moderated by the Secretary consisted of administration, academic and science professionals discussing efforts to help rural America build a clean energy economy that creates jobs, reduces our dependence on foreign oil and enhances our competitive position in the global economy.

USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber discussed the current situation for ethanol, with production outpacing use. “We are producing a lot of ethanol,” said Glauber. “It doesn’t mean we’re necessarily at the blend wall, but there is a lot of production out there for the supply.”

He noted that ethanol stocks have grown. “In February, stock numbers were close to 800 million gallons. That’s a record, that’s about 25 or so days of inventory,” Glauber said.

While the ethanol industry is hopeful that EPA will grant a waiver to allow up to 15 percent ethanol to be blended in regular gasoline, Glauber is doubtful that will be a quick fix. “I don’t think that a change to E15 will transform the situation overnight,” Glauber said, since he believes the transition at the pump level will take some time. If the EPA only grants a partial waiver for E15 in newer vehicle, Glauber says the transition will be even more complicated. “Then there will have to be E10 available for those older cars and E15 potentially available for younger cars, so it’s not a silver bullet for the constraints that we see ethanol production under right now.”

EPA continues to wait on data from the Department of Energy on vehicle testing before they make a final decision on the waiver request.

Ethanol Report on Oil Spill Response

Ethanol Report PodcastAddressing the tragedy hitting the Gulf of Mexico and coastal areas requires both an aggressive short term response and an equally aggressive long term energy and environmental strategy. Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen is asking the Obama administration to take action to help increase the use of ethanol, starting with immediately allowing up to 12 percent ethanol in gasoline. This edition of “The Ethanol Report” features Dinneen’s comments on actions to promote increased ethanol production and use that could be taken in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

You can subscribe to this twice monthly podcast by following this link.

Listen to or download the podcast here:

Ford Will Meet It’s FFV Goal for 2010

In 2006, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors all promised to double annual FFV production to 2 million vehicles by 2010. Ford has announced that by the end of 2010, they will fulfill that promise.

In a letter that was addressed to Members of Congress on June 28, 2006, the automobile manufacturers stated:
When we met with leaders in Washington last month, we were encouraged to find deep, bipartisan determination to address the far reaching impact of our nation’s growing dependence on foreign oil. As we reiterated last month, we believe renewable fuels can play an important role in addressing this national problem. The good news is that ethanol and other biofuels are well known to our country and to the U.S. auto industry. For decades, farmers in the heartland have been turning corn into fuel, and, likewise, we at DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and General Motors have been building flexible vehicles that run on ethanol.

Today, there are more than 5 million flexible fuel vehicles on the road, and the three domestic automotive companies will add an additional million cars and trucks this year alone. If all of these vehicles were running on E85, they would displace more than 3.5 billion gallons of gasoline a year, or a full year of gas consumption in a state such as Missouri or Tennessee.

But we are prepared to do more. We are proud to announce that we will double our production of vehicles that are capable of running on renewable fuels by 2010. That’s more than two million E85 and biodiesel capable vehicles a year by the end of the decade – the single largest commitment to renewable fuels in our nation’s history.

Ford’s announcement was made today by Sue Cischke, Ford’s group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, at the 2010 BIO International Convention in Chicago. “Flexible-fuel vehicles are a great alternative for our customers because they provide owners with the option to choose between using E85 and gasoline when filling up a car,” Cischke said. “Ethanol and other biofuels also help reduce the county’s dependence on imported oil.”

Ford along with DaimlerChrysler and General Motors plans to expand its fleet of flexible-fuel vehicles to 50 percent of vehicle production by 2012.

Ford currently offers 11 FFV models within the U.S.

2011 Buick Regals to Be FFVs

The 2011 Buick Regals will soon join the line as being E85 compatible. Starting in the fall months, Buick retailers will have on their lots the Regal and the Lucerne as being able to use the clean burning product.

According to Autoblog.com, the E85 capable 2.0-liter direct injected turbo four will begin arriving on lots in late August, along with the 2.4-liter. The turbo will be GM’s first production E85-capable turbocharged and direct injected engine. The engine was originally developed for the new Saab 9-5, which rides on the same Epsilon II platform as the Regal, and GM decided to install it in the U.S.-spec Buick as well. The new Regal has been available in China since late 2008.

According Jim Federico, vehicle line executive for the global midsize platform, combining direct injection and turbocharging will allow the new engine to get much closer to the volumetric fuel efficiency of gasoline while running on ethanol. Until now, normally aspirated flex-fuel engines typically have gotten about 15 percent worse fuel efficiency on ethanol. The Regal engine should cut that deficit to the mid-single digits and future versions should be just about even.

General Motors now offers a large selection of E85 compatible vehicles for purchase including the Chevrolet HHR, Malibu, Taho, Avalanche, Express, Impala and Suburban along with the GMC Yukon, Sierra, and Savana among others.

ND to Hold Ethanol Workshop

American Lung Association in North Dakota will be hosting an ethanol workshop at the National Energy Center of Excellence at Bismarck State College from 1-4:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 27.

The workshop is one of many that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is leading to inform industry, public and private fleet personnel, government employees, fuel retailers and providers, vehicle manufacturers and students on biodiesel, ethanol, natural gas, propane, fuel economy and idle reduction. The workshops are part of the Clean Transportation Education Project (CTEP) — a 2 year initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to provide 48 alternative fuel and advanced transportation technology workshops across the U.S.

The workshops are also sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Commerce Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, Great Plains Energy Corridor and North Dakota Corn Council.

The state of North Dakota is offering $2 million for ethanol blender pump infrastructure. They are offering $5,000 per pump with a cap of $40,000 per station. For more information on this grant opportunity, click here.

For more information on the free workshop, contact Don Kaiser at (701) 225-4143.

NASCAR Eyes Ethanol Blends for 2011

NASCAR teams are testing 15 percent ethanol blended fuel for use in the 2011 Sprint Cup series.

farmer nascarFoxSports reports that Hendrick Motorsports is already testing the fuel and Roush Yates engines will start development with E15 in the next few weeks. The Fox story also indicates that POET could be under consideration as a possible supplier for the fuel.

According to SceneDaily.com, Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby says the work is still “a research project” and that officials are considering a variety of fuels with different percentages of ethanol.

“Once we had an actual blended ethanol fuel,” Darby said, “you have to have a fair amount of time for the teams to test and work whatever concerns they may have. … Is six months a fair guess? Yeah, but it’s a guess at best.”

Last month, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton was quoted as saying about ethanol in the series, “We’re still looking at the fuel and what ratio percentage that we will use when we get there. Our goal when we set out… was to happen in 2011.”

In the meantime, Furniture Row Racing is introducing a Heartland agriculture-themed car pictured above in a few races starting this summer. The concept car was developed to promote American farmers and ranchers. The car is scheduled to run in three races later this year.

Ethanol Production Continues Record Pace

Renewable Fuels Association LogoU.S. ethanol production continued on a record pace in February. According to information from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), February 2010 ethanol production averaged more than 833,000 barrels per day, 186,000 more than February 2009.

Ethanol demand, as calculated by the Renewable Fuels Association, also reached an all time high of 795,000 barrels per day in February. However, production continues to outpace demand at this point since the allowable blend level of ten percent ethanol in gasoline has basically been reached, according to RFA president Bob Dinneen. “American ethanol markets are nearly full do to the arbitrary 10% restriction EPA currently enforces on ethanol blending,” said Dinneen. “EPA must approve the use of up to 15% ethanol in all vehicles.”

It is expected to be later this summer before EPA rules on the E15 waiver to allow up to 15 percent ethanol blends in regular gasoline.

Farm Bureau Supports Extending Biofuel Tax Incentives

afbfTax incentives play a key role in the development and production of renewable energy, and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is urging Congress to pass two bills that would extend renewable fuel tax credits for five years.

In a statement presented for the record to a House Ways and Means Committee hearing this week on energy tax incentives, AFBF said long-term tax incentives are needed to boost renewable energy technologies and support development of the market infrastructure necessary to make these technologies more competitive.

AFBF supports legislation that would extend the biodiesel tax incentive for five years and change the biodiesel tax incentive from a blenders excise tax credit to a production excise tax credit. The general farm organization also backs the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act that extends the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and the Small Ethanol Producers Tax Credit for five years through 2015. That bill also extends the Cellulosic Ethanol Production Tax Credit for three years, through 2015 and the secondary tariff on ethanol that offsets the benefit received by imported ethanol.

“Clean and renewable domestic energy will help America achieve long-term economic growth, create a cleaner environment and shield our energy supply from unreliable foreign sources,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Renewable fuels are vital for rural America. They create much needed jobs and open new markets for farmers and ranchers. Tax incentives play a key role in the development and production of renewable energy.”

Meat Producers Oppose Ethanol Tax Incentives

American_Meat_Institute_LogoMajor livestock and poultry trade associations sent a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee this week asking that they allow the blenders’ tax credit and associated tariff for ethanol to expire at the end of this year. The request was made in a letter signed by industry trade associations, including the American Meat Institute, the National Turkey Federation, the National Chicken Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“The blender’s tax credit, coupled with the import tariff on foreign ethanol, has distorted the corn market, increased the cost of feeding animals, and squeezed production margins — resulting in job losses and bankruptcies in rural communities across America,” the groups wrote.

cornThe ethanol industry begs to disagree and contends that the livestock industry just wants cheap feed. “Once again, corporate livestock interests are seeking to return to the days they bought corn under the price of production for the American farmer. Such practices resulted in farmers getting more income from the government than they could from the marketplace, while corporate livestock industries prospered,” responded the Renewable Fuels Association in a statement. “Ethanol is not the major driving force behind corn prices, whether they are rising or falling. Oil prices, speculation, weather, and a host of other factors have far more to do with the price of corn than ethanol production. Consider that since the peak of corn prices in 2008, oil prices have fallen by half and speculation in grain markets has eased considerably.”

Indeed, the meat producers’ letter points out that a September 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) stated that the dramatic increase in livestock production costs were attributed to higher costs for feed. The CRS report said that “the main driver was feed, which may account for 60%-70% of total livestock production costs in any given year.”

What the letter does not point out, however, is that the same report gave a number of reasons for the higher feed costs, including strong economic growth in developing countries, weather-related crop shortfalls (mostly in other countries and not corn), surging U.S. corn exports, higher demand for feed from livestock producers, increased corn production costs mainly to higher energy-related (fertilizer and fuel) costs, and actions by a number of foreign governments to insulate their own markets from high commodity prices. Government biofuels policy was noted as a contributing factor as well, although it was also noted that ethanol by-products can be fed by livestock producers to help offset higher feed corn prices, which makes the overall impact on feed prices difficult to assess.

Purdue Report Disputes Indirect Land Use Findings

purdueA recently completed state-of-the-art analysis from Purdue University concludes that the California Air Resources Board (ARB) overestimated the indirect land use change (ILUC) impact of grain-based ethanol by a factor of two in developing its Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS) one year ago.

Renewable Fuels Association LogoThe Renewable Fuels Association sent a letter sent this week to ARB Chair Mary Nichols pointing out this dramatic conclusion and reminded her of the board’s promise to review and incorporate new science as it becomes available. In the letter, RFA President Bob Dinneen wrote:

“New research conducted and published by Purdue University using the Global Trade Analysis Project model (GTAP) concludes that land use change emissions potentially associated with corn ethanol expansion are likely less than half of the level estimated by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff for the LCFS. While we continue to have grave concerns about including highly uncertain and prescriptive indirect emissions penalties in the LCFS (for instance, we do not believe ARB has the authority to account for ILUC consistent with the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution), we write to point out the new Purdue findings because we believe ARB has committed itself to consider and respond to critical developments like these.”

Read a pdf of the Purdue report here.

RFA CEO Takes Case for Ethanol Incentives to The Hill

Renewable Fuels Association LogoFederal incentives for the U.S. ethanol industry are good public policy by every measure of “economic growth, energy security and environmental responsibility,” according to Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, in an opinion column penned for The Hill.

Dinneen makes the case that biofuels offer hope for three major challenges facing the nation – the economy, dependency on foreign oil, and greenhouse gas emissions – and continuing tax incentives will help the industry continue in those efforts. “While American ingenuity and hard work built the biofuels industry, two public policies have helped it succeed,” Dinneen writes. “The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels, including at least 16 billion gallons from cellulosic feedstocks, be used in the nation’s fuel supply by 2022. The Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) provides blenders and marketers with a federal tax credit of 45 cents on each gallon of ethanol blended with gasoline.”

Read Dinneen’s entire column here.

Obama Visits Iowa Wind Turbine Plant, Off to Missouri Ethanol Plant

President Barack Obama visited a wind turbine plant in Iowa today, part of his Midwest tour that will also take him to a northern Missouri ethanol plant (watch for Chuck’s coverage on this Web site and follow him on his Twitter account @AgriBlogger).

The Environment News Service reports
Obama got to see up close some of Siemens Energy’s expanded wind turbine blade factory at Fort Madison, Iowa, during his “Washington to Main Street” tour:

“So you’re manufacturing blades for some of the most advanced wind turbines in the world; each one as tall as Air Force One is long; each is capable of generating enough power for hundreds of homes, just by harnessing the wind,” Obama said. “So what’s going on here, what each of the employees of Siemens are involved with, is helping stake America’s claim on a clean-energy future.”

Siemens, a global company based in Germany, built the wind turbine factory three years ago on the site of a closed tractor-trailer manufacturing business.

Today, the turbine factory employs more than 600 workers, almost two-thirds of whom were previously unemployed, and supports more than 350 other jobs throughout Lee County.

The article goes on to say that the Siemens plant was able to use $3.5 million in Stimulus Bucks to expand the plant.

As I mentioned earlier, Chuck will be following the president tomorrow (Wednesday) as he visits the POET Biorefining ethanol plant in Macon, Missouri.