Biofuel Groups Oppose RFS Delay Request

Leading biofuel industry groups are opposing a delay requested by petroleum industry in a 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard case.

Dont Mess with RFSThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and Growth Energy together filed a joint response yesterday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in opposition to the American Petroleum Institute’s and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers’ motion to “sever and hold in abeyance their challenge to the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard” that was filed on Friday. The case is Monroe Energy, LLC v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, which was argued before the Court on April 7.

As the groups explained in their response to the motion, “Respondent-Intervenors Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy, and Renewable Fuels Association oppose the motion to sever API and AFPM’s petitions and place them in abeyance. The petitions have been fully briefed, responded to, and argued. No purpose is served by pulling API and AFPM’s petitions back a week after argument, to hold them indefinitely and consolidate them with hypothetical later-filed petitions.”

Central Texas Marks 20 Years of Alternative Fuels

lone-star-20The Lone Star Clean Fuels Alliance in Austin, Texas this week celebrated 20 years of being green, starting before being green was cool.

The LSCFA recognized the achievements of many leaders who helped Austin cut 10 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in one year alone, and attendees had the opportunity to drive renewable energy vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and a stand-up electric police mobility vehicle.

The LSCFA, formerly known as Central Texas Clean Cities, is a non-profit coalition dedicated to reducing petroleum consumption through alternative fuels. Over the past 20 years the association has helped to clean up City of Austin fleet vehicles as well as other fleet and personal vehicles in five Central Texas counties counties. In 2012 alone, its stakeholders reduced petroleum consumption by 1.6 million gallons. Clean Cities helps to advance the alternative or renewable fuels of propane, biofuels: ethanol/E85 and biodiesel, natural gas, electric and hydrogen. It was the sixth Clean Cities coalition started in the U.S. where there are now about 90.

Farm Group Agrees with Climate Change Report

NFUlogoThe National Farmers Union (NFU) agrees with the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that renewable energy must play a significant role in climate change mitigation.

“The working group’s report complements NFU’s long-held, member-led policy positions by recognizing the need for a comprehensive renewable energy strategy,” said NFU vPresident Roger Johnson. “Tripling or even quadrupling the share of zero- and low-carbon energy supply from renewables, as the report recommends, will require significant investments in energy technologies that utilize rural America’s renewable and human resources. These investments would pay off not only by helping to mitigate the effects of climate change but by driving significant rural economic development.”

WGIII_AR5_Cover_webThe IPCC third working group report released this week finds that climate change is occurring at a rapid rate, but mitigation strategies such as scaling up renewable energy production could substantially reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

According to the report, total anthropogenic GHG emissions have continued to increase over 1970 to 2010 in spite of a growing number of climate change mitigation policies. Total anthropogenic GHG emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010. Without additional efforts to reduce GHG emissions beyond those in place today, emissions growth is expected to persist, driven by growth in global population and economic activities.

Brazilian Ethanol Sales Break Record

Domestic ethanol sales in Brazil have reached an all-time high according to data compiled through the end of March for the 2013/2014 harvest. The total sales volume reached 23.07 billion liters, as compared to 18.68 liters in the same 2012/2013 harvest period.

sugarcane field photo-dowIn Brazil, the majority of the ethanol is hydrous ethanol, which saw a 16.27 percent growth to 13.70 billion liters. Sales of hydrous ethanol also saw records with an increase of 35.84 percent as compared to last season’s harvest.

“Raising the level of mixture of anhydrous ethanol in gasoline to 25 percent in May 2013 was the right decision, and the industry responded to increased demand without any kind of problem,” explained Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, technical director of UNICA, the association that represents the Brazilian sugarcane industry. “The production capacity of the dry mills indicates the possibility of new expansion in the supply of the product if the government opts for the approval of the increase of the mixture to 27.5 percent.
 
Information collected by the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) show that the current production capacity of ethanol for the 2014/2015 harvest is exceeding production recorded in 2013/2014 harvest. In the case of anhydrous ethanol, the capacity indicated by the ANP is 101 million liters, compared to around 70 million per day actually produced this season.

Rodrigues noted that the majority of alcohol (ethanol) production takes place at the beginning of the harvest and this year the trend will continue a few months longer due to lower demand for sugar on the global market and the need for liquidity and cash flow my mills with financial problems.

USDA Rural Development Supports Biofuel Investment

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno went on a three-state Midwest tour last week to highlight USDA investments that are helping expand business opportunities in the bio-economy, including biofuels.

usda-salerno“Creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity for rural small businesses are top priorities for the Obama Administration,” said Salerno, who visited companies in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. “The new Farm Bill expands the potential for economic growth in rural America by maintaining momentum for the emerging bio-based industry and the more than 3,000 bio-based companies across the country.”

Salerno’s tour started with a visit to Quad County Corn Processors near Galva, Iowa where they are working on a process to turn corn kernel fibers into cellulosic ethanol and as a result boost the plant’s ethanol production. “It’s a co-op, so all the farmers around there have a vested interest in making this processing unit work,” she said. The company has received nearly $22 million in USDA Rural Development loan guarantees since it opened 13 years ago.

Salerno noted that the United States has the capacity to provide one billion tons of biomass per year by 2030. “This has a possibility of hundreds of thousands of jobs – actually 1.7 million estimated,” she said.

Stanford Scientists Convert CO2 to Ethanol

Stanford University scientists have discovered a new way to produce liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas. The researchers believe the discovery could provide an “green” alternative to conventional ethanol production from corn and other crops. The results were published in the April issue of Nature.

“We have discovered the first metal catalyst that can produce appreciable amounts of ethanol from carbon monoxide at room temperature and pressure – a notoriously difficult electrochemical reaction,” said Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford and coauthor of the Nature study.

Stanford's Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry, co-authored a study on producing liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide.

Stanford’s Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry, co-authored a study on producing liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide.

According to Kanan, most ethanol today is produced at high-temperature fermentation facilities that chemically convert corn, sugarcane and other plants into liquid fuel. But growing crops for biofuel requires thousands of acres of land and vast quantities of fertilizer and water. He cites a study that found it takes more than 800 gallons of water to grow a bushel of corn, which in turn yields around 3 gallons of ethanol.

The new technique developed by Kanan and Stanford graduate student Christina Li requires no fermentation and, if scaled up, they team says could help address many of the land- and water-use issues surrounding ethanol production today.

“Our study demonstrates the feasibility of making ethanol by electrocatalysis,” Kanan said. “But we have a lot more work to do to make a device that is practical.”

Two years ago, Kanan and Li created a novel electrode made of a material they called oxide-derived copper. They used the term “oxide-derived” because the metallic electrode was produced from copper oxide.

“Conventional copper electrodes consist of individual nanoparticles that just sit on top of each other,” Kanan explained. “Oxide-derived copper, on the other hand, is made of copper nanocrystals that are all linked together in a continuous network with well-defined grain boundaries. The process of transforming copper oxide into metallic copper creates the network of nanocrystals.” Continue reading

Iowa Gov. Branstad Expands “Fueling Our Future”

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s “Fueling Our Future” program has recognized two retailers for their innovative plans to increase accessibility to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends. Farmers Cooperative based in Mount Ayr, Iowa and Oak Street station based in Inwood, Iowa both received $125,000 to offset the cost of adding renewable fuel infrastructure for biodiesel and ethanol. In addition, he has committed to expanding the program.

I’ve long been an advocate for increasing consumer access to locally-produced, environmentally-friendly renewable fuels,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad during a press conference. “The two retailers receiving funding as part of the ‘Fueling Our Future’ program will provide Iowans with additional access to higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel, supporting Iowa products and jobs, while also improving air quality.”

The Farmer’s Cooperative station in Mount Ayr will offer E10, E15, and E30, E50 and E85 as well as B5, B10 and B20. “Based on the consumer response to higher levels of renewable fuels at our Creston location, Farmers Cooperative wants to add more blender pumps where they are needed,” said Farmers Cooperative Creston Location Manager Darin Schlapia. “Mount Ayr is the hub of Ringgold County and we want to capture that customer base by offering more American-made fuel options. We’re pooling the Coop members’ resources to drive profitability and offer more competitively priced fueling options not otherwise available.”

Oak Street Station received a grant for its new fueling site set to be built in the Northwest Iowa town of Inwood. The station will offer E10, E15, E30, and E85, as well as B5 year-round and B99.9 during the summer months for independent jobbers and special use customers such as tractor pullers.

Oak Street Station Accountant Lisa VanRegenmorter said, “At Oak Street Station, we have a passion for renewable fuels and want to help grow the industry. Putting in blender pumps and biodiesel will continue our support for biofuels, provide fuel choices for our customers, and supply customer data to support the state’s Fueling the Future initiative.”

The “Fueling Our Future” program is administered by the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The purpose of the program is to gain better consumer information regarding fueling preferences, expand the use and availability of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel, and provide a pathway to reduce particulate matter in Iowa.

Lucy Norton, Managing Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association applauds the program. “We commend Gov. Branstad for his unwavering support in making Iowa a model state for fuel choice and consumer access to clean-burning renewable fuels. With the help of Gov. Branstad, IDALS, and the Iowa DOT, Iowa is raising the bar to show the nation that higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel are the preferred fuels.”

RFA: CARB’s ILUC Analysis Out of Date, Out of Step

rfa-logo-09A biofuels advocate is taking exception with one state’s evaluation of indirect land use change associated with the green fuels. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) says the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) draft indirect land use change (ILUC) analysis is not in step with current ILUC science.

Geoff Cooper, RFA’s senior vice president, notes in his submission that RFA is greatly concerned by many aspects of the draft.

Cooper writes, “….several of the assumptions and methodological approaches chosen for CARB’s draft analysis run counter to the recommendations of the Expert Work Group (EWG). In particular, the values selected by CARB for key GTAP elasticities are in conflict with values recommended by EWG and well-known agricultural economists. More generally, CARB’s draft analysis lacks sufficient justification for certain judgment calls made by staff with regard to important model parameters.

“… the results of CARB’s draft analysis are in conflict with the results of recent independent ILUC studies. As described in a recent letter to CARB Chair Mary Nichols from 14 scientists and researchers (including CARB-appointed Expert Work Group members), the corn ethanol ILUC results from CARB’s draft analysis are significantly higher than estimates from recent peer-reviewed scientific analyses…. We believe CARB should explain and justify the divergence of its draft results with estimates from other recent studies.”

RFA addresses key modeling parameters in CARB’s analysis, such as crop yield elasticities and emissions factors, which RFA believes are not in line with what current ILUC science says. In addition, the group says CARB needs to correct in its draft price yield elasticity, what RFA considers to be the single more important factor in the analysis. You can read RFA’s full comment letter here.

Ethanol Industry Testifies About Railroad Issues

The ethanol industry testified during the Surface Transportation Board hearing to discuss issues related to insufficient rail service that the ethanol industry says has resulted in ethanol prices spikes and ethanol plants having to halt production.

ethanol rail car at Patriot EthanolChris Bliley, director of regulatory affairs for Growth Energy said in his testimony, “Make no mistake, these price spikes have not been caused by a lack of ethanol production or supply, but purely because of an inability to get timely rail transportation. In fact, many plants have reduced or even halted production because their storage capacity is fully utilized. There have been numerous examples of our producers having to wait and wait on trains to deliver their product.”

He continued, “On top of the poor and declining rail service, our industry has seen increased tariff rates on certain routes effective April 1. Not only did one railroad give our producers very little notice of the increases, but I dare say, few, if any industries would have the audacity or ability to increase shipping rates while their service has been so poor.

“The bottom line is that the railroad industry has failed in its sole responsibility to transport goods in a timely and effective manner. This failure in service has had a ripple effect on American consumers by increasing the cost of goods and services, and has directly impacted our industry by causing a de facto shut down in production as there is simply no more space to store product,” Bliley added.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) general counsel Ed Hubbard, in his testimony said, “Due to an uncharacteristic winter, rail shipments of all commodities have been significantly delayed across the country. For ethanol, the congestion has led to a dramatic delay in ethanol shipments to fuel terminals, and caused shutdowns of operations at ethanol plants because they can’t continue to store product while awaiting rail carriers to move their product.” Continue reading

Americans Vote for Biofuels

According to a new national poll conducted by American Viewpoint on behalf of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Americans support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and other key federal initiatives that support the expanded use of biofuels such as ethanol. Sixty-five percent of adults support the RFS, up from 61 percent in 2012.

E85 pump in Ottumwa Iowa

Photo: Joanna Schroeder

Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO said of the poll results, “It is telling that support for the RFS continues to grow in spite of the relentless attacks on ethanol and the RFS financed by Big Oil’s deep pockets. Repeatedly Americans have decisively said they place a premium on energy independence, job creation, and a cleaner environment.”

For these reasons and more, Americans overwhelmingly support the RFS for its ability to strengthen this great nation,” continued Dinneen. “Members of Congress and the Obama Administration should review this data before taking action to reduce or eliminate a program with broad national appeal and tangible energy and environmental benefits.”

Expanding on the polling results, Dinneen added, “Americans see great value in investing in the next generation of fuel, cellulosic ethanol, and they support the idea of an open fuel standard which encourages the manufacturing of cars that run on any number of alternatives to petroleum. In fact, Americans appear to have a visceral dislike for the billions and billions of dollars in government subsidies and special tax treatment that Big Oil has enjoyed for 100 years.”

Sixty-six percent of the respondents favor incentives for the expansion of cellulosic ethanol while 78 percent of respondents favor auto manufacturers to build cars that will run on fuel other than oil. In addition, 66 percent of respondents oppose oil company subsidies while only 22 percent favor oil subsidies.

Continue reading

Corn Oil Gains in Popularity as Biodiesel Feedstock

cornoilbiodiesel1Corn oil, squeezed from the seeds at the Nation’s many ethanol plants, has seen a meteoric rise in popularity as a feedstock for biodiesel. This article from Ethanol Producer Magazine says use of corn oil as a biodiesel feedstock grew by an impressive 245 percent between 2011 and 2013.

Corn oil’s role as a popular feedstock choice in the biodiesel arena is quite apparent and growing, which made 2013 a great year for corn oil-derived biodiesel. More than 1.04 billion pounds of corn oil were utilized for biodiesel production by the end of 2013, an EIA biodiesel production report showed, making it the second most popular feedstock choice. During the second half of 2013, corn oil finally broke the 100 million pound mark not once, but on three separate occasions.

Corn oil producers have options to sell within local markets, as well as destination markets, says [Joseph Riley, general manager of FEC Solutions]. Locally, the oil can be transported via truck to nearby biodiesel plants or feed producers. In the case of Marquis Energy, the company is located relatively close to one of Renewable Energy Group’s biodiesel plants, says Tom Marquis, director of marketing at Marquis Energy LLC, which installed corn oil separation units in 2008. REG is one of the leading North American biodiesel producers with a 257 MMgy capacity and has been using the feedstock since 2007. “Our freight to their facility is pretty reasonable, so that has been the best market for our plant,” Marquis added.

The article goes on to say that growing markets for corn oil include plants in Louisiana, which use a variety of feedstocks for renewable diesel and California, which likes corn oil’s carbon-related benefits.

NASCAR Leader Testifies for Biofuels

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing this week on advanced biofuels. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan says advanced biofuels are here now, and they are an important part of the energy title in the recently passed farm bill.

“The Energy Title funds critical programs that helps our farmers produce energy from non-food sources and helps companies get low-interest loans for those facilities, and of course, all that creates jobs,” Stabenow said, adding that to continue to grow the industry, there needs to be policies that support it. She said passing the Farm Bill was a strong first step toward to that goal. “Now we need to provide certainty through a strong Renewable Fuels Standard and tax credits to support long-term investments in our energy future.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senate Agriculture Committee

childress-testOne of the witnesses at the hearing was NASCAR team owner Richard Childress who talked about the many benefits of corn-based biofuels, such as the higher fuel performance he has seen in more than five million miles of racing since the E15 ethanol blend was introduced in the 2011 racing season.

“When they decided to go with an ethanol-blend of fuel, in 2010, NASCAR started looking at what was the correct blend to use. After many tests, they came up with E15,” Childress said, pointing out that his own racing team tested up to E30 blends, which he believes would be even better. “Nothing but positive results came out of our tests. Engines ran cooler, ethanol makes more octane so it makes more horsepower, less carbon buildup, better emissions, and our parts when we tore the engines down looked much better.” NASCAR team owner Richard Childress at biofuels hearing

Syngenta Partners with Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies

Syngenta has reached an agreement with Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, LLC, to license its Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology, a new process for ethanol plants. Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology has been shown to significantly increase a plant’s ethanol production while delivering other benefits such as increased corn oil production and higher protein content in dried distillers grains (DDGs).

Quad County Corn Processors SignCellulosic Ethanol Technologies, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP), and is currently being added to the QCCP ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa. The process is expected to go online in May 2014. Testing to date demonstrates the concept will run successfully at full commercial scale.

“We are continuously looking at new technologies that will contribute to the future success of the ethanol industry, and we are very excited about the opportunities that are emerging,” said David Witherspoon, head of renewable fuels for Syngenta. “We believe the new Adding Cellulosic Ethanol process will be a critical component in the development and commercialization of advanced and cellulosic ethanol.”

By converting corn kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol in a bolt-on process, Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology is designed to increase a plant’s ethanol production. In combination with the Enogen corn trait from Syngenta, Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology allows the corn kernel fiber and starch to be converted into ethanol. Syngenta says Enogen trait technology is the only corn output trait designed specifically to enhance ethanol production.

“The integration of the Adding Cellulosic Ethanol process into the QCCP plant operation will help create a higher protein feed, 2.5 times more corn oil and more ethanol out of the same kernel of corn,” said Delayne Johnson, chief executive officer of QCCP. “This launch represents a major advance in the production of cellulosic ethanol.”

“The combination of Adding Cellulosic Ethanol and Enogen corn is expected to generate significant synergies when used together in dry grind ethanol plants,” Johnson added. “It will produce advanced and cellulosic ethanol while decreasing natural gas usage, increasing ethanol throughput and reducing an ethanol plant’s carbon footprint. These advantages, combined with increased corn oil production and high-protein DDGs, make the technology package appealing for ethanol plants looking to improve their bottom line.”

Growth Energy Applauds Senator Stabenow

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the economic benefits of advanced biofuels today.

In response to the hearing, Growth Energy CEO, Tom Buis, said, “I am grateful to Sen. Stabenow for taking the time to investigate the true impact of biofuels on our nation’s economy. First generation biofuels have created nearly 400,000 jobs, revitalized our rural communities and have reduced our dependence on foreign oil Growth_Energy_logo (1)while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These first generation fuels have set the foundation for further advancements in next generation ethanol, including deriving the fuel from sources such as farm waste, plants, and wood waste. With over a billion tons of available biomass, the potential for advanced biofuels are limitless.”

Buis noted that higher blends such as E15 and next generation biofuels will help the country break through the blendwall. He said they have the ability to further reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil, create as many as 130,000 more jobs in our rural communities, further support farmers and present consumers with a choice and savings at the pump. But in order to achieve these goals, he said, we need to focus on developing the infrastructure to give consumers access to the fuel of their choice.”

One of the key testimonies was presented by CEO of Richard Childress Racing and Growth Energy Board Member, Richard Childress. His testimony largely focused on the benefits of biofuels in NASCAR and the substantial improvements Sunoco Green E15, the 15 percent ethanol blend used in the sport, has had in the world of stock car racing.

“Sunoco Green E15 has proven to be a reliable fuel for Richard Childress Racing and for the entire NASCAR community,” said Childress in his written testimony. “Now in its fourth season of use, the fuel has been driven more than 5 million miles with no reported engine conditions or increased maintenance issues. The fuel has increased horsepower while decreasing emissions by 20 percent.”

Buis concluded, “By reducing Renewable Volume Obligations, which the EPA recently proposed, we will see a major impact on the infrastructure needed for these higher blends as well as the development of next generation biofuels, which could impede future economic growth for our entire country.”

EPA Chief Discusses RFS With Ag Journalists

epa-mccarthyEnvironmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke to the North American Agricultural Journalists meeting in Washington DC on Monday and expressed confidence that the final rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will be different than the proposed rule that reduces volume requirements for biofuels in 2014.

According to Agri-Pulse McCarthy said EPA is in the process of reviewing more than 200,000 comments on the RFS proposal and plans to issue a final rule in late spring or early summer.

She stressed that EPA has to make sure the final rule is implementable. “And that means taking into realities of the fuel market. One of those realities is the fuel blend wall.”

Agri-Pulse reports that McCarthy expects the final rule will “almost certainly” be different than the one that was proposed. “Gasoline demand had an impact in the proposal and it will also be reflected in the final rule,” she said.

She also said that EPA expects legal challenges to any RFS standards. “We need to be able to justify it in court,” McCarthy said. With current the current infrastructure, the industry this year would not be able to “get anywhere near” the levels required in the original RFS. “But we think that the industry is stepping up to that challenge,” she said. “We’re going to try to work toward these goals the best we can, but we need to be realistic.”

Read the entire article from Agri-Pulse here.