The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is urging the California Air Resource Board (CARB) to adjust its current indirect land use change (ILUC) analysis to better reflect real-world land use patterns.
In written comments submitted on Friday, RFA’s Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper pointed to the recent study released by Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) raising concerns about CARB’s current ILUC predictions. Cooper called on CARB to “take into account the new CARD/ISU research and use it to immediately re-calibrate” the agency’s ILUC model.
Cooper calls the study a “remarkably important—and potentially gamechanging—contribution to the debate over ILUC modeling” which used empirical data to conclude that “…the primary land use change response of the world’s farmers in the last 10 years has been to use available land resources more efficiently rather than to expand the amount of land brought into production.”
RFA’s comments urged CARB to calibrate its ILUC model using the new CARD/ISU analysis as a guide before sending the proposed rule for Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) re-adoption to the Board for consideration. If adjustments are unable to be made before the final proposal is submitted, RFA calls on CARB to “…delay proposing new ILUC factors until such time as the calibration is completed and new ILUC results are generated.”
Some drivers in the Sunshine State will now have access to 15% ethanol fuel (E15), approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in vehicles 2001 and newer.
In partnership with Protec Fuel, retail stations in Ft. Myers and Sarasota operated by Mid-State Energy are holding kickoff events with substantial discounts on E15 and E85 fuel today to celebrate the new fuel choice for consumers.
Florida-based Protec Fuel helped manage the ethanol blends installation and provide fuel for the locations. “We are proud to help introduce American-made ethanol into the fuel pool through E15 in Florida, especially as it’s a higher performance fuel at 88-octane,” said Protec vice president of business development Steve Walk. “It’s so convenient for drivers to make a difference – you can use E15 interchangeably with gas if you’re driving a 2001 or newer model.”
The Renewable Fuels Association has been working with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for more than two years to overcome regulatory barriers that hindered the sale of E15 in Florida. “It is exciting to see E15 continue its expansion to the East Coast and it is my hope that additional states in the South and East that don’t currently offer E15 will follow Florida’s example and begin offering low-cost E15 to their consumers,” said RFA vice president of industry relations Robert White.
The Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition is pleased to see the expansion of bio-based fuels in the region. “These fuels can provide a renewable and cleaner fuel option for us now with virtually no additional investment in vehicle modification or infrastructure,” said coordinator Steven Reich. “I hope that more retailers will take advantage of the availability of these fuels in their product mix.” Clean Cities coalitions throughout the nation are charged with reducing the nation’s petroleum usage by the U.S. DOE.
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) is bringing retired Four-Star General and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark to its next big conference. The group says Clark will talk about ethanol and energy security during the at the 9th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show on January 27, 2015 at Prairie Meadows near Des Moines.
“The IRFA is excited to have retired Four-Star General Wesley Clark address the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit to provide attendees with a unique perspective on biofuels and their impacts on national security,” stated IRFA President Steve Bleyl. “With discussion over renewable fuels policy at fever-pitch, the 2015 Summit will be a great place to hear the latest and greatest on the future of renewable fuels.”
The meeting is free to the public. More information and registration are available here.
The theme for the 2014 conference, which will be held February 18-20 in Grapevine, Texas is “Gowing Global” with a focus on the export markets that are critical to the future growth and financial health of the ethanol industry.
Among the program highlights:
• Going Global: Building Ethanol Demand Internationally
• RFS and LCFS: Driving Demand or Stuck in Neutral?
• Advanced Ethanol Industry Breaks Through; Now What?
• Global Energy Market Outlook
• Global Grain Market Outlook
• The Road Ahead for Higher Blends
• How Rail Safety and Congestion are Impacting the Marketplace
As always, the agenda also includes the annual State of the Industry address by Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen, as well as the popular Washington Insiders Panel.
The Chicago City Council is on the verge of passing the “Chicago Clean Air Choice Ordinance,” which was proposed by city aldermen earlier this year, but the oil industry is fighting it.
The ordinance allows city drivers to choose 15% ethanol at the pump. The original ordinance was introduced last summer, while the enhanced ordinance includes an exemption for filling stations selling less than 850,000 gallons of fuel per year and provides a phase-in period of nearly a year.
The law would require all filling stations in the city to provide dispensing pumps and offer mid-grade E15 for sale. The proposal offers as justification the fact that Chicago is dedicated to reducing fuel costs, that ethanol is a renewable domestic fuel that burns cleaner than gasoline, E15 is approved for use in model year 2001 and newer vehicles and is less expensive than gasoline, “with expected savings between 5 and 15 cents per gallon.”
In addition, the ordinance points out that “Illinois is the third largest ethanol producing state in the nation, with 14 ethanol plants that can produce 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol per year.”
With oil companies working against passage of the ordinance, supporters have started a petition drive to allow ethanol proponents to voice their opinions to the city council. Over 4,000 from around the country have already signed on and many have left messages to state their reasons.
“Big Oil has arrived on the scene and is ready to spend whatever it takes to keep this legislation from seeing the light of day,” says Gene Griffith, CEO of Patriot Renewable Fuels, one of the 14 ethanol plants in Illinois. He is urging supporters to sign the petition in support of the ordinance.
“In 2013, 15 percent of America’s advanced biofuels – 435 million gallons – came from Brazil, delivering at least a 50 percent reduction in emissions compared to gasoline. Slashing the 2014 renewable fuels standard target would have fundamentally threatened both America’s supply of low-carbon fuel and the Obama Administration’s emissions reduction goals.
The Brazilian sugarcane ethanol industry has collaboratively worked with the U.S. to lower emissions through the RFS for over seven years, and while we’re relieved this decision doesn’t roll back environmental gains made over that time, EPA has missed a golden opportunity to increase the volume of cleaner fuel flowing to American drivers.”
Farina went on to say she still encourages the EPA to publish the 2015 RFS targets as soon as possible so advanced biofuel producers have clarity on production targets before the season starts.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said while he’s glad the EPA seems to be responding to public sentiment against what was proposed, he’s also worried about the uncertainty the renewable fuels industry in the state face:
“The past year has been an exciting time in the renewable fuels industry with the first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plants coming online. However, we have missed opportunities for even more growth in the industry due to the uncertainty created by EPA’s initial RFS proposal. Hopefully the withdrawal of this rule signals a larger change in course within EPA where they will be less adversarial and more responsive to the concerns of rural America.”
Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, is also optimistic the delay means the proposal will be revised more favorably to his group’s fuel, he shares Northey’s concerns over uncertainty:
“An increased RVO for biomass-based diesel would mean good news for Iowa, the number one biodiesel-producing state. Uncertainty has hurt the biodiesel industry and created a ripple effect through the farming community, major ag suppliers and equipment companies. But the EPA has the chance to reverse this.
“The Proposed Rule as it stood would have taken biodiesel backwards from the volumes produced in 2013. The Administration has a chance to make it right by finalizing a 2014 rule that sets the Renewable Fuel Standard’s biomass-based diesel volumes at or above the nearly 1.8 billion gallons consumed in 2013. We also urge them to fix the RVO process so we don’t have to face this disruptive uncertainty every year. We need to put biodiesel back on the course of diversifying America’s fuel supply, supporting green jobs and boosting economic development.”
On Monday, biofuels industry leaders will hold briefings for Capitol Hill staff and the media to discuss the implications of the decision and where we go from here. The Fuels America briefing will feature Buis, Dinneen, Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman, and Brent Erickson with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to hold off on issuing a final rule for 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) continues the atmosphere of uncertainty for the advanced biofuel industry, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
“We appreciate that EPA will not be finalizing a proposed 2014 RFS rule containing a flawed methodology for setting the renewable fuel volumes,” said BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood. “Unfortunately, the delay in this year’s rule already has chilled investment and financing of future projects, even as first-of-a-kind cellulosic biofuel plants are right now starting up operations. The industry needs a final rule that is legally appropriate and continues to support our efforts.”
Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman says that pulling back on the 2014 RFS rule is “the right thing to do at this stage in the game when it comes to preserving the integrity of the program.”
“While the cellulosic biofuel industry will not get the policy certainty it needs from this decision, it does suggest that the Administration is listening when it comes to our concerns about giving oil companies too much power to avoid its obligations under the RFS going forward,” Coleman added. “This battle was never about the 2014 volumes for the oil industry, and we appreciate the Administration’s willingness to pivot in the right direction this late in the game. The key now for advanced biofuel investment is to move quickly to fix what needs to be fixed administratively so we can reestablish the RFS as the global gold standard for advanced biofuel policy.”
EPA hit the big reset button. Given the fact that we are already at the end of 2014, we appreciate EPA’s recognition that the real importance is to set the program on a clear glide path for 2015 and 2016. The numbers do matter, and utilizing the actual production will be a positive step from what was a proposed. We appreciate how EPA recognized that cutting requirements for advanced biofuels would be a mistake. This emerging industry deserves better considering it has already demonstrated the capacity to generate 3.2 billion gallons of advanced biofuel annually. But, at least EPA’s decision leaves the glass more than half full and allow us to get back on track next year.
Deciding not to decide is not a decision. Unfortunately, the announcement today perpetuates the uncertainty that has plagued the continued evolution of biofuels production and marketing for a year. Nevertheless, the Administration has taken a major step by walking away from a proposed rule that was wrong on the law, wrong on the market impacts, wrong for innovation, and wrong for consumers.
Today’s announcement is a clear acknowledgement that the EPA’s proposed rule was flawed from the beginning. There was no way the methodology in the proposed rule would ever work, as it went against the very purpose and policy goals of the RFS. The EPA wisely decided not to finalize the rule so they could fix the flawed methodology. Their initial proposal over a year ago was unacceptable and simply acquiesced to the demands of Big Oil and their refusal to blend more renewable fuels into the marketplace.
American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive Vice President Brian Jennings credits ethanol supporters for helping the EPA reconsider the 2014 RVO obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Big Oil came close to bullying the Administration to completely rewrite the RFS this year so oil companies could escape their legal responsibility to blend more ethanol in gasoline. But thanks to thousands of comments from ACE members and other biofuel supporters, EPA wisely chose to reconsider their ill-advised proposal which would have legitimized the so-called ‘blend wall’. While we will reserve full judgment until they finalize the 2014 targets next year, it certainly appears the Administration recognizes their proposed RFS changes were inconsistent with legislative history and the Clean Air Act.
Ethanol and biodiesel producers in Iowa are joining in the growing chorus calling on Congress to extend some important tax credits. This news release from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says nine of the state’s advanced biofuel producers sent a letter to the entire Iowa Congressional Delegation encouraging the swift passage of a tax extenders package which includes provisions for biodiesel blending, cellulosic production, and accelerated depreciation, prior to final adjournment of the 113th Congress.
“Iowa’s entire congressional delegation has shown steadfast support for these important policies, and today we’re calling on them to take concrete steps to advance legislation extending these vital provisions that support energy security, American jobs, and a cleaner environment,” stated Western Iowa Energy Board Member Denny Mauser. “In the face of more than 100 years of preferential tax treatment for petroleum—a literal Century of Subsidies—these incentives keep advanced biofuel projects moving forward to the benefit of all Americans.”
The letter states, “It is absolutely critical to our industry that this Congress pass a tax extenders package, which includes provisions for biodiesel blending, cellulosic production and accelerated depreciation, prior to final adjournment.”
The letter goes on to point out the advantages the petroleum industry continues to enjoy in tax subsidies and says if Congress does nothing on the extenders package, the “U.S. will be left with a defacto petroleum mandate.”
New National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) CEO Chris Novak talked about challenges facing the corn industry as he visited with members of the agricultural media during the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention last week in Kansas City.
“Lots of big challenges ahead for us,” said Novak, who just took over the CEO job for Rick Tolman who retired last month. “Looking at a record crop and lower prices than we’d like to see but that’s an opportunity as well.”
Novak sees increasing demand as the most important challenge and opportunity for the industry. “How do we ensure that with a second record crop in a row that we’ve got the demand that can keep our farmers profitable?” he said. The primary demand sectors – livestock, ethanol and exports – all offer new growth potential.
“Certainly EPA’s support and implementation of the renewable fuels law as passed by Congress is going to be important to us in the short term,” he added. “Longer term we’re looking to build consumer demand for a renewable fuel that increases our energy independence and helps reduce greenhouse gases.”
Chris Novak previously served many years as chief executive officer of the National Pork Board and prior to that, he was executive director of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, the Indiana Corn Growers Association and the Indiana Soybean Alliance.
A new report from South American sugarcane growers shows ethanol benefits the environment and drivers. According to the Brazil-based Union of the Sugarcane Industry, UNICA, which represents those producing sugar, ethanol and bioelectricity, says that ethanol uses 90 percent less greenhouse gases than gasoline (translation courtesy of Google translator). The group points to data after a long dry period this year that impacted sugarcane production, and thus, ethanol production, when carbon dioxide levels hit the worst rates since 2007.
Since CIDE (Contributions Intervention in the Economic Domain) was zeroed in gasoline prices in 2011, there was an increase in the consumption of fossil fuel and ethanol, a cleaner and renewable source of energy, lost competitiveness and consumer preference at the pump.
Produced from clean, renewable source, cane sugar, the environmental benefits of ethanol over gasoline with gains including public health are widely recognized as the improvement in air quality, particularly in metropolitan areas. Several studies show that sugarcane ethanol reduces emissions causing climate change gases by up to 90% when compared to gasoline.
Thanks to this index, the Brazilian ethanol is the only biofuel produced on a large scale in the world considered ‘advanced’ by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States.
More data shows that in the last 10 years since flex-fuel vehicles were introduced in Brazil, the country has avoided the emission of approximately 240 million tons of CO2, equivalent to three years of issuance of this gas for a country the size of Chile.
UNICA also goes on to point out that drivers can save up to 66 percent on their costs to fill up their fuel tanks using ethanol.
Among the topics he addressed were the need for Congress to pass tax extenders for biofuels, first cellulosic ethanol plants going on line this year, how lower oil could be impacting domestic oil production, rail transportation issues, and of course, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Regarding the lame duck session of Congress, Dinneen says it’s called lame for a reason but he does expect them to pass a tax extenders bill. “It will include the biodiesel tax credit and the cellulosic ethanol tax incentive, which will be good to have now that we finally have cellulosic ethanol production so they can take advantage of the tax incentive that has been there for them,” he said.
While the industry continues to expect a final decision from the EPA on the 2014 volume requirements any day, Dinneen says it could still be next week. “I fear for my Thanksgiving dinner because I suspect that the minute I carve into that turkey, I’m going to get an email that Gina McCarthy has just signed the rule,” he said. “I wish they’d get it out, let’s just be done with it.”
Seeing gas prices continue to drop nationwide, Dinneen agrees with some analysts that OPEC could be trying to cut U.S. oil production. “The Saudis, I think, have become annoyed that the U.S. is producing more (oil) and has decided that they want to try to break the back of these fracking operations,” said Dinneen, noting that those operations start losing money with prices below $80 a barrel. “Ethanol remains the lowest cost transportation fuel on the planet today and it’s unlikely that the Saudis will be able to break our back.”