Ethanol Revving up for Sturgis Rally

sturgis-rfaFor the sixth year in a row, motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world will be able to learn more about ethanol, courtesy of the Renewable Fuels Association, at the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

About a half million motorcyclists will be converging on Sturgis, S.D., August 4-7 for the 74th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, presenting an ideal opportunity for RFA to dispel misinformation concerning ethanol use in motorcycles. Among the ways RFA does that is “Free Fuel Happy Hours,” offering a free tank of E10 93-octane fuel to riders at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip campground. RFA is a major sponsor at the popular campground where the message “Ride Safe, Fuel Right” will be seen everywhere, including the main stage where this year’s concert line up includes Lynyrd Skynyrd, Collective Soul, Zac Brown Band, John Mayall, Alice Cooper, ZZ Top and Cheap Trick.

RFA also proudly sponsors the annual “Legends Ride” where proceeds are donated to local charities, including the Black Hills Special Olympics. All “Legends Ride” participants receive free “Fueled with Pride” giveaways and informational materials on ethanol before they embark on the ride that originates in Deadwood, S.D.

DomesticFuel will once again be there to bring all the sights and sounds to you. Check out last year’s photo album here.

Analysis: Ethanol Most Competitive Motor Fuel

According to a new analysis released today, “The Economic Competitiveness of U.S. Ethanol,” U.S. produced ethanol has been the most economically competitive motor fuel in the world over the past four years. In addition, ethanol has played an important role in E-85 fill-up photo Joanna Schroederreducing consumer fuel costs. The analysis was conducted by ABF Economics and released by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

The analysis reviewed actual wholesale prices paid for ethanol, gasoline and alternative octane source in several U.S. and world markets between 2010-2013. Based on the data, the report concluded, “…U.S.-produced ethanol is an exceptionally competitive additive and fuel source…” and that “…U.S. ethanol has emerged as the lowest cost transportation fuel and octane source in the world over the past several years.”

Commenting on the analysis, RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said, “As proven by the recent boom in exports, American-made ethanol has evolved into the most cost competitive transportation fuel and octane source in the world. Through rapid technology adoption and innovation, U.S. producers have proudly earned the distinction of being the global leader and low-cost producer of clean-burning, renewable ethanol.”

Dinneen continued, “Despite the fact that ethanol offers greater consumer choice at a lower cost, entrenched petroleum companies continue to erect barriers that deny access to larger volumes of renewable fuels,” Dinneen continued. “In a truly free market, consumers would always choose a fuel that is produced domestically, is better for the environment and climate, and costs much less than gasoline. Unfortunately, free markets only exist in text books, underscoring the need for monopoly-breaking policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

The ABF Economics study found that even after accounting for transportation costs to the reference markets of Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, “The ‘spread’ between ethanol and RBOB [gasoline] has averaged 30 to 40 cents per gallon over the past four years in these three key markets and the difference averaged more than 60 cents per gallon in 2012.

As a result of this cost differential, the analysis found “…ethanol blended with RBOB to produce reformulated gasoline at a 10 percent (E10) blend has reduced the cost of motor fuel to consumers.” The analysis found that ethanol’s impact on gas prices goes far beyond the wholesale price spread: “This does not include the additional downward impact ethanol has on gasoline prices as a result of extending supplies and reducing demand for crude oil.”

Economic Competitiveness of Ethanol reportAccording to the report, “…even with depreciation of the real, U.S. ethanol has been more cost competitive than Brazilian ethanol in key U.S. and world markets over the past several years.” This has particular relevance in the California market, according to the study, because that state’s fuel policies strongly compel fuel suppliers to import Brazilian ethanol in lieu of U.S. ethanol. “Use of Brazilian ethanol in place of U.S. ethanol theoretically raised the price of E10 for California consumers by 8 cents per gallon over the past four years,” the study found.

In closing, the study indicates that the competitiveness of U.S. ethanol will only improve in the future: “This competitive advantage is expected to increase further, as U.S. ethanol and feedstock producers adopt new technologies and crude oil prices continue to trend higher.”

EPA Issues New Rule for RINs Quality Assurance Program

epa-logoIn an effort to assure all parties of better control over possible fraud, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formally issued its new rule on a voluntary quality assurance program on Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) used to track compliance with their renewable fuel volume obligations. The EPA proposed the rule earlier this month and issued it late last week that will elements designed to make it possible to verify the validity of RINs from the beginning of 2013 and going forward.

Today’s final action includes a voluntary third-party quality assurance program option for RINs that regulated parties may exercise as a supplement to the “buyer beware” liability as prescribed under existing regulations. The program provides a means for ensuring that RINs are properly generated through audits of renewable fuel production conducted by independent third-parties using quality assurance plans (QAPs), provides an affirmative defense for the transfer or use of invalid RINs that had been verified under an approved QAP, defines the conditions when RINs must be replaced, and a process for determining who will replace the RINs…

- Minimum requirements for a QAP, including such things as verification of feedstocks, verification that volumes produced are consistent with amount of feedstocks processed, and verification that RINs generated are appropriately categorized and match the volumes produced
- Qualifications for independent third-party auditors
- Requirements for audits of renewable fuel production facilities, including minimum frequency, site visits, review of records, and reporting
- Conditions under which a regulated party could assert an affirmative defense to civil liability for transferring or using an invalid RIN
- Identification of the party or parties who are responsible for replacing invalid RINs with valid RINs and the timing of such replacement
- A two percent limited exemption for calendar years 2014, 2015, and 2016 that exempts a small fraction of a party’s Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) from the requirement of replacement of invalid RINs used for compliance if they were RINs verified through a QAP
- Changes to the EPA Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) that would accommodate the quality assurance program

There’s an interim period that covers back to February 21, 2013 through the end of this year which will finalize two proposed QAP programs, QAP A and QAP B.

Beginning January 1, 2015, there will be a single QAP, and the associated verified RINs will be referred to as Q-RINs.

Corn Growers Keep Ethanol in Focus

Ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) were big topics this week as members of the National Corn Growers Association met in Washington DC.

ncga-ethanolMichigan farmer Jeff Sandborn, chair of the Ethanol Committee, said they spent the week talking with administration officials and members of Congress after being updated on the issues. “Right now, Congress faces rapidly evolving issues crucial to our members. The information and understanding coming out of these meetings will help each of our delegations make the strongest case possible for farmers.”

During the Ethanol Committee meeting, staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality provided an update on the regulatory issues facing the ethanol industry. On Thursday, the entire NCGA delegation heard from EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe about the status of the pending 2014 volume obligation rule under the RFS.

“We greatly appreciate the deputy administrator’s willingness to participate in an open, well-considered conversation,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre of Illinois. While Perciasepe mainly dealt with the proposed Waters of the United States rule, he also fielded questions from growers pertaining to both the reduction in volume, and the continued delays of final RFS rule.

Cellulosic Ethanol Poll

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “How would the EPA water rule impact you?”

This is one of the hottest topics in the ag sector these days with a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds, especially when you see states starting to fine people for “wasteful use of water.” On the federal level the EPA says that under the proposed rules defining Waters of the United States (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) “all normal farming practices are exempt – period” but those in the agriculture community are questioning if that will hold true. Hopefully you’ve looked at how this will impact your farm or customers?

here are the poll results:

  • Just more govt. regulation – 38.9%
  • Permits for routine activities – 16.67%
  • Will regulate more of my property – 18.67%
  • Not sure but worried about it – 11.1%
  • Not worried about it – 11.1%
  • Don’t know or don’t care – 5.56%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What are your thoughts on cellulosic ethanol? We just saw the first commercial production of cellulosic ethanol in Iowa from team work between Syngenta’s Enogen and the Quad County Corn Processors. Let us know what you think.

Congressman Seeks Country Labeling for Fuel

braley-headshotCongressman Bruce Braley (D-IA) has introduced a bill that would give consumers the ability to know where their fuel is produced.

“America has a decision to make about its energy future. We can gut the RFS and move toward further reliance on Saudi Arabia, Venezula, and Nigeria for our energy needs—or we can continue our path toward energy independence by making investments in ethanol and other domestic energy sources,” Braley said.

Braley’s Country of Origin Labeling for Fuels Act would require gas stations to post the country of origin of the fuel right on the pump, letting consumers “know whether their fuel is coming from Saudi Arabia or from ethanol produced right down the road.”

The U.S. consumes more than 15 million barrels of oil each day, with nearly half of that total coming from other countries, including Canada, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela, Mexico, and Nigeria. Since the creation of the RFS in 2005, nearly 10 billion gallons of foreign oil per year have been replaced by renewable ethanol.

Ethanol Safety Seminars Head to Oklahoma & Missouri

The Ethanol Safety seminars are heading to Oklahoma and Missouri this month with all seminars hosted by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The first seminar will be held on July 21, 2014 at the Western Technology Center in Weatherford and is co-hosted by Oklahoma Emergency Management/LEPC. The second seminar will be held on July 22, 2014 at the Oklahoma City Fire Training Academy and is co-hosted by Stillwater Central Railroad. The third seminar will be held on July 24, 2014 at the Case Community Center in Tulsa and is Ethanol Safety Seminarco-hosted by South Kansas & Ohio Railroad. The final seminar will be held on July 25, 2014 at the Mid America Industrial Park Expo Center in Port of Catoosa and is also co-hosted by Oklahoma Emergency Management/LEPC. The seminars in Weatherford and Port of Catoosa are funded by an Oklahoma Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness grant while the Oklahoma City and Tulsa seminars are funded by a Federal Railroad Administration grant through TRANSCAER.

The other two seminars will occur in Missouri, with the first to be held on July 22, 2014 at the Public Safety Training Center in Joplin and is co-hosted by Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad. The second will take place on July 24, 2014 at the St. Louis Fire Academy and is co-hosted by Alton Southern Railroad. Both seminars are funded by a Federal Railroad Administration grant through TRANSCAER.

All seminars will have morning sessions from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and evening sessions from 5:30 to 10 p.m. While registration is free it is limited. Lunch and dinner will be provided. Certificates will be awarded to attendees at the completion of the course. While primarily targeting first responders, hazmat teams, safety managers, and local emergency planning committees, it is also open to the general public.

“With the heightened awareness of hazmat traveling throughout the United States on our railway systems, these types of training seminars are a very useful tool,” said Pat Foster, general manager at Stillwater Central Railroad. “This gives the railroads the opportunity to work with first responders in a positive atmosphere and to open a line of communication that sometimes may not have been there in the event of an incident.”

The goal of these seminars is for attendees to gain full ethanol emergency response training experience that they can put to use immediately in the field and pass along to other first response teams. A majority of this training is based on the “Training Guide to Ethanol Emergency Response,” a training package created by the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition (EERC) that has been distributed throughout the United States and to several countries worldwide.

“The use of ethanol and ethanol-blended products continues to increase each year. With this growth comes the heightened risk of encountering ethanol emergencies on the highways, rail systems, and at transfer and storage facilities,” said Jon Hall, member of the Oklahoma County Local Emergency Planning Committee. “Our first responders must be aware of the unique challenges inherent in such emergencies. The Ethanol Safety Seminar is designed to provide an avenue for educating our responder community on the most current and effective tactics and techniques to safely react to ethanol emergencies and mitigate the hazards associated with such events.”

Click here to register.

Lincolnland Agri-Energy Celebrates 10 Years

Lincolnland Agri-Energy is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The Palestine, Illinois-based ethanol plant is now producing 57 million gallons of ethanol per year and employs 41 local residents. In 10 years, the ethanol plant has produced 470 million gallons of ethanol. Over the weekend, Lincolnland Agri-Energy hosted an open house for the community to celebrate its milestone.

Since they began operating in 2004, Lincolnland has actively taken steps to develop and expand their facilities. They broadened into corn oil extraction, added a fermenter, and implemented selective milling technology.

Lincolnland Agri-Energy“We are proud to produce cost-saving, renewable ethanol that furthers America’s energy independence. Lincolnland’s ethanol production facility has helped revitalize the community, create demand for our local farmers, and save Illinois drivers money at the pump,” said Eric Mosbey, general manager of Lincolnland Agri-Energy. “This is an exciting day for everyone involved in making Lincolnland a success. The past 10 years of production would not have been possible without the support of our stakeholders, the dedication of our employees, and the cooperation of the local community. We look forward to another 10 years.”

The ethanol plant has fostered an active presence in the local community by hosting elected officials including then-Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Congressman John Shimkus (R-Ill.). Both elected officials were given a warm welcome as they learned more about ethanol production and the impact it has on the local community. The company also partners with the local junior college to offer internships and donate equipment so students can learn more about the ethanol production process. Lincolnland supports many local programs and is a long-time sponsor of the annual Labor Day rodeo in Palestine, Ill.

“What started as an idea by a group of local farmers has turned into a successful ethanol plant that is run with integrity and gives back to the local community. The hours, days, and years of dedication can be seen in every aspect of this business today,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association. “This truly is a day to celebrate and honor the 10 years of hard work that has gone into making this business a success.”

Former Team Ethanol Driver Wins Iowa Corn Indy 300

Ryan Hunter ReayEver since I met Ryan Hunter Reay as the driver for the Indy Team Ethanol Car I’ve been following him as his racing gets better and better. He showed it this weekend when he roared to a dramatic finish and won the Iowa Corn Indy 300. Ryan is a winner of this race previously.

With the Indy cars running on the same fuel that we can put in our flex fuel vehicles – E85 – this renewable fuel was on the big stage again. Our Joanna Schroeder was on location for the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, on Saturday and will have some stories to share from that event as well.

Report Shows Oil Companies Block Renewable Fuels

gasoline_pumpThe biggest names in the oil industry get failing grades when it comes to offering alternative transportation fuels like ethanol, according to a new report card released today by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

A new “Consumer Choice Report Card” grades the nation’s largest retail gasoline chains based on whether they are providing consumers with alternatives to regular gasoline that cost less, reduce pollution and are higher octane for better engine performance.

RFANewlogoAccording to RFA, the “Big Five” oil companies all scored at the bottom of the list — with fewer than one percent of stations offering American made, renewable alternatives like E85 or E15 — while a number of major independent retail chains received “A+” grades, with more than 25 percent of their stations offering E85 or E15. Those five companies are Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Shell. At the head of the class are independent chains such as Break Time, Meijer, Thorntons, Kum & Go, and Kwik Trip – all of which earned a grade of A+ for their support of renewable fuels. Among oil company affiliated brands, only Speedway/SuperAmerica and Cenex received high marks (“A-“ and “B,” respectively.)

The Consumer Choice Report Card is part of a new report from the RFA titled “Protecting the Monopoly: How Big Oil Covertly Blocks the Sale of Renewable Fuels” which exposes how the five largest oil companies, along with a number of leading refiners, are “engaging in strong arm tactics and covert practices to prevent and discourage the sale of renewable fuels, especially at stations carrying their brand name.” The report finds that oil company distribution contracts “routinely include provisions that make it difficult, needlessly expensive, or simply impossible for a retailer to offer consumers choices like E15 or E85.”

RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen and RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper held a media call to discuss the report and scorecard. “Cynically, oil companies frequently cite a shortage of fueling infrastructure as a reason why the EPA should lower the requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard. Yet, as demonstrated in this analysis, the oil industry itself has deliberately created this shortage by making it as difficult and burdensome as possible for retail gas stations to offer greater volumes of renewable fuels,” said Dinneen. “We have to enforce the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Cooper explains some of the tactics used by the big oil companies to prevent or discourage sales of renewable fuels. “Most of these contracts require supplier exclusivity meaning the retailer can only sell fuels made by supplier,” said Cooper. “So if the supplier doesn’t make E15 or E85 available at the terminal, the distributor can’t distribute it to the retailer.” Cooper says many agreements actually actively discourage retailers from promoting the availability of E85 and some have been fined for doing so.

Listen to or download the call here: RFA report on how oil companies block renewable fuels

EPA Chief Hopes RFS Rule Coming “Soon”

epa-mccarthyEnvironmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy held a conference call with media this morning in advance of her trip to Missouri this week to talk about the proposed Waters of the United States rule, or WOTUS.

I had the last question on the press conference and took the liberty of going off topic to ask about when the final rule on the volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would be released. “I’m hoping it will come out soon,” she said. Explaining about the delay in releasing the final rule, which was expected by the end of June, McCarthy said it has become clear that there is concern “not only about what the volumes of the fuels are but the way in which we are adjusting those volumes.”

McCarthy stressed that the administration “continues to have a strong commitment to biofuels” and they want to make sure the final rule “clearly reflects that interest.”

“My goal is always to make sure we get it right,” she concluded.

Listen to McCarthy answer the question here. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on RFS rule release

Railways Not Required to Report Ethanol Delays

stbA few weeks ago, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) directed Canadian Pacific Railway Company and BNSF Railway Company to report their plans to resolve the backlogs of grain car orders and to submit weekly status reports on grain car service.

However, the order failed to address rail service problems for the delivery of ethanol, and Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis has sent a letter to the STB asking why.

growth-energy-logo“With over 61 percent of all ethanol delivered by rail, it is imperative that these issues be directly addressed and given the same priority as grain shipments,” said Buis in the letter. “Earlier this year, we saw ethanol supply dwindle and prices skyrocket solely because of the inability to get rail cars to ship product – even to the point of having many plants reduce production. Ultimately, these service failures hurt the American consumer as these costs are borne in the form of higher gasoline prices, which impact every segment of the American economy.”

BNSF reported recently that they have been moving increasing volumes of grain and ethanol over the last several months and as of last month was “moving more year–to–date in 2014 than the same period in 2013.” In a statement, BNSF said they “have exceeded last year’s totals in ethanol…by 9% in latest year-to-date totals.”

The first report from the railroad companies was due to STB on June 27.

Export Exchange 2014 Registration Open

2014-export-exchangeRegistration is now open for Export Exchange 2014™, an international trade conference focused on the export of U.S. coarse grains and ethanol co-products.

Approximately 300 U.S. suppliers and agribusiness representatives and more than 180 international buyers are expected to attend Export Exchange 2014. The conference is being held Oct. 20-22 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel and is co-sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

“Export Exchange brings together a group of U.S. suppliers and international buyers in a unique event focused on the expansion of established export markets and the development of new markets for U.S. coarse grains, distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and other ethanol co-products,” said USGC Chairman Julius Schaaf.

“Over the past decade, the U.S. ethanol industry has emerged as a major producer of high quality animal feeds like DDGS and corn gluten feed,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “Export Exchange is the premier forum for connecting the producers and marketers of those co-products with customers around the world.”

Export Exchange is held every two years. The 2012 event broke records in attendance and attracted buying teams from 33 countries, including all of the top U.S. international coarse grains and ethanol co-products markets. Attendance at this year’s event is expected to set a new record, creating more opportunities for U.S. merchandisers to connect with buyers and build business.

Early registration discounts end July 31. USGC and RFA members are eligible for discounted pricing and should identify themselves as such at the time of registration.

Atlanta Now Has 12 E85 Pumps

protectlogoThe Atlanta metro area now offers a dozen E85 locations for drivers of flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) as Ruby Shell & Protec Fuel joined forces to launch a new E85 station last week in Doraville, Georgia.

protec-e85This is the first E85 station for owner Maruf (Mike) Khan, but he also has a station in Buford, Ga. “I wanted to provide a choice for my customers and hopefully gain new customers looking to use the environmentally friendlier fuel made from U.S. resources,” said Khan.

“Many cars have flex-fuel capability, whether the drivers know it or not,” said Steve Walk, a VP of Protec Fuel. “Alternative fuels like this in any blend also benefit air quality in a sensitive area such as big cities like Atlanta. This station is another stepping stone for the use of ethanol blends in any gas vehicle, like E15.”

Ruby Shell is located at 5020 Winters Chapel Rd., Doraville, GA.

Protec Fuel, based in Florida, has partnered to help manage the E85 installation and provide fuel for the location’s new cleaner burning fuel offering of E85. Protec is a turnkey E85 company specializing in station conversions and fuel distribution.

EPA Establishes Quality Assurance for RINS

epaIn addition to the final rule approving crop residue as a cellulosic feedstock, the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday established a “voluntary quality assurance program” for renewable identification numbers, or RINs.

The program is designed to maintain liquidity in the market for RINs under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) providing a means for ensuring that RINs are properly gener­ated through audits of renewable fuel production conducted by independent third-parties using quality assurance plans (QAPs). According to EPA, the QAP is intended to improve RIN market liquidity and ef­ficiency and improve the ability of smaller renewable fuel producers to sell their RINs.

Other provisions in the final rule regarding RINs include modifications to the exporter provisions of the RFS program to help ensure that an appropriate number and type of RINs are retired whenever
renewable fuel is exported.

Read the entire rule from EPA here.