RFA Case Study: Evidence of E85 Price Gouging?

According to a new case study from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), E85 retailers in the St. Louis area may be intentionally price gouging consumers. According to the report, during the 2014 summer driver season, the average E85 price was 12 percent Evidence of Price Gouging RFA Case Studybelow gasoline prices at the wholesale level but one percent higher than gas prices at the retail level. The wholesale-to-retail markup on E85 was nearly twice the markup on gas. In addition, the study concluded that E85 retail prices were around $1 per gallon higher than was justified by wholesale prices for the locally available ethanol blendstock.

The study’s results offer “… clear support for the notion that some gasoline producers/suppliers and their franchised retailers purposely employ E85 pricing strategies meant to discourage E85 consumption and negatively influence consumer perceptions about the fuel.”

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA, said of the case study, “It’s fairly obvious that the retailers examined in this study—all of whom are branded by one of the Big Five oil companies—don’t really want to sell E85. In many cases it appears they were pricing E85 above their branded gasoline for the sole purpose of making their gasoline prices look more attractive to the consumer. Sneaky E85 pricing strategies ultimately give oil refiners the opportunity to wrongly claim that consumers are ‘rejecting’ E85; and it gives them an opportunity to claim they can’t comply with Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements above the so-called ‘blend wall.’ This study exposes the utter hypocrisy of that argument.”

RFA tracked E85 and gasoline (E10) prices at all nine retail stations selling E85 in the St. Louis metro area. All nine stations carry the brand of one of the five largest integrated oil production and refining companies. This makes the St. Louis E85 market highly unusual because nationwide “…retail stations affiliated with a ‘Big Five’ oil company brand are four to six times less likely to offer E85 than independent or unbranded stations.”

Across more than 250 observations during the summer, the average E10 retail price was $3.45 per gallon and the average E85 retail price was $3.476 per gallon. Meanwhile, E85 was available at a local wholesale terminal for an average of $2.58 per gallon, while E10 averaged $2.93 per gallon at the wholesale level. Based on prices for locally available ethanol, hydrocarbon blendstock, RFS RIN (Renewable Identification Number) credits, and a typical markup, E85 could have been offered at retail for $2.44–2.55 per gallon. Continue reading

Ethanol Report with New RFA Chairman

ethanol-report-adRandall Doyal, General Manager and CEO of Minnesota-based Al-Corn Clean Fuel, is the new Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

rfa-doyal-1Doyal’s plant located in Claremont, Minnesota opened in 1996 and now produces 50 million gallons annually. In this interview, he talks about some of the challenges and opportunities facing the ethanol industry in the immediate future. Challenges include the lack of certainty surrounding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and railway transportation problems, while the importance of ethanol as a higher octane fuel and increasing exports are rising opportunities.

Ethanol Report with New RFA Chairman

Registration Open for 20th NEC

rfa-nec-15“Going Global” is the theme for the 20th annual National Ethanol Conference (NEC) from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

The event is being held February 18-20, 2015 at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. With the U.S. leading the world in the production and exports of ethanol fuel and co-products, export markets are critical to the future of the industry. That will be explored in depth at the conference.

To find out more and get registered, go to NationalEthanolConference.com.

Tide Detergent Cleaning up with Cellulosic Ethanol

A new use for cellulosic ethanol has been announced by DuPont and Procter & Gamble.

tideThe two global leaders in science and consumer products are planning to a first-of-its-kind use of cellulosic ethanol in North American Tide® laundry detergent.

Tide Cold Water will be the first brand in the world to blend cellulosic ethanol in a scalable and commercial way. Ethanol has long been a key ingredient in the Tide® formulation, allowing for stability of the detergent formula and better washing performance. The substitution of the current corn based ethanol with cellulosic is the latest innovation in the companies’ 30-year partnership, making it easier for consumers to make sustainable choices in their everyday lives.

DuPont will produce this renewable, cellulosic ethanol at the company’s new biorefinery, currently under construction in Nevada, Iowa. Once completed, the plant will be the world’s largest bioethanol refinery, producing 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year – a process with zero net carbon emissions.

According to the companies,Tide® Cold Water “powered by nature” will re-purpose over 7000 tons of agricultural waste a year. “As one of the world’s largest laundry manufacturers, we have a responsibility to lead renewable sourcing in products,” said Gianni Ciserani, Procter & Gamble Group President of Global Fabric and Home Care. “We do this by ensuring consumers still get the great Tide® laundry performance they want, while further reducing the impact on the environment. In January, we committed to removing phosphates in our laundry products. This partnership on renewables is one more step in our journey.”

“With this collaboration, DuPont is also taking the first step to diversify its markets for cellulosic ethanol beyond fuels. As we build on our integrated science capabilities, we will continue to seek out new opportunities and new collaborations to transform value chains with more sustainable solutions,” said James Collins, Senior Vice President, DuPont.

Both Collins and Ciserani will be speaking at the World Conference on Fabric and Home Care in Montreux, Switzerland this week.

Randall Doyal Elected as Board Chairman of RFA

RFANewlogoThe new leadership of the Renewable Fuels Association has been elected. The Board selected Randall Doyal, General Manager and CEO of Al-Corn Clean Fuel, as the next Chairman of the Board of Directors. Doyal heads an ethanol facility in Claremont, Minnesota that produces 50 million gallons annually.

Doyal’s career in the ethanol industry began in 1982 at Mountain Development Corporation. In addition to Al-Corn Clean Fuel, he serves as Chairman of the Board of Guardian Energy, LLC and Renewable Products Marketing Group. Doyal previously served as Vice-Chairman and Treasurer of the RFA.

“It is truly an honor to be selected by my peers to head the Renewable Fuels Association. The RFA has the technical knowledge, political influence, and market acumen to positively impact today’s ethanol industry, which will in turn help bolster biofuels production and consumption across the nation,” said Doyal. “I am proud to take the helm and lead this great organization as ethanol is establishing itself as an indispensable part of this country’s motor fuel supply. We will work to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard and expand markets abroad. The future is bright and I look forward to this new challenge.”

Additionally, RFA elected:

  • Vice-Chairman Mick Henderson, General Manager of Commonwealth Agri-Energy in Hopkinsville, Ky.
  • Treasurer Walter Wendland of Golden Grain Energy, LLC in Mason City, Iowa.
  • President Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association in Washington, D.C.

Ethanol Report on 2014 Export Exchange

ethanol-report-adComing up October 20-22 is the 2014 Export Exchange sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) to bring international coarse grain buyers and U.S. suppliers together, with a particular focus on the ethanol co-product distillers dried grains with solubles – better known as DDGS or distillers feed.

2014-export-exchangeThis edition of the Ethanol Report features comments from RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen, USGC president and CEO Tom Sleight, and industry relations director Lyndsey Erb-Sharkey.

Ethanol Report on 2014 Export Exchange

Badger State Ethanol Hosts Foreign Ag Guests

wisconsin-tourBadger State Ethanol in Monroe, Wisconsin had the honor of hosting the 2014 Foreign Agricultural Attaché Tour this week.

The group is part of the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service and is made up of 26 representatives from more than a dozen countries including Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland, Finland, France, Angola, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Philippines, New Zealand, Nigeria, Ghana, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection are playing host to the group for the week to educate them about the quality and diversity of Wisconsin agriculture. The group visited Badger State Ethanol on Monday to take a tour of the facility and learn about the importance of biofuels to the world economy.

Impact of Ethanol Mandates on Fuel Prices Nill

Professors Sebastien Pouliot and Bruce A. Babcock with Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) have released a new paper, “Impact of Ethanol Mandates on Fuel Prices When Ethanol and Gasoline are Imperfect Substitutes“. The authors note papers that consider the two transportation fuels “equal” have been of limited use in informing current policy debates because the short-to-medium-run reality is one of sets restrictions on how ethanol can be consumed in the U.S.

Mandate Impacts on GasThe authors’ objective of the paper was to improve understanding of how these restrictions change the findings of existing studies. The paper estimated the impacts of higher ethanol mandates using a open-economy, partial equilibrium model of gasoline, ethanol and blending whereby motorists buy one of two fuels: E10, which is a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, or E85 which is a high ethanol blend. The model is calibrated to recent data to provide current estimates.

Mandate Impacts on EthanolThe authors find that the effects of increasing ethanol mandates that are physically feasible to meet on the price of E10 are close to zero. In other words, White House fears of higher RIN prices due to higher gas prices are unfounded. The report also shows the impact of the size of the corn harvest on E10 prices is much larger than the effects of mandates. However, increased mandates can have a large effect on the price of E85 if the mandates are increased to levels that approach consumption capacity. These findings show that concerns about the consumer price of fuel do not justify a reduction ethanol mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The 2014 RFS rule is currently under review with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Cellulosic Making Progress Despite Uncertainty

Advanced and cellulosic biofuels producers continue to press the administration for certainty in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to continue making investments for future expansion.

“Today we’re at the start, like oil was 160 years ago, or corn ethanol was four years ago, said Steve Hartig with POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels during a teleconference organized by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) highlighting progress in the industry. His company just celebrated the grand opening of a cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa. “We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in this and are convinced cellulosic ethanol will be a key part of our future energy mix.”

Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, KS

Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, KS

Chris Standlee with Abengoa Bioenergy said his company is also invested substantially in commercializing cellulosic ethanol technology. “Abengoa’s been working on perfecting this technology for over 10 years,” said Standlee, adding that their plant will be holding a grand opening in Hugoton, Kansas next month.

Also participating in the teleconference was Vonnie Estes with GranBio, a plant being built in Brazil using sugarcane straw and bagasse as feedstocks. She noted that the uncertainty of the RFS is impacting their plans because they intend to export at least half of their plant’s production to the U.S. “The company has spent over $200 million in capital on this plant,” she said. “The plant (will be) really good for the U.S. in that it’s a source of low carbon fuels into the market.”

All three company representatives noted that they are postponing decisions to increase production of cellulosic biofuels due to the uncertainty created by EPA.

BIO teleconference on cellulosic ethanol advancements

Bobby Likis Car Clinic Globalcast Features Ethanol

likis-logoBobby Likis Car Clinic recent globalcast featured topic was ethanol with guest Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). More specifically the two discussed issues around the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

During the program, Dinneen explained that the RFS and ethanol production saves consumers money at the pump, decreases America’s foreign oil dependence, and helps rural America. He discussed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed cuts to the RFS and the negative impact those cuts would have on consumers and investment in next-generation ethanol.

Dinneen said, “In today’s environment of misinformation and spin, it is absolutely vital that consumers know the truth about ethanol and understand the role the Renewable Fuel Standard plays in furthering America’s energy independence, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and lowering the price of gasoline for drivers.” He adds, “I was proud to join Car Clinic’s Bobby Likis to give an overview of the political, regional, and agricultural factors that play into the future of ethanol production and explain the benefits of ethanol to drivers all across the country. Their votes of confidence in the RFS will count in the upcoming election.”

Likis, who is an automotive and ethanol expert, reflects, “When presented with facts – which Bob Dinneen delivers in easy-to-understand terms – American consumers and voters are smart enough to make the right decision at the polls in November. That’s how the RFS was passed in the first place. Clearly, the RFS has delivered to voters: lowering prices at the gas pump; reducing dependence on foreign oil; stimulating regional economies; giving the environment a fighting chance; and incenting investors to keep their money in the US as they research and develop new seed and other technologies to increase efficiencies and crop yields.”

FAPRI: Biodiesel, Ethanol Feedstocks Bigger than Expected

FAPRI logoA new report shows that the main feedstocks for biodiesel and ethanol, soybeans and corn, are going to have bigger harvests than previously expected. The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri says while the big crops will push prices for those feedstocks down – even further down than what was projected just a couple of weeks ago – soybean and corn prices will recover a bit as markets adjust.

- Larger corn and soybean crops translate into lower projected 2014/15 prices for many grains and oilseeds. Corn prices drop to $3.50 per bushel, soybeans to $9.92 per bushel… In all … cases, these projected prices are close to the midpoint of the price ranges reported in the September USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

– Larger crops in 2014/15 also result in larger beginning stocks and total crop supplies in 2015/16. As a result, corn and soybean prices for next year’s crop are lower than projected in August. Corn prices average $3.80 per bushel in 2015/16, and soybean prices drop to $9.04 per bushel.

– Prices recover as markets adjust. Corn prices average $4.10 per bushel, soybeans average $10.21 per bushel … over the 2016‐18 period.

Previously, FAPRI said that corn prices would stay at about $4 per bushel for corn, but the new, bigger numbers for yield estimates push those prices down even more.

Iowa RFA Ad Challenges Biden on RFS

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) took out a full page ad in today’s Des Moines Register to ask Vice President Joe Biden to set the record straight on reports that he may have intervened to reverse the Obama Administration’s previous support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

biden-iowaWith the headline “Say it ain’t so, Joe” the ad questions the vice president about the story out of Philadelphia in May that he urged EPA to lower the RFS after receiving a call from a Pennsylvania congressman on behalf of a refinery owned by the politically connected Carlyle Group. “This report, if true, is deeply troubling. We hope you’ll take the opportunity today to set the record straight. And more importantly, work with us to fix the Administration’s flawed proposal. It’s not too late – but we need your help.”

IRFA and other individuals and organizations involved in Iowa’s renewable fuels industry wrote a letter to the Vice President asking him to clarify the reports and to discuss the issue with Iowans. “Because he has thus far not responded, IRFA is now addressing the issue more publicly with Biden as he visits Iowa today,” said IRFA.

The Vice President delivered remarks in Des Moines today at a kick-off event for the Nuns on the Bus “We the People, We the Voters” bus tour. Not surprisingly, he did not mention renewable fuels during his address.

DuPont Chooses Murex to Market Cellulosic Ethanol

DuPont LogoDuPont Industrial Biosciences (DuPont) has selected Murex LLC to market the cellulosic ethanol produced from its 30-million-gallon-per-year plant in Nevada, Iowa. Upon completion, the facility will be the largest cellulosic ethanol plant in the world.

murex“Murex is a leading marketer in today’s ethanol market. Its team understands domestic and international ethanol dynamics and can hit the ground running to drive growth in the emerging cellulosic ethanol industry,” said DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol Commercial Leader Steven Ogle. “With this collaboration, DuPont is well-positioned to lead the deployment of cellulosic ethanol at a commercial scale.”

Murex has a strong presence in the domestic ethanol market and has been the largest exporter of domestically produced ethanol since 2010. Murex was one of the first marketers of advanced Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) and developed an in-house due diligence program prior to the Quality Assurance Program that allows smaller producers of advanced RINs to deliver their products and RINs to market.

Senate Committee Considers Energy Tax Reform

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing today on Reforming America’s Outdated Energy Tax Code, led by chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“It’s past time to replace today’s crazy quilt of more than 40 energy tax incentives with a
modern, technology-neutral approach,” said Wyden at the start of the hearing, adding that the disparity in how the tax code treats energy sources needs to end. “Traditional sources benefit from tax incentives that are permanently baked into law. But clean energy sources are stuck with stop-and-go incentives that have to be renewed every few years.”

The main goal of the hearing is to focus on extending the dozen or so tax incentives for alternative energy sources such as advanced biofuels, wind, and solar.

aeclogo“The title of the hearing is right,” said Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman. “Investors are highly sensitive to protections offered by tax law, and today’s energy tax regime drives investment away from viable petroleum alternatives like cellulosic biofuels because oil tax breaks are richer and permanent. The short term fix is extending recently expired and existing tax incentives for clean energy this year, to buttress against those offered to fossil fuels permanently. But any broader discussion about America emerging as the leading energy innovator in the world starts and ends with the federal tax code. It simply won’t happen without serious energy tax reform.”

Among those testifying at the hearing today was former Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), now a lobbyist who has represented several energy companies, who spoke against continuing wind energy tax incentives.

RFA Calls on EPA to Undo Unfair Fuel Regulations

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to address the unfair fuel volatility regulations that keep the sale and expansion of E15 from occurring. Because E15 does not have the same 1 psi Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) as E10, the ethanol fuel blend can not be sold during summer months. In a letter to McCarthy, Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of RFA writes that EPA’s failure to put E15 on the same footing as E10 has been a substantial roadblock to the rollout of E15.

According to the letter, “…faced with a hopeless decision every spring: stop selling E15 during the summer volatility control season, or secure the appropriate low-RVP gasoline blendstock. For most retailers, neither of these options are acceptable business decisions.”

RFANewlogoDinneen says the EPA continues to handicap market opportunities for E15 by effectively making it a seasonal fuel. This causes retailers and marketers to be hesitant to invest in a fuel that can only be offered part of the year. “Our biggest frustration is that there is simply no legal or environmental justification for EPA’s unequal volatility treatment of E10 and E15. If the Administration is serious about addressing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping gas prices in check, it should immediately correct this gross inequality,” said Dinneen.

RFA points to the larger implications of the RVP restriction in the letter writing, “Slow market adoption of E15 has unnecessarily complicated compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and led the Agency to embrace the oil industry’s ‘blend wall’ concept in the proposed rule for 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations. The bottom line is that E10 and E15 should be treated consistently in the marketplace with regard to RVP….There is simply no sound technical justification, no air quality benefit, and no economic rationale for denying equal RVP treatment for E15 and E10.”