It might be the scourge of the south, but kudzu could become the next feedstock for biofuels.
“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” says Lewis Ziska with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). “One of the possible potential benefits of kudzu is the roots are high in starch, and it may be a potential biofuel.”
Ziska says the USDA is working with the University of Toronto and Auburn University to look at the potential of kudzu roots. Since the USDA certainly doesn’t want to promote the growing of the weed that has overrun so many places in the south, he believes harvesting kudzu from abandoned farmland and other areas where it’s growing unchecked and easily harvested could end up producing as much, or even more, ethanol from an acre of the weed they want to eliminate as would be produced from an acre of corn.
“What we think we could do is to take the existing kudzu and convert into a biofuel for a win-win,” Ziska says.
You can listen to Ziska’s remarks here: Lewis Ziska, USDA ARS
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is pleased with a new report that shows the potential for growth in sales of 85% ethanol blends.
“There’s no doubt that E85 sales will double or triple over the next decade, but they also predict that the flex fuel vehicle count will continue to grow,” says RFA vice president for industry relations Robert White. “The flex fuel vehicles on the road today could use all the ethanol we produce if they used E85 more often.”
And that would be possible if there were more places for drivers to buy E85, which would happen if the Renewable Fuel Standard were allowed to work as it was intended. “If given its chance, it will create the market and this report clearly shows that more E85 would be sold,” he said.
At the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention last week, White also talked about RFA’s “Post Your Price” contest which has been getting lots of entries showing the price of E85 around the country. The contest will award free E85 for a year to a randomly drawn entry, but they are also awarding prizes for the largest and smallest price differentials between E85 and E10. “We’ve already got one sent in that E85 was higher than E10,” White said. The lowest price for E85 so far has been $1.64, compared to $2.84 for regular.
Listen to my interview with Robert at NAFB here: Interview with Robert White, RFA
2014 NAFB Convention Photos
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Two Midwest governors might be from other sides of the political aisle, but they are on the same page when it comes to ethanol and biodiesel. Republican Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Democrat Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will lead the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition beginning in January 2015 as chairman and vice chairman, respectively.
“I look forward to working with Governor Nixon to advance the bipartisan work of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, as the production and use of biofuels increases family incomes in rural America, diversifies our nation’s energy portfolio, and enables consumer choice at the fuel pump, ” Governor Branstad said.
“Thanks to our corn and soybean farmers, Missouri has long played a leadership role in the development and production of biofuels,” Governor Nixon said. “Missouri was one of the founding members of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, and the Coalition has played a major role in our nation’s energy policies, including the drafting and passage of the renewable fuel standards. I’m honored to serve as the next vice chairman of this organization, and will continue working to strengthen the energy independence of Missouri and our country.”
Outgoing chairman Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat from Illinois, says everyone has a stake in the game, from farmers to energy consumers.
A group that looks at market issues related to vehicles and fuels says there are opportunities to grow the E85 market — but only if E85 prices remain way below regular grade gasoline prices. This news release from the Fuels Institute says also if automakers continue to produce flex-fuel vehicles at historic rates, E85 sales will, at a minimum, double by 2023 and could even see a 20-fold increase in sales over the same time period.
“This report is essential reading for federal regulators who are considering strategies to meet the goals of the Renewable Fuel Standard and for fuel marketers seeking options to diversify their product offer,” said Fuels Institute Executive Director John Eichberger. “It presents an objective analysis of the overall market for E85, including actual retail sales data, and represents a collective effort to identify opportunities and challenges facing this alternative fuel — without taking a position of advocacy.”
Biofuels have experienced remarkable growth over the past 12 years, from 1.75 billion gallons sold in 2001 to 14.54 billion gallons sold in 2013. The vast majority of this growth is from ethanol, particularly E10 fuel that is ubiquitous in most of the country. However, additional E10 sales are constrained by the size of the gasoline market, which has declined since 2007. Therefore, future biofuels sales growth will be highly dependent upon increasing the sale of higher grades of ethanol like E85, a blend of gasoline with 51 to 83% ethanol.
The report says E85 growth will be dependent on more gas stations offering the higher blend of ethanol and making sure there are plenty of flex-fuel vehicles on the road.
“Increasing the E85 station count would improve the potential for additional E85 sales and introduce additional competition to the market. But several other factors — including the relative price of E85 compared to unleaded gasoline and the number of vehicles on the road that can operate on E85 — must also be evaluated to determine the potential E85 market, especially because flex-fuel vehicles can operate on either E85 or gasoline,” said Eichberger.
In the new World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate, USDA has increased the amount of corn forecast to be used to make ethanol and co-products such as the livestock feed distillers grains.
Corn used in ethanol production is projected 25 million bushels higher at 5.15 billion bushels for the 2014-15 marketing year. The reason is a reduction in expected sorghum use for ethanol and the strong pace of weekly ethanol production reported so far for the marketing year.
In the November crop forecast, USDA slightly lowered corn production this year to 14.4 billion bushels, with yields now expected to average 173.4 bushels per acre. If realized, this will still be the highest yield and production on record for the United States.
“This is positive news for the market overall as we’re expecting demand to rise to meet these record yields,” said American Farm Bureau Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson. “An estimated increase in ethanol production should also help to absorb this year’s bumper crop.”
The drop in the national production estimate for corn seems to be coming from traditionally high-yield states that are now seeing lower estimates this month, Anderson said. The Iowa yield estimate was shaved by two bushels per acre, and Minnesota’s came down by five.
The main reason for the slight drop in the corn forecast is a slow harvest and weather challenges, that are now including heavy snow in the upper Midwest. The latest crop progress report shows Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado and Indiana lagging behind the most in harvest, but significant progress was made in the last week so that the corn harvest nationwide now stands at the five year average of 80 percent.
A group representing ethanol producers in this country is giving the state of Washington a piece of its mind on the state’s draft report on the potential implementation of a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). This news release from Growth Energy says the comments outline how implementation of a LCFS could potentially displace clean burning, domestically-produced renewable fuels without significant environmental benefit.
Upon submission of the comments, Chris Bliley, Director of Regulatory Affairs for Growth Energy, noted, “As Washington considers a potential low carbon fuel standard, we wanted to make them aware of our strong objection to the inclusion of controversial theories such as indirect land use change. Ethanol continues to significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions in our transportation fuel. Washington should carefully consider these issues before moving forward with a California-style LCFS regulation.”
The comments outlined that, “With the success of a national biofuels program in mind, Washington’s draft report raises a number of issues related to the potential adoption of a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) in Washington. One of the most controversial features of a potential state-level LCFS regulation is the belief that by regulating the carbon intensity of alternative fuels somehow value is added separate and apart from other efforts to reduce transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions by causing changes in biofuel production methods… To date there has been no net reduction in GHG emissions nationwide; the only impact has been ‘fuel shuffling,’ a resulting phenomenon which itself is likely to increase GHG emissions by requiring the transport of ethanol and other fuels further distances than if states did not try to regulate the carbon intensity of the ethanol sold or used within their borders.”
You can read all of Growth Energy’s comments here.
The “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” featured Renewable Fuels Association Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper on show’s live globalcast this past Saturday, November 8.
Cooper addressed a variety of topics including the truth behind the fictional food vs. fuel argument, as well as the hot button issue of greenhouse gas – or GHG – emissions and the role ethanol plays in reducing their output into the ozone. Cooper will also share with Car Clinic audiences the benefits and the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol.
“RFA recently conducted a study that shows while corn prices have plummeted, food prices have remained steady or have risen,” said Cooper. “The petroleum industry would like to pin any increase in food prices on the ethanol industry when in fact it is oil that drives food prices.”
Listen to Cooper’s interview with Bobby here and watch the video below: Bobby Likis interviews RFA's Geoff Cooper
American ethanol exports could be expanding to Panama and Peru. Growth Energy officials, along with the U.S. Grains Council and the Renewable Fuels Association, took part in a market development mission to explore export opportunities for the green fuel to the Central and South American countries.
“The mission has been a great experience,” said [Alex Marquis, Logistics Manager of Marquis Energy, who represented Growth]. “The mission delegates met with a number of Peruvian government officials over the span of two days, and the access provided was impressive. Though more work and dialogue is needed to cultivate relationships with key Peruvian contacts, these discussions revealed that Peru’s burgeoning economy offers growth potential for American renewable energy groups,” Marquis added.
“Exploratory trade missions like these allow the industry to identify new market opportunities across the globe and raise awareness of the benefits of renewable fuels. Ethanol can play a key role in improving the global environment and reducing the world’s dangerous dependence on fossil fuels,” stated Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.
Growth Energy also participated in trade missions to China, Korea and Japan earlier this year.
California-based ethanol producer Trestle Energy gets the green light to produce its advanced biofuel in British Columbia, Canada. Trestle, with production facilities in Iowa, can now start producing and selling its low-emissions biofuel in the province, as BC recognized the company as the lowest emissions ethanol producer in America.
Trestle Energy will now begin partnering with existing ethanol plants in Iowa, Minnesota, and across the Midwest to ramp up production of its low carbon biofuels and make the fuel available to BC consumers. Trestle’s method of production will strengthen export markets for American companies and help them effectively compete with overseas biofuel producers, while also helping advance important climate and energy security objectives.
“We are thrilled that British Columbia has moved quickly to approve our fuel pathways, so that we can begin to get our advanced biofuels to market,” said James Rhodes, co-founder and president of Trestle Energy. “We look forward to partnering with ethanol plants to supply Canada with low carbon biofuels, and we hope to bring them to the United States as soon as possible so that we can provide Americans with clean, affordable, low carbon energy.”
Trestle Energy also has petitions currently pending with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—filed in November 2013—and with the California Air Resources Board (CARB)—filed in May 2014.
A group representing ethanol interests is calling on Oregon to treat ethanol the same as other clean fuels in the state. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) sent in comments to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) detailing a number of requested changes to the proposed rule for Phase 2 of the Oregon Clean Fuels Program (CFP), including the recommendation that indirect effects be withheld from the program’s lifecycle carbon intensity analyses for various fuel pathways.
Phase 1 of the Oregon CFP, which is structured similarly to California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), included carbon intensity scores for ethanol and all other fuel pathways that were based strictly on verifiable direct emissions. However, for Phase 2 of the program, Oregon DEQ is proposing to introduce subjective and uncertain penalty factors for hypothetical indirect land use changes (ILUC) for select biofuels, but no indirect effect penalty factors for any other fuel types. RFA’s comments underscore the fact that “Inclusion of highly uncertain and prescriptive ILUC factors creates an asymmetrical and discriminatory framework for the CFP.”
RFA urged that DEQ remove ILUC from the proposed rule “…until such time as there is broad scientific agreement on the best methodology for estimating the indirect effects for all fuels” and that “If DEQ includes ILUC for biofuels, it must also include indirect emissions associated with all other regulated fuels (including baseline petroleum).”
Even if DEQ’s proposal to include ILUC was justified, the letter points out that “…DEQ is proposing to use factors that have been shown to be grossly exaggerated and based on outdated information and data.” In fact, DEQ is planning to adopt ILUC penalties developed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 2009 for that state’s LCFS. Even CARB has recognized that its 2009 ILUC factors are flawed and is planning to propose revisions to those values.
RFA added that it will support “performance-based low carbon fuel programs that are grounded in the principles of fairness, sound science, and consistent analytical boundaries.” The group continued that introducing into the regulatory framework concepts without scientific integrity and balance “only creates stakeholder division and controversy.”
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and several other agricultural sent a letter to President Obama this week asking him to intervene with the Environmental Protection Agency regarding its proposed cuts in the 2014 volume obligations for the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“The blending targets and the methodology in your administration’s proposed rule are already causing significant harm to the biofuel sector,” the letter states. “These impacts are reverberating throughout the U.S. agriculture economy, and we expect this trend to continue if the targets and the methodology in the rule are not corrected.”
The letter discusses how the ag sector has met its responsibility in growing sufficient feedstock for biofuels, but is also working with the ethanol industry on infrastructure and advanced fuels. The letter concludes: “The EPA’s proposed policy decision is driving one of our key economic engines – the biofuel sector -¬‐ overseas. We have invested in response to the signals in the RFS and are poised to deliver the very low carbon fuels you have sought for so long. Instead of reaping the economic benefits of this investment with a build-¬‐out of a domestic biofuel industry, the methodology proposed by EPA is offshoring the industry – and our market. This is a decision we cannot afford in America’s heartland.”
In addition to NCGA, organizations sending the letter included the Agricultural Retailers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Farmers Union and National Sorghum Producers.
Iowa high school students will once again compete to see who can produce the best video to promote the future of biodiesel, ethanol and E15. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) launched the 5th Annual “Fuel the Future” Video Contest for Iowa high school students with the top three video entries receiving prizes in the amounts of $1,000, $600 and $400 respectively; airing at the 2015 Iowa Renewable Fuel Summit on January 27; and being featured on IRFA’s YouTube® channel.
“The IRFA video contest is now open, and we’re excited to see the creative ways Iowa high school students promote ethanol and biodiesel this year,” stated IRFA Communications Director T.J. Page. “With attacks from ethanol and biodiesel opponents ramping up, we can’t wait to see how Iowa high school students set the record straight on renewable fuels through their highly entertaining and informative videos.”
The Fuel the Future contest is limited to students currently attending high school in Iowa (grades 9-12 in a public, private or home school). Video entries may not exceed two minutes in length and must be submitted to IRFA via DVD, flash drive, or secure web link. To be considered for the contest, all completed video entries must be received in the IRFA office by January 16, 2015. For more information, including the official entry form and contest rules, please visit www.iowarfa.org/FueltheFuture.php. For additional questions, please contact T.J. Page at (515) 252-6249 or tpage@IowaRFA.org.
To get some ideas, check out last year’s winner, produced by John Low of Marion and titled “E15: The Fuel of the Future,” here.
Students interested in the ethanol industry have a chance to attend the 2015 National Ethanol Conference in Grapevine, Texas through a scholarship opportunity offered by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the Renewable Fuels Foundation (RFF).
The 20th annual National Ethanol Conference, titled “Going Global,” will offer college students a chance to hear key industry leaders and policymakers address topics such as the Renewable Fuel Standard, E15, international trade, next-generation ethanol, rail transportation, and more. In addition, they will have a unique opportunity to interact with key leaders of the U.S. ethanol industry.
“The National Ethanol Conference offers an excellent opportunity for college students to get their feet wet and gain an in-depth look into the ethanol industry,” said Mike Jerke, chairman of the RFF and CEO of Guardian Energy Management LLC. “Our goal is to educate the next generation of biofuel leaders and the conference is the perfect place for them to learn, ask questions, and network.”
Interested students are asked to submit a 500-word essay explaining how their attendance at the National Ethanol Conference will help them achieve their future goals. They are also asked to submit two letters of recommendation, a current resume, and a school transcript. The scholarship is only available to students attending a U.S. institution of higher learning or foreign students affiliated with the U.S. ethanol industry.
Applications must be received by Dec. 12 to receive full consideration. Application materials can be found here: www.NationalEthanolConference.com/pages/scholarships.
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) is pleased with the results of Tuesday’s election in the state and the strong support for renewable fuels among the winning candidates.
“It’s not surprising that ethanol and biodiesel enjoy broad, bipartisan support in Iowa,” stated IRFA PAC Treasurer Walt Wendland. “It’s also encouraging to see that renewable fuels will remain in good hands in Iowa. We look forward to working with all of the 2014 election winners for state and federal offices to continue to preserve and advance Iowa’s leadership in renewable fuels production, agriculture and environmental stewardship.”
In the races for federal office, Iowa elected Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate, and David Young and Rod Blum to the U.S. House. Iowans also re-elected Governor Terry Branstad, and Reps. Steve King and Dave Loebsack. Each winning candidate reported strong support for renewable fuels and the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in IRFA’s renewable fuels candidate survey.
Auto manufacturers explicitly approve the use of E15 (15 percent ethanol blend fuel) in approximately two-thirds of new vehicles, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).
RFA’s analysis of model year (MY) 2015 warranty statements and owner’s manuals finds that nearly 63 percent of MY 2015 vehicles will have E15 approval from their manufacturers. E15 is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for all 2001 and newer vehicles — accounting for roughly 80 percent of the vehicles on the road today. When coupled with expected MY 2015 flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) production, it is estimated that E15 will be allowed in close to 70 percent of MY 2015 vehicles. Manufacturers approve the use of up to 85 percent ethanol blends in FFVs.
The RFA analysis revealed several interesting trends:
After approving the use of E15 in some of its 2014 Honda and Acura models, Honda Motor Company has extended E15 warranty coverage to all models in 2015.
All Toyota models in 2015 include explicit E15 approval, up from just a fraction of Toyota models in 2014. Just as in 2014, E15 is approved for use in most, but not all, 2015 Lexus models.
For the fourth year in a row, General Motors approves the use of E15 in all models. Similarly, E15 is approved in all Ford models for the third year in a row. Vehicles from these two automakers alone account for roughly one-third of sales in the United States.
Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche, and Volkswagen also expressly approved the use of E15 in their 2015 models.
The analysis also found that the Chrysler Group failed for the fourth year in a row to approve the use of E15 in owners’ manuals for its models. Despite that, a significant share of Chrysler output is expected to be FFV-capable, meaning E15 is approved for use in those vehicles.