USGC Calls on China to Approve Biotech Cert for DDGS

China is considering whether it will approve MIR 162, a biotech certification requirement for distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) by the Chinese import inspection authority (AQSIQ). Today, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is calling on China to approve the certification that would follow the point of origin. In this case, U.S. shipments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, guaranteeing that the shipment is free of the biotech trait. Although MIR 162 is not been approved, the country has already passed a mandate against biotech traits that have caused disruptions in existing DDGS trade and making future trade more difficult.

distillers_grains_ Photo US Grains Council“China is asking for something that cannot be done. This certificate they’re asking for does not exist,” said Tom Sleight, USGC’s president and CEO. “It’s time for China to look at and approve this trait. It’s been approved for commercialization in the United States since 2010, and it’s been approved by all importing countries, including the European Union, for quite some time. We think that the lack of approval of MIR 162 is becoming an undue impediment on trade.”

The Council is working to address the new disruption to DDGS trade with the U.S. government and the U.S. ambassador to China, as well as with MAIZALL, which represents grower organizations in several major corn exporting countries. In addition, USGC staff and consultants around the world are working with other markets interested in DDGS, in part because prices have declined.

Sleight concluded, “We have some really excellent prospects that are panning out quite nicely, particularly in Mexico, Taiwan, Canada, the rest of Latin America and Korea. There’s a lot of interest in this product.”

Oily Palms

Iowa Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst has attracted national attention with her stance on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – that she is not supportive of subsidies. This before the news broke last week that the billionaire oil baron Koch brothers maxed out their contributions to Ernst’s campaign on top of the over $20,000 the Koch donor network has funneled to her campaign coffers. The new breaking news is that ExxonMobil PAC is toasting Ernst at a $1,000 a plate in Washington, D.C. this Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

In response, Americans United for Change (AUC), a pro biofuels and pro-RFS organization, is hitting the radio waves this week in Des Moines, Iowa calling on Ernst to choose a side: Iowa jobs, or Big Oil profits. However, AUC said Ernst seemed to side with the latter.

The group cites that when Ernst was pressed to take a firm stand on the RFS, Ernst stressed she’s “philosophically opposed” to farm subsidies and that she “want[s] people to choose products that work for them and not have them mandated by the United States government.” Not exactly the ringing endorsement for ethanol that Iowa rural communities may be hoping to hear, said AUC.

Jeremy Funk, Comm. Dir., Americans United for Change, which recently ran full page ads in Iowa urging Ernst to clarify her muddy RFS position, said, “There’s easy choices and there’s hard choices. For someone hoping to represent a state that leads the nation in renewable fuels production, you might think that unconditional support for the Renewable Fuel Standard and 73,000 Iowa jobs would be a no-brainer. But for some reason, it’s a hard choice for Joni Ernst.”

“Big Oil has taken notice of Ernst’s begrudging support for the RFS while remaining ‘philosophically opposed’ to it. What is a telling choice is for Ernst to welcome Big Oil’s support with open arms at a decadent Washington fundraiser this week,” continued Funk. “Big Oil lobbyists would love nothing more than to be able to say, “You see, even a Senator from Iowa thinks the RFS is unnecessary.” Big Oil would love to be able to use Ernst as a poster child in their multi-million smear campaign to drive ethanol out of business. They hate that consumers have a cheaper and cleaner option at the pump thanks to Iowa renewable fuels. They hate that every gallon sold of ethanol produced domestically means one less gallon sold of gas made from dirty crude oil from unstable regions like Iraq.”

Funk noted that the more money Ernst receives from Big Oil interest, the more reluctant her support for renewable fuels.” Ernst needs to get her priorities straight: choosing between Iowa’s economy and the special interests shouldn’t be a choice at all,” Funk concluded.

RFA to DOE: Update Your E85 Data!

Today the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling on the Department of Energy (DOE) to accurately account for all stations selling E85. According to RFA, the DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center is missing a vast number of E85 stations – nearly 1,000- after comparing the list to the “crowd-sourced” website E85Prices.com that lists 3,449 retail locations offering E85.

RFANewlogo“The AFDC database is way off in its reporting of E85 stations, and this is negatively influencing discussions over the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending requirements. It isn’t just a handful of stations that are missing; we are talking about the exclusion of hundreds of stations nationwide. In fact, they missed 40 percent of the stations that are included in other databases! That’s simply unacceptable,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA.

In a letter sent to the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the RFA illustrates the central role of the database in crucial policy decisions, stating, “EPA’s mistaken belief that existing E85 refueling infrastructure is insufficient to distribute the 2014 RFS volumes specified in the statute is based in large part on information from the AFDC. As a result, the Agency wrongly proposed to reduce required renewable fuel blending volumes in 2014.”

Dinneen stressed the urgent need for updated, accurate information as the EPA decides the final 2014 RFS blending requirements. He noted, “Accurate data is the foundation of well informed decisions. The so-called ‘blend wall’ — the level at which oil companies claim they can no longer blend ethanol into gasoline — can be scaled through increased use of E85. Therefore, an accurate accounting of E85 stations distributing low-cost, renewable fuels is vital to informing the debate over RFS implementation.”

The letter concludes, “The correctness and completeness of the database has never been more important, as crucial policy and regulatory decisions are being informed by the information. Inadequate data leads to ill-informed policy decisions, which can have significant consequences for affected industries.

ACE Announces Final Ethanol Conference Agenda

The 27th annual Ethanol Conference agenda is set and will include an update on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) from the Environmental Protection Agency. The event is taking place August 4-6, 2014 in Minneapolis. In addition to the RFS update, Paul Machiele, director for fuel programs for the EPA will also be discussing other agency ethanol priorities. Registration is still available.

“As EPA and the White House close-in on a final decision about the 2014 RFS we’re pleased that Paul Machiele will be on hand to meet with our members,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings.

ACElogo“Consistent with our conference theme of ‘Power by People’ we’re pleased that the 2014 conference will feature updates from ACE members and other speakers on the policy, marketing, and innovation initiatives that will help position the industry for future profitability,” Jennings added.

The ACE conference will also feature new findings from an economic study on “Eco-Performance Fuel,” an Innovators panel of four ACE-member ethanol producers who are adding new processes and technologies, a Retailer Roundtable involving gas station owners who are making money and attracting new customers by selling higher blends of ethanol fuel, and panel discussion focusing on international sales opportunities for ethanol and distillers grain.

Three breakout session tracks will be offered for ethanol plant board directors, mangers/CEOs, and operators focused on technology advances. Breakout session topics include risk management, the impact of proposed FDA regulations on plant operations, and technology to speed or increase yeast fermentation rates.

Kansas Ethanol Plant to Add Renewable Diesel Ops

EKAEA Kansas ethanol maker is going to integrate a renewable diesel operation into its facility. East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC (EKAE) says it will soon start building and hopes to complete construction within about a year of the 3 million gallon per year facility at its ethanol plant in Garnett, Kansas that will make renewable diesel from the corn distillers oil (CDO) already produced at the plant.

“This is about maximizing revenue, leveraging activities that we already do every day, and enhancing the value of products we already produce now,” said EKAE President & CEO Jeff Oestmann. “Adding renewable diesel capability aligns perfectly with our business strategy of diversifying our energy portfolio and creating additional enterprises that are sustainable on their own.”

“The main driver is to create greater value for our unit holders,” said EKAE chairman Bill Pracht. “We’ll be taking advantage of our experience and current facilities to create two biofuels out of one kernel of corn. Furthermore, we’ll be adding value to the corn oil we already produce.”

Oestmann said that EKAE already has a receptive market for this new fuel. “We have positive relationships with customers and within the biofuels industry that have come to know EKAE as a reliable and trustworthy supplier,” he said. “By using corn distillers oil we produce as the primary feedstock, we will have quality control that will underscore our reputation for quality in the marketplace.”

Company officials hope to double the 3 million gallon per year capacity sometime after starting operations.

White House Gathers Senate Dems on RFS Proposal

nbb-senatorsIn what could be seen as a sign that an unpopular decision is about to be rendered by the Obama Administration on ethanol and biodiesel, a select group of Senate Democrats have met with the White House. The Hill reports White House adviser John Podesta met with the group on Thursday to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The senators said they wanted to discuss “urgent concerns” with the RFS, which requires that diesel and gasoline refiners mix a certain amount of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol into their traditional fuels each year. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed last year to keep the biodiesel volume in 2014 at least year’s level, despite an increase in biodiesel production, and reduce the ethanol volume.

The EPA has not yet finalized its 2014 volumes for renewables.

[Minnesota Senator Al] Franken and his colleagues took particular issue with the biodiesel mandate.

“Such a decision would not only harm the economic growth surrounding biodiesel production in our states, but would be a setback in our national efforts to continue boosting U.S. energy security while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” they wrote.

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) seems concerned about the meeting as well and issued a statement from from Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel:

“While we are encouraged by these discussions, the biodiesel industry remains concerned that the Administration still appears to be considering a proposal that would backtrack from last year’s proven production and that threatens biodiesel plants around the country. The fact is that biodiesel is the most successful Advanced Biofuel under the RFS, yet it could see its production cut significantly. This meeting, which was originally requested by a diverse group of 14 Democratic senators from across the country, makes clear that there are serious concerns about the impact that the proposal would have on jobs and economic growth nationwide, in states from Rhode Island to Minnesota to Washington state. This is a critical decision, not just for the biodiesel industry but for the future development of clean, American-made renewable fuels that will help us reduce our dangerous dependence on petroleum.”

Many of those senators participating in this week’s meeting were also critical back in May on the Obama Administration’s proposal to cut the amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, with some of the President’s staunchest backers calling it “disastrous” and a miserable failure of policy.

Grains Council Working on Ethanol Exports

usgrainscouncil1The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is working on promoting exports of U.S. ethanol through a partnership between USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

“We’ve been working since late March, early April to determine which markets we’re going to do market assessments in and then next year we’ll shift into market development activities,” said Ashley Kongs, USGC manager of ethanol export program. The Grains Council is planning three regional market assessment programs this year, going to Japan and Korea in September, Latin America in November, and southeast Asia in early December.

Earlier this year, USGC participated in a trade mission to China with USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse where they were able to discuss the possibility of ethanol exports to that country. “They visited with a Chinese ethanol plant and they had meetings with the National Energy Administration in China,” said Kongs. “Currently ethanol can only be sold in six designated markets in China for blending with fuel, but the group had discussions about the possibility of expanding ethanol use nationwide.” Kongs says while there are challenges in the Chinese market, the Grains Council sees great potential for the future to open the door for U.S. ethanol exports.

USGC continues to build on its success in promoting exports of the ethanol co-product distillers grains and will be again this year joining RFA in hosting the Export Exchange, an international trade conference focused on the export of U.S. coarse grains and ethanol co-products held every two years. Early registration for the event is open until July 31 and USGC and RFA members are eligible for discounted pricing.

EPA Hears Corn Grower Concerns About RFS

Members of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) meeting in Washington DC were able to share their concerns about the delayed rule on 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard with EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

epa-ncga“The number needs to be out, it’s really ridiculous,” said NCGA president Martin Barbre, pictured here on the right with Perciasepe. “He said ‘we’re behind time frame’ and we had some delegates stand up and say ‘you’re not behind time frame, you’re way late.’” The final rule was expected by the end of June but EPA officials say it is being delayed because of the massive volume of comments that need to be studied in order to make a decision.

Barbre says while they appreciate the fact that EPA is taking the time to make sure they make the right decision, delaying it until almost the end of the year causes problems in the market. “Sort of what has created this issue with RINS and that run up in the RINS price is the lateness of the oil companies getting the numbers,” said Barbre. “They’re supposed to have these number in the spring, they get them in the fall, and by the end of the year they have got to have met their obligations. So it puts them in somewhat of a bind.”

“We’re not usually on the side of defending the oil companies, but in this case they just need to get the numbers faster so they can get themselves where they need to be,” Barbre added.

Listen to Barbre’s comments here: Interview with NCGA president Martin Barbre

“Climate of Opportunity” Theme for Biofuels Conference

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.23.20 PMSome biofuels producers have had some profitable times in the last couple of years, and an upcoming conference will give attendees information on how to take advantage of the opportunities put before them. Nationally known accounting and consulting firm Christianson & Associates will host its 10th annual Biofuels Financial Conference with the theme “Climate of Opportunity,” Aug. 27-28, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minn. at the Bloomington Embassy Suites.

This year’s Biofuels Financial Conference is focused on the best ways to take advantage of the many opportunities to optimize financial health and stability in today’s changing biofuels industry. By understanding current policy and knowing all available options for improving and diversifying production, attendees will learn how to capitalize on current strengths, identify and shore up any potential weaknesses, and create a strategic plan for growth creates an ongoing climate of opportunity.

“It’s important for board members and financial decision-makers to understand the opportunities in the current liquid fuels marketplace,” said [John Christianson, CPA and Partner at Christianson & Associates]. “What is the impact of the latest legislation changes, what are the marketplace opportunities, what are the technology investments that will bring a plant successfully into the next generation?”

Those attending the conference will be able to network with and learn from biofuels professionals from across the industry. More information is available here.

Ethanol Report on Cost Analysis

ethanol-report-adA new analysis by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) shows that over the past four years, ethanol has been the most economically competitive motor fuel and octane source in the world.

rfa-cooper-headIn this Ethanol Report, RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper gives some of the major findings of the report, talks about why it has particular relevance in the California market, and how the study suggests that the cost of producing ethanol in the US will continue to fall.

Ethanol Report on Cost Analysis

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

What is the Difference Between Crude Oil & Ethanol?

RFANewlogoThe U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has released a new tank car proposal that is designed to enhance the safe transportation of hazardous materials, including ethanol and crude oil. Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) expressed concern over the rule’s same treatment of crude oil and ethanol when ethanol has a strong safety record while the high volatility of crude oil from the Bakken is not adequately addressed.

However, Dinneen did applaud the Administration for adopting a comprehensive approach to increasing concerns about rising shipments of highly volatile crude oil on the nation’s railways. He noted that the approach outlined today appears to address prevention, mitigation and response related to crude oil derailments.

“Ethanol is a low volatility, consistent commercial product with a 99.997 percent rail safety record,” said Dinneen. “Unlike oil from fracking, ethanol is not a highly volatile feedstock of unknown and differing quality and characteristics being shipped to a refinery for commercial use. Before this proposed rule is finalized, the RFA looks forward to engaging the Department of Transportation in a constructive dialogue about these differences, and the need to have a practical and effective phase-in of these new standards,” added Dinneen. “In the meanwhile, the U.S. ethanol industry will continue to work with all parties to assure the safe and effective transport of this low-cost, domestic renewable fuel to markets all across the country.”

Mudsummer Classic Features American Ethanol

dillon-ethanolAmerican Ethanol will be in the spotlight today as driver Austin Dillon will be defending his crown at Eldora Speedway for NASCAR’s Mudsummer Classic World Truck series race in Ohio.

Last year, Dillon won the historic race driving his American Ethanol branded truck, his first truck race since winning NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series championship in 2011.

“Eldora is always an exciting race for NASCAR fans, but it is an exciting opportunity for corn farmers too,” said National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) NASCAR Advisory Committee Chair Jon Holzfaster. “With American Ethanol spokesman Austin Dillon firmly in the spotlight, Eldora provides a great platform to get our message about the environmental and economic benefits ethanol offers all Americans to a broader audience. The buzz continues to grow. Ethanol helps clean our air, improve our economic independence and benefits American consumers and farmers alike.”

American Ethanol is a partnership of Growth Energy and the National Corn Growers Association.

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.”

Crop Residues, Manure Hold Great Potential for Bioenergy

Crop residues and manure hold great potential as bioenergy sources, especially in areas such as the Midwest where row crops and livestock provide all the ingredients. This report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says those resources will need some help, though, from the right policies, practices, and investments.
UCSreport
UCS analysis finds that by 2030, U.S. farmers could sustainably produce up to 155 million tons of crop residues, many times the current level of production. U.S. livestock could produce another 60 million tons of manure, to be turned into clean-burning biogas.

The right policies, practices, and investments will help these clean energy sources realize their potential—with huge benefits for farmers, communities, and the environment…

Fuel and electricity made from agricultural biomass is potentially clean too. With the right practices, ethanol made from crop residues can produce 90 percent fewer lifecycle emissions, compared to gasoline.

Many states could significantly scale up their use of crop residues and manure. The largest include Iowa, a leading producer of corn ethanol, and Arkansas, the nation’s top rice producer.

Texas and California offer a lot of potential as well because of those states’ large agricultural outputs.