Ethanol Coalition: Auto Engineers Expose EPA’s Oil Bias

ACElogoA new paper from automotive engineers shows how the federal government has a bias toward Big Oil. Officials from the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) praised a new Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) paper authored by experts from Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, and AVL Powertrain Engineering Inc. that concludes that emissions from higher ethanol blends are cleaner than gasoline, and the approach used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to estimate exhaust emissions, the Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES) model, is biased in favor of oil.

“We applaud these Ford, General Motors, and AVL Powertrain engineers for exposing that EPA’s MOVES model is biased in favor of a result oil companies prefer and ignores the way gasoline is blended with ethanol in the real-world,” said [ACE Executive Vice President Brian] Jennings. “This is just the latest example of how Big Oil is twisting EPA’s arm to limit ethanol use. First, it appears EPA is about to completely rewrite the Renewable Fuel Standard to help oil companies avoid their legal responsibility to blend fuels, like E15 and E85, which reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now, EPA is relying on a biased approach for estimating tailpipe emissions, remarkably making gasoline appear cleaner than ethanol.” Continue reading

DuPont to Sit on RFA Board

RFANewlogoDuPont will now be sitting on the governing board of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The company has been an associate RFA member for more than 10 years and has now upgraded its membership as its first cellulosic ethanol plant is in its final stages of construction. The biorefinery will be co-located next to Lincolnway Energy in Nevada, Iowa and when complete will produce 30 million gallons per year of ethanol using corn ag waste.

“Next generation cellulosic ethanol is emerging on the market and DuPont is at the forefront of innovation. Their knowledge and expertise in all aspects of the biofuels industry make them a valuable addition to the Renewable Fuels Association,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA. “I am eager to work together to advance the renewable fuels industry, which is already directly and indirectly employing nearly 400,000 people, reducing GHG emissions, and lowering America’s foreign oil dependence.”

William Feehery, president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences said of their renewed commitment to the ethanol association, “RFA is a leading voice in Washington on issues related to our industry and we look forward to working even more closely together as we reach full cellulosiDuPont Logoc production in the coming year. We acknowledge the hard work RFA has done to promote and defend the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) both as an individual organization and as our partner in the Fuels America Coalition. A stable RFS is vitally important to support growth for the existing corn ethanol industry while garnering the investment needed to expand and grow cellulosic ethanol in the United States. We must keep the technology, research, and development here in the United States so consumers can continue to have choices at the pump and America can reduce its reliance on foreign oil.”

RFA’s Davis Appointed to Advisory Committee

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis has been appointed to the Department of Commerce’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee.

According to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the function of the committee is to “provide consensus advice on the development and administration of programs and policies to expand U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency exports.”

“It is truly an honor to be selected by Secretary Pritzker to serve on the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee,” said Davis. “I look forward to having a seat at the table and helping Secretary Pritzker ensure that our global trading partners understand and appreciate the benefits of U.S. produced ethanol in reducing consumer gasoline prices, improving energy diversity and security, and addressing climate change.”

Davis recently participated in a trade mission to China, led by USDA Under Secretary Michael Scuse, to promote U.S. ethanol and co-products and strengthen the trade relationship between the two countries. Last year, she joined a similar trade mission, led by the U.S. Grains Council, to South Korea and Japan. The RFA board of directors has made opening new markets for ethanol and distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) abroad a top priority, and Davis’ appointment to this prestigious advisory committee reflects that commitment.

API: Extend Domestic Fuel Supply To Lower Gas Prices

In a recent blog post authored by Geoff Cooper, senior vice president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the American Petroleum Institute (API) recently released a study that argues that the fracking boom has led to dramatically lower prices for crude oil and refined products between 2008-2013. Cooper wrote that the study suggests that increased Cooper Graphic in API study articledomestic production of crude oil, natural gas liquids (NGLs) and lease condensate from fracking has already extended U.S. supplies and helped to lower gas prices.

The study finds that every 1 million barrels/day of new supply reduces consumer prices for petroleum products between $0.06-0.20 per gallon. Cooper writes that according to economics more supply generally results in lower prices, in this case there are two problems with API’s rationale.

  • Problem 1: Global demand for petroleum products continues to grow faster than global supply. EIA data show global production of crude oil, NGLs and condensate grew by 4.1 million barrels/day between 2008 and 2013. But global consumption of those products ramped up by 5.4 million barrels/day over the same period. Thus, demand gains outstripped supply gains by more than 30%.
  • Problem 2: When energy economist Phil Verleger and researchers at Louisiana State University, Iowa State University, University of Wisconsin, the Department of Energy, and others separately showed that extending the U.S. gasoline supply with ethanol leads to lower pump prices, Big Oil defiantly screamed “NOT SO!” Verleger found that consumer paid $0.50-$1.50 per gallon less for gasoline in 2013 because of ethanol’s extension of the fuel supply. His conclusion corroborated results from Iowa State/University of Wisconsin that showed consumers saved up to $1.09 in 2012 due to ethanol’s aggregate effect on gasoline supplies.

Cooper ends his article by asking the question, “So, which is it API? Does adding volume to the fuel supply reduce prices, or doesn’t it?”

Export Exchange Tours Build Relationships

badger-visitMany of the international teams visiting the United States last week for the 2014 Export Exchange also participated in tours before and after the event to see ethanol plants and farms across the Midwest.

Badger State Ethanol in Wisconsin had the honor of hosting a team of buyers from the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The KSA/Jordan team included companies representing the major dairy and poultry companies and major importers of feed grains in both countries and have been buyers of DDGS in the last couple of years.

exex-bob-tomHeld every other year by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Export Exchange brings together more than 200 international buyers with U.S. sellers of corn, sorghum, barley, distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), corn gluten meal and corn gluten feed. Over the course of three days of events and the pre- and post-tours, these individuals not only do business directly but also make connections to facilitate future sales.

“This year’s Export Exchange was a resounding success,” said RFA president Bob Dinneen, pictured here with USGC president Tom Sleight. “In addition to new business agreements, it is my hope that attendees from all across the world will return home with a better understanding of international grain markets, domestic supply and demand of DDGS and coarse grains, and the current political landscape.”

Ethics Group Sues EPA for RFS Documents

crewCitizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to provide documents regarding oil industry efforts to influence the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Last May, following a Reuters article describing how the Carlyle Group and Delta Airlines had lobbied members of Congress and the administration to reduce the amount of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel, CREW asked for an investigation by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records. It took months for the EPA to release even the documents the agency already had provided to Reuters, and it has yet to hand over all relevant documents.

Based on a follow-up Reuters article, CREW also has concerns that oil companies leveraged high-level political connections to convince the White House and the EPA to insert special waivers into the RFS that could potentially allow oil companies to refuse to sell biofuels.

“It certainly seems as if the administration has backtracked on its commitment to renewable fuels. The question is why. Was there a back room deal orchestrated by big oil and high ranking officials in the Obama administration?” asked CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Even though it is nearly 2015, the renewable fuel standards for 2014 still haven’t been released. Is this to avoid potential political fallout in the mid-terms for siding with the oil industry over the biofuel industry?”

CREW also notes that Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sent a letter earlier this month to the White House expressing their concerns about EPA potentially inserting a waiver into the RFS, which would allow oil companies to refuse to distribute renewable fuel. Carlyle and Delta lobbied heavily for both of these modifications to the program and would benefit financially from the change.

RFA Promoting Distillers Feed at Export Exchange

rfa-exex-2014The 2014 Export Exchange is continuing today in Seattle, Washington with representatives from more than 50 different countries in attendance to learn more about DDGS, the distillers feed product produced by U.S. ethanol plants.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is co-sponsor of the event with the U.S. Grains Council and RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen says it’s because we produce a lot of distillers feed. “Our plants, if they were a single country, would be the fourth largest producer of corn equivalent feed, behind only the U.S., China and Brazil,” said Dinneen, who spoke at the event yesterday on agricultural policies and politics. Interview with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen at 2014 Export Exchange

rfa-cooper-exexRFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper spoke at the event on the supply and demand outlook for DDGS.

“We have ample supplies of distillers grains coming from the U.S. ethanol industry but the demand picture is somewhat murky,” said Cooper. “That murkiness has to do with trade barriers and interruptions in the global trade of distillers grains that we’re seeing.”

Cooper says the U.S. is expected to produce 36-37 million metric tons of DDGS in the current marketing year, but one of the biggest trade disruptions in the market is being created by China’s demand that shipments of distillers grains must be certified to be free of the MIR162 biotech corn trait. “That kind of certification is not possible,” said Cooper. “So, we expect exports to China to be significantly curtailed or even halted until this situation is resolved.”

Last year, half of the U.S. distillers grains exports went to China, but Cooper says there are other countries increasing imports. “We are seeing continued growth of distillers grains exports to other parts of Asia outside of China,” he said, adding that Mexico is increasing imports and countries such as Egypt and Turkey are also growing markets. Interview with RFA Senior VP Geoff Cooper at 2014 Export Exchange

Ethanol Report on E85 Study and Contest

ethanol-report-adThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is looking for visual evidence of prices for 85% ethanol (E85) around the country.

“We’re doing an E85 “Post your Price” contest,” says RFA Vice President, Industry Relations, Robert White. “That came about from a study we just concluded in St. Louis this summer.”

That study showed evidence of price gouging for E85, with retail prices were around $1 per gallon higher than was justified by wholesale prices for the locally available ethanol blendstock.

In this edition of the Ethanol Report, White talks about the study and the new contest.

Ethanol Report on E85 study and contest

Ethanol Industry Applauds Abengoa

abengoaMembers of the ethanol industry joined with government leaders in applauding Abengoa at the opening of its $500 million cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas last week.

Among those on hand for the celebration was Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White who says Americans should be proud of the new plant “because this phantom fuel, as the naysayers like to call it, is here and it’s here to stay.”

However, White says they are concerned that this third cellulosic plant opening this year could be the last if EPA fails to continue implementing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as Congress intended. “There may never be another celebration like this and it’s sad but true,” he said. “This promise was made years ago and (the administration) needs to stick to it.”

Interview with RFA's Robert White at Abengoa Opening

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

USDA Researchers Advance Advanced Ethanol

usda-logoResearchers for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are making advancements on an advanced biofuel, cellulosic ethanol. This article from the USDA says the scientists at the Bioenergy Research Unit in Peoria, Illinois, have recently completed studies on multiple approaches that could help streamline cellulosic ethanol production.

In one study, a team led by ARS chemical engineer Bruce Dien looked at using switchgrass, a perennial grass native to the prairie, for ethanol production. The team concluded that biomass producers could optimize cellulosic ethanol production by planting Kanlow variety—a lowland ecotype—and harvesting at either mid-season or post frost. Results from this study were published in Environmental Technology in 2013.

ARS chemist Michael Bowman led another study of switchgrass xylans, which is challenging to convert to sugars with enzymes because of its complex chemical structure. Bowman determined that structural features of xylan remained the same as the plant matures, even though the amount of xylan changed with maturity. This is good news for biorefiners, because it suggests that they can use the same biomass hydrolyzing enzymes to break down xylans in all switchgrass biomass, no matter when the crop is harvested. Results from this study were published in Metabolites in 2012.

The article also gives progress reports on work with microorganisms needed to ferment xylose—molecules that make up xylans—into ethanol and promising field trials with a yeast strain that grew almost four times faster than other strains that contained XI enzymes and one that could produce ethanol at significantly greater yields than other yeasts engineered to ferment xylose to ethanol.

RFA Hammers CARB on ILUC Analysis

Renewable Fuels Association’s (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen has submitted a letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) where he expresses concern over their analysis of indirect land use (ILUC). He writes, “serious concerns about the openness, transparency, and scientific integrity of staff’s new indirect land use change (ILUC) analysis for the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).”

On September 29, 2014 CARB hosted a workshop where they disclosed they were planning to disregard the latest published research on ILUC. They have committed to using the current ILUC modeling despite the voluminous amount of stakeholder comments received.

RFANewlogoRFA, along with near 40 other stakeholders, submitted detailed technical comments in April 2014 aimed at improving CARB’s analysis, but “it was abundantly clear that the information submitted by stakeholders in the spring had been wholly disregarded” by the time CARB held its September public workshop. CARB staff gave no reason as to why it ignored the comments “even when stakeholders explicitly asked for staff’s rationale for ignoring new information.” CARB staff also remained vague about future plans to examine the new information. Because CARB staff failed to explain why it disregarded the technical comments submitted by RFA in April, the extensive comments were re-submitted.

Moreover, Dinneen’s letter highlighted CARB staff’s misguided belief that it is “not productive” to examine real-world data concerning agricultural land use. Dinneen remarked that, “Any objective scientist would find it prudent to examine the real-world data to determine whether predictive model results agreed with actual observed outcomes… Certainly, it is difficult to disentangle the real-world impact of biofuels expansion from the effects of other factors on actual global land use—but that does not mean CARB staff shouldn’t at least attempt to ground-truth its predictive results against real-world data.”

As an example of the disconnect between CARB’s ILUC modeling results and the real world, Dinneen noted that CARB’s model predicted that roughly 100,000 hectares of forest would be converted to cropland for biofuels production between 2001 and 2015. But real-world data show no U.S. forest loss has occurred; instead, U.S. forestland has grown 7 million hectares since 2001.

Dinneen concluded by calling on CARB to ensure its staff is transparent in its decision making and responsive to legitimate stakeholder concerns, stating, “We urge you to ensure that the CARB staff responsible for the ILUC analysis are held accountable for their decisions and abide by the agency’s long-standing norms for science-based rulemaking.”

The full letter can be found here.

E85 “Post Your Price” Contest

Fuel prices are on the decline and the Renewable Fuels Association wants to know how low E85 is at your station.

Flex Fuel Pump at Hy-Vee Mills Civic Parkway in Des Moines IA 6-16-14In an effort to promote E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) sales and track E85 prices, RFA is offering the opportunity to win FREE E85 for one year with a simple snap of a camera and click of a mouse. All you have to do is submit a photo of an E85 pump to www.chooseethanol.com/PostYourPrice and the winner will be drawn at random. E85 is currently sold at more than 3,440 stations and is approved for use in all flex-fuel vehicles.

“The more information we collect on E85 prices, the more we are able to track and ensure consumers receive a fair price for the high-octane, environmentally-friendly fuel. We hope consumers have fun with this contest, but also understand the cost-saving benefits of higher-level ethanol blends,” stated Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA.

E85 offers tremendous price savings for consumers, often being sold at $0.75–1.00/gallon less than E10 gasoline. However, RFA recently uncovered signs of price gouging in the St. Louis market during the 2014 summer driving season. It examined retail E85 prices at nine Big Oil-branded stations, finding an average E85 price of $3.48/gallon while the average E10 price stood at $3.45/gallon. The St. Louis retail price for E85 was surprising, given that wholesale E85 prices in St. Louis averaged $2.58/gallon compared to $2.93/gallon for E10. When factoring in RFS RIN prices, locally-available ethanol prices, hydrocarbon blendstock, and a more typical markup, RFA concluded that E85 could have been sold to consumers at retail prices as low as $2.44–2.55/gallon.

In addition to an overall winner, two others will be chosen receive free E85 for a month. This award will be given to the individual who posts a photo of the largest gap between E85 and regular unleaded gasoline and the individual who posts a photo of the smallest gap between E85 and regular unleaded gasoline.

Find out more about the contest here.

Ethanol Advocacy App

ethanol-report-adIf you’re an ethanol advocate, there’s an app for that from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

In this edition of the Ethanol Report, RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen talks about the new app, what it does, who should use it, and why they developed it. He also comments on when we might yet see a final rule on the 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard and how railway transportation issues continue to impact the industry.

Ethanol Report on New Advocacy App

RFA Updates Fueling A Nation, Feeding the World

An updated version of the paper “Fueling a Nation, Feeding the World,” has been released by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The publication outlines ethanol’s contribution to the global food and feed supply and also contains information that RFA said disproves the “fabricated food vs. fuel” debate.

Fueling a nation“The U.S. ethanol industry has quietly evolved into one of the largest feed processing sectors in the world, generating nearly 40 million metric tons of high-protein, high-energy animal feed in the 2013/14 marketing year,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “The RFA publication is a resource intended to educate policymakers and consumers about the industry’s role in producing feed, to counter the nonsensical food vs. fuel notion, and explain the benefits of ethanol production and co-products for both food and feed markets.”

The booklet outlines the co-products of ethanol production, such as distillers grain, corn distillers oil and corn gluten feed. For example, a 56-pound bushel of corn will yield 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 17 pounds of distillers grain, which is commonly fed to beef cattle, dairy cows, swine, poultry, and even fish. The handbook explains that “the feed produced by ethanol plants in 2013/14 would be enough to produce nearly 50 billion quarter-pound hamburger patties — or seven patties for every person on the planet.”

The publication concludes by stating, “Not only are U.S. ethanol producers helping to meet future demands for energy, but they are also helping to meet the increasing food and feed needs of a growing world.”

RFA will be sharing the booklet with international buyers and U.S. producers of ethanol-related co-products, such as distillers grain, at the Export Exchange taking place in Seattle, Washington October 20-22 2014.

Small Biodiesel Maker Closing Indicative of RFS Problem

yokayo1While the closing of one small biodiesel maker in California might not seem like big news, it’s certainly indicative of the problems facing the industry, big and small producers alike. This story from the Ukiah (CA) Daily Journal says that Yokayo Biofuels, which turned waste cooking oil into biodiesel, has closed.

[Kumar Plocher, Yokayo Biofuels’ CEO] says the biggest reason for their closure was due to a lack of government support both at the state and federal levels. He explains that the carbon credit programs, those where petroleum companies are required to buy a certain amount of renewable fuels, allowed his company to bank carbon credits, normally valued high based on demand. This year state and federal value levels were very low: the state’s due to tampering by global companies that flooded the market and at the federal’s due to the Obama administration and the EPA. “Every year the federal government is supposed to raise the requirement of renewable fuel that should be purchased. At the beginning of 2014, they did not do that; they kept it static. They waited until September to announce a tiny increase, and by that time the damage was done and carbon credits were worthless all year. Every mid-term election year, the dollar per gallon subsidy that goes to biofuels has been absent; they wait until after the election.”

Plocher’s complaint is a common one among advanced biofuel makers and their advocates this year. In fact, at the recent National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo, Michael McAdams, founder and president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, said the partnership between the federal government and industry has to have clarity and certainty, but that’s not been the case lately.

“What we haven’t had in the last two years is certainty for the people I represent in the advanced and cellulosic sector,” McAdams said.

Similarly, Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), pointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimates that corn prices will hit an eight-year low because of the government’s failure to follow through on the promises made in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“Indeed, today’s USDA report should be the closing argument in the debate over the 2014 RFS final rule,” Dinneen continued. “When farmers made their planting decisions for the 2014 season, they anticipated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House would continue to enforce the statutory RFS volumes. But in one fell swoop, the EPA’s proposed rule wiped away demand for 500 million bushels of corn and grain sorghum. Now, farmers are faced with corn prices below the cost of production and the risk of returning to an era of increased reliance on federal farm program payments.”

There is a little good news in all of this. Plocher was able to sell Yokayo Biofuels’ biodiesel assets to like-minded Simple Fuels.