Patriot Out Front with Ethanol

nec14-patriot-darryllPatriot Renewable Fuels wants to be the “poster child” for other ethanol plants when it comes to marketing higher blends in their own communities.

You might remember Darrell Rakestraw as the veteran we interviewed last fall about the EPA proposal to lower the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). When we spoke to him last week at his first National Ethanol Conference, Rakestraw was three months into his job as market development manager for Patriot. “I’ve learned a lot in three months,” he said. “The one thing I got out of (the conference) is that we have to help ourselves, we have to put the funds in to do the educational piece because no one else is going to do it.”

Listen to my interview with Darrell here: Interview with Darrell Rakestraw, Patriot Renewable Fuels

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

State Level Blend Walls Update

nec14-randy-jenningsThe phrase “all politics is local” seems like it sure could apply to some of the decisions to overcome the ethanol blend wall. Challenges to increasing ethanol in the marketplace exist on the state level as well as the federal level, and participants at the National Ethanol Conference learned more about efforts to break down the blend wall in various states, including Tennessee, where Randy Jennings is Director of Program Operations for the state Department of Agriculture Division of Consumer & Industry Services.

“Definitely, the walls are falling,” is how Jennings described the results so far of their efforts, along with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), to increase the amount of ethanol to be blended into gasoline in his state.

He said they brought together various Tennessee state agencies, such as the state’s Department of Environment and Conservation (the regulator of fuel storage tanks), Commerce and Insurance, and Department of Labor and Workforce Development, as well as stakeholding industries in Tennessee. They are proposing some key changes in current rules to also be proposed at this summer’s National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM). Those changes include: an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waiver for up to 15 percent ethanol, redefining E85 and how it is marketed, and proposing yellow grip guards at the pump just for flex-fuels, among other proposed changes. Jennings hopes that there will be more fuel choices for consumers, while working with the industry.

“We remain committed to working with all stakeholders in a fair, consistent manner.”

Hear more of his remarks here: Comments from Randy Jennings, Tennessee Department of Agriculture

nec14-kristy-mooreMeanwhile, RFA Vice President for Technical Services Kristy Moore outlined some of the challenges they face on the state level, including EPA’s restrictions during the summer volatility season.

“[For example in the Kansas City, Kansas area], gasoline in the summer must [meet EPA's capped requirements]. Gasoline in that area blended with 9-10 percent ethanol is allowed an 8 PSI requirement. But gasoline with 15 percent ethanol, has to meet the more restrictive [requirement],” she explained. And then in the rest of the state of Kansas, there are other requirements for E10 and E15 and above blends.

Moore said they have needed to work state-by-state, making sure they were not crossing laws already on the books and trying to get legislatures to make changes so there could be an increase in blends and more uniform blending rules across the country. She believes they’ve helped eliminate impediments in many states.

“We’ve really have had some major success, major education, and a lot of good partnerships in these state regulators to understand what E15 fuels can do, what blender pumps can do, what E85 can do for their marketplace and their fuel markets.”

Listen to more of here remarks here: Comments from Kristy Moore, RFA

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Ethanol Exports Important to Industry

nec14-patriot-juddExports of both ethanol and the animal feed co-product distillers dried grains (DDGs) are important for Patriot Renewable Fuels, located near the Quad Cities and not far from Chicago.

Patriot commodity manager Judd Hulting attended a trade mission with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) to Brazil last fall. “It’s just another outlet for our 200 or so investors,” he says. “We are actually close to 100% dependent on the export market for our distillers grains so branching out both in the ethanol and the DDG market is very important for our profitability going ahead.” Interview with Judd Hulting, Patriot Renewable Fuels

nec14-hubbardRFA General Counsel Ed Hubbard led that mission to Brazil last fall and talked about it during a panel at the National Ethanol Conference on Expanding the Global Marketplace for U.S. Ethanol.

“We had a very successful mission opening new business for individuals that participated,” said Hubbard. “We are the global leader in ethanol production, producing 57% of the world’s output.”

Hubbard noted that U.S. ethanol exports surged to 82.4 million gallons in November, with large volumes finding their way into new or emerging markets such as China and India, as well as the Philippines, Tunisia, Panama, and Mexico. Ethanol exports totaled 621.5 million gallons in 2013, the third-highest annual total on record. Comments from RFA General Counsel Ed Hubbard

Also on the export panel were:

Eco-Energy CEO Chad Martin – Comments from Chad Martin, Eco-Energy
DATAGRO Consulting president Plinio Nastari – Comments from Plinio Nastari, DATAGRO
U.S. Department of Commerce trade specialist Cora Dickson – Comments from Cora Dickson, US Commerce Dept.

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

NEC Global Ethanol Conversation

nec14-globalIt is always interesting to hear the perspectives of different countries during the National Ethanol Conference global panel and to see the similarities as well as differences in viewpoint.

The panel was moderated by Bliss Baker, Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, and included Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen, as well as (from left to right): Joel Velasco, Senior Advisor to Board of UNICA; Scott Thurlow, President, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association; Jayant Godbole, President and Director PRAJ Americas, Inc.; and Robert Vierhout, Secretary-General, ePURE

nec14-epureA few years ago, it was Brazil and the United States sparring with each other over ethanol trade and tariffs, but now it is the Europeans who are challenging the U.S. ethanol industry in the export arena.

“The real loser in the EU’s nonsensical action is the European consumer, who is being denied access to low cost high performance renewable fuels,” Dinneen said in his state of the industry address. Vierhout challenged that assertion on the panel. “Bob, please wake up,” said Vierhout. “If you would export your ethanol to Europe, who’s going to gain? Not the consumer, it’s the oil companies.”

Even Brazil and Canada fired back at Vierhout over Europe’s policy. “I’ll summarize for Rob,” said Velasco. “He’s never met a gallon, or a liter, or hectoliter, of ethanol imports that he likes.”

Thurlow questioned how this would play in the current European-U.S. trade negotiations. “I don’t see how your position can be tenable, Rob, if you are going to have a dispute resolution mechanism that will basically make it impossible for these types of ‘snap-back tariffs’ to be put on,” he said. To which Vierhout replied, “There’s still a possibility (the trade agreement) will exclude ethanol.”

Listen to the conversation here and watch the European exchange on video below: Growing Global Ethanol Industry Panel Discussion

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Students Interested in Ethanol

The 2014 National Ethanol Conference scholarship winners are three totally different young men who all share the common interest of ethanol.

nec14-gavin-bobGavin Kenney is a farm boy from Nebraska who is about to graduate from the University of Nebraska with a major in agricultural economics and minors in agronomy and entrepreneurship. He grew up around the ethanol industry and is the brother of a previous scholarship recipient. Tyler will be going to work for Producers Hybrids when he graduates in May. “A conference like this gives me a good opportunity to network and talk to people,” he said. Gavin is pictured here with Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. Interview with student Gavin Kenney

nec14-grundler-aaronAaron Walsh, pictured here with EPA official Chris Grundler, gained industry attention when he drove all the way from Michigan on his own dime to testify at the EPA hearing in December on the RFS proposal. A self-described “activist” who is devoted to using E85 in his flex fuel vehicle, even when it is inconvenient, Aaron got a job at a local ethanol plant as a result of that testimony. “Both my fuel and my car are made less than a hour from where I live,” he says proudly. Interview with student Aaron Walsh

nec14-tylerTyler Machado was born in Mexico, grew up in North Carolina and is currently attending San Francisco State University studying Environmental Studies and Spanish. His interest in renewable fuels began when he converted a 1981 Mercedes 300D to run on vegetable oil and he plans to travel to South America this summer to learn about renewable fuel projects and sustainable energy methods. Interview with student Tyler Machado

This is the fifth consecutive year Renewable Fuels Foundation has funded the scholarship to attend the NEC has been available to students in higher education with a focus on renewable fuels and intending to pursue a career in the industry.

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Engine Experts Talk Ethanol

nec14-engine-panelSpecialists in the areas of auto, motorcycle and small engines presented their experience with ethanol fuels in the real world during the National Ethanol Conference.

The panel was moderated by radio host and automotive expert Bobby Likis of Bobby Likis Car Clinic in Pensacola. “In 43 years, more than 200,000 cars have rolled through the doors of my automotive service shop,” said Likis. “Not one of my customers has lost or damaged an engine due to ethanol.” Comments by Bobby Likis, radio host and automotive expert

The panel featured:
Dr. Andrew Randolph, Technical Director with Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines – Comments by Andrew Randolf, Earnhardt Childress
Brian West, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Deputy Director Fuels, Engines and Emissions Research – Comments by Brian West, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bryan O’Neill, Auto Service Consultant and Vice President of the Iron Order International Motorcycle Club, Pensacola Chapter – Comments by Bryan O'Neill, motorcycle expert and advocate

O’Neill’s related that his own ride – a 2012 Victory Cross Country that “runs like a scalded dog” – has run on only E10 “from day one.” Regarding the use of E15, O’Neill made it clear that the bikers he knows are well aware that it is illegal to use that in their rides and they are capable of reading labels at the pump. “We’re bikers and I admit we’ve been known to do some dumb things, but we’re not stupid,” he said. “We know what to pump. It’s that simple.”

O’Neill is the star of a Bobby Likis Car Clinic/RFA video on motorcycles and ethanol.

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Ethanol Report on New Economic Study

ethanol-report-adAt the 19th annual National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, the Renewable Fuels Association unveiled a new study by ABF Economics entitled “Contribution of the Ethanol Industry to the Economy of the United States.”

The author of that study was John Urbanchuk, who is the go-to economist for the biofuels industry – but he was unable to be at the conference so we caught up with him by phone for this edition of “The Ethanol Report.” Ethanol Report with economist John Urbanchuk on new ethanol economic study

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

RFA Ethanol Industry Outlook and Pocket Guide

nec14-guideEvery registration packet at the National Ethanol Conference included two new publications from the Renewable Fuels Association – the annual 2014 Ethanol Industry Outlook and 2014 Pocket Guide to Ethanol.

The publications offer both a comprehensive look at the ethanol industry today and a succinct industry overview in a pocket-sized package. They include information about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), next generation biofuels, expansion of higher level ethanol blends, the global marketplace, food vs. fuel, and an updated map of biorefineries across America.

If you would like to get copies of the publications contact RFA’s Chris Findlay at 202-289-3835 or cfindlay@ethanolrfa.org – and both are available on line.

2014 Ethanol Industry Outlook
2014 Pocket Guide to Ethanol

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

19th National Ethanol Conference is a Wrap

nec14-bob-zepThe 19th annual National Ethanol Conference was one of the best ever, with strong attendance and a program that rocked.

Personally, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen thought the Led Zeppelin 2 concert for the networking reception was the highlight of the conference, but there were lots of other great acts.

“It was a substantive agenda and from start to finish there were really good conversations about issues of real importance,” Dinneen said at the conclusion of the event on Wednesday. “I’m really happy with the content, but just the mood around the room was really phenomenal.”

An address by the EPA official
in charge of making the proposed changes in the volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was definitely another highlight of the conference. “He truly is just trying to do the right thing,” Dinneen said about Chris Grundler, EPA Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “I think the world of him. I may not agree with everything he says or does but I know that he’s doing it sincerely.”

nec14-pacSomething new at the NEC this year was the membership PAC auction that was held to support the RFA Political Action Committee which started just last year. “We hadn’t had one up until that point,” said Dinneen, who gave a lot of credit to auctioneer Todd Barlow of Kentucky for helping to raise a good amount of dollars for a good cause. “It really is challenging to raise money in this fashion but it was a lot of fun and we’re going to continue to grow this event.”

Among the more entertaining acts of the conference were the traditional Washington Insiders panel and the global ethanol panel. Attendance was more than 1100 at the event in Orlando, more than the past two years, and they are the “right people, people that are truly invested, truly committed, truly looking to build a future for their companies and their communities as well,” said Dinneen.

The RFA’s marching orders in 2014 are simple – Protect the RFS and tell the government #KeepYourWord. Next year the 20th anniversary National Ethanol Conference will be held in Dallas. Interview with Bob Dinneen, RFA at close of NEC14

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Corn Growers Vow to Protect the RFS

nec14-insidersNow that the farm bill is a done deal, National Corn Growers Association Public Policy Vice President Jon Doggett says his organization has three main priorities for this year in Washington – protect the RFS, and protect the RFS, and protect the RFS.

That may seem redundant, but that’s just how important the Renewable Fuel Standard is for corn growers.

Doggett sat on the annual Washington Insiders panel at the National Ethanol Conference this week with Aaron Whitesel of DuPont, Kris Kiser with the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, and Shane Karr from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and Bob Greco of the American Petroleum Institute. Listen to the whole conversation between them, moderated by Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen: NEC Washington Insiders Panel

nec14-doggettOne of the questions directed to the panel was if they thought Congress would take any action on the RFS this year, and most said no but API’s Greco said they would continue to push for a permanent fix to the RFS, and NCGA’s Doggett warned the ethanol industry to be vigilant. “These folks are spending millions and millions of dollars to take away the RFS, the thing that has built your industry,” said Doggett. “Frankly I think everybody in this room ought to embrace a little paranoia on this one.”

During an interview with Domestic Fuel, Doggett was asked if the industry could continue to grow without the RFS. “I really don’t want to find out if that’s true or not … I don’t want to take that risk,” he said. Interview with Jon Doggett, NCGA

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Abengoa Honored With RFA Award

nec14-gersonTo recognize the advancement of cellulosic ethanol in a pivotal year, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen presented the “RFA 2014 Industry Award” to Gerson Santos-Leon, the executive vice president of Abengoa Bioenergy New Technologies.

The award was given by RFA at the National Ethanol Conference this week in Orlando “in gratitude for the sustained vision, innovation, and devotion to making cellulosic ethanol a commercial success.”

“Gerson is truly one of the great pioneers in the cellulosic ethanol industry. His work at the Department of Energy two decades ago helped provide the scientific foundation many companies are relying upon today to move advanced biofuel technologies forward.” said Dinneen. “And his continued leadership over the past 10 years in bringing cellulosic ethanol to commercial success at Abengoa is a testament to his grit, his genius and his creativity.” 2014 RFS Industry Award

nec14-standleeOn Tuesday at the conference, Abengoa Bioenergy executive vice president Christopher Standlee participated in a panel on advanced ethanol plants coming on line this year, including their facility in Hugoton, Kansas. “We’re very excited to finally start that up and we’re in the process of that right now,” he said.

I talked with Standlee about the new plant, what the impact of changing the RFS could have on future plans for Abengoa, and mood at the 19th annual National Ethanol Conference. Interview with Chris Standlee, Abengoa

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

NEC Breaking Down Blend Wall Panel

nec14-blend-wallTying in to the first part of the theme “Falling Walls, Rising Tides”, the second panel at the 2014 National Ethanol Conference was focused on Breaking Down the Blend Wall.

The panel, moderated by Renewable Fuels Association Director of Market Development Robert White, featured infrastructure experts who discussed efforts underway to expand options for retailers and overall availability of ethanol blends above E10.

Panelists were:
Bruce Sprague, Product Manager, Gilbarco Veeder-Root
Patrick Jeitler, Dispenser Product Manager – North America, Wayne, A GE Energy Business
Steve Walk, VP of Business Development, Protec

Listen to the entire discussion here: NEC Blend Wall Panel

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

EPA Director Addresses Ethanol Conference

nec14-grundlerThe Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency addressed the National Ethanol Conference on Wednesday morning on issues related to the Renewable Fuel Standard and EPA’s proposal for the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO).

Chris Grundler was scheduled to be on a panel at the NEC Tuesday but had a conflict and instead had the stage to himself to talk about how the EPA came up with the proposal that shocked the ethanol industry when it was released last fall. “You deserve to really understand what went into our thinking on that,” he said. “The most disappointing thing I heard in the reporting is that EPA no longer supports the development of biofuels, and I’m hear to tell you that’s wrong.”

“Our overriding goal with this 2014 RVO proposal is to put the RFS in what we call a manageable trajectory while continuing to support the growth of renewable fuels in our transportation supply,” he said. “We have to address some of the practical realities that we see today in the marketplace.”

Grundler stressed that the proposal is just that and it could be changed. He also noted that EPA received over 100,000 written comments during the comment period with 6,000 “unique” comments, and that the hearing held in early December was a record. He added that they do intend to try and meet the goal of finalizing the rule by the end of spring.

A disarmingly un-bureaucratic bureaucrat, Grundler was forthcoming and even funny in his short presentation and afterword even met with reporters to answer questions. Comments by Chris Grundler, EPA

Raw informal press availability audio – Press Avail Chris Grundler, EPA

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Dazed & Confused at National Ethanol Conference

Led Zep 2I never got to see Led Zeppelin live but last night I found out what it would have been like when Led Zeppelin 2 performed for the National Ethanol Conference. This band is fantastic. You can see what I mean in the video below (Dazed and Confused).

Playing Jimmy Page on stage is Paul Kamp, founding partner of Leifmark and heads the commercialization efforts for Inbicon Biomass Refinery technology. In other words, he’s directly involved in the ethanol industry. After his performance I got to talk with him about his dual role career.

You can listen to my interview with Paul here: Interview with Paul Kamp, Led Zep 2

There are lots of photos from last night’s event in our photo album:

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Impact of RFS on Ethanol Industry

nec14-panel-1The first panel of the 2014 National Ethanol Conference dealt with the impact of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) on the ethanol industry – today and tomorrow. Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President for Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper moderated the panel which featured remarks from Bruce Babcock, Cargill Chair of Energy Economics at Iowa State University and Steffen Mueller, Principal Economist with the University of Illinois at Chicago and Genscape, Inc.

Babcock shared some of his research on the feasibility of meeting expanded ethanol targets and the impact that could have on fuel prices. He summarized some of the results of a recent analysis from the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University that shows the RFS reduces gas prices.

Listen to Babcock’s remarks here: Comments by Bruce Babcock, Iowa State University

Mueller talked about his research into how biofuels have helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “The RFS2 works as intended,” he said. “It reduces greenhouse gas emissions relative to petroleum. The biofuels industry has a very high rate of technology adoption – much higher than in other sectors – and that reduces the greenhouse gas balance. The RFS2 encourages the adoption of that technology and will so in the future.”

He specifically noted that “tight oils” or fracking have higher greenhouse gas emissions or carbon intensity values compared to traditional petroleum.

Listen to Mueller’s comments here: Comments by Steffen Mueller, University of Illinois-Chicago

Hear the entire panel discussion here: NEC RFS Impact Panel

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC