Is Obama is Own Worst Enemy on Climate?

The People’s Climate March” has received worldwide attention to kick off Climate Week in New York and an ad in the New York Times is asking if President Obama is his own worst enemy when it comes to climate. The ad tells the president that if his administration accepts the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to alter the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFScreen Shot 2014-09-22 at 11.37.27 AMS) he “will have inadvertently done more to damage [his] climate legacy than [his] worst enemies.”

The ad warns that the proposal would let oil companies off the hook for blocking competition from American renewable fuels, and prompt an exodus of investment in cellulosic ethanol—the world’s cleanest motor fuel—to China and Brazil.

In the ad, the Advanced Ethanol Council and Biotechnology Industry Organization caution President Obama that investments in additional cellulosic production beyond these four plants will likely shift overseas if the President adopts the flawed methodology of the EPA proposal, regardless of whether he decides to actually raise the renewable fuel targets in the rule. This month, two commercial scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries came online in Iowa and Abengoa will be hosting a grand opening for its cellulosic ethanol plant in Kansas in October.

Maryland Gets New E85 Station

Three Brothers/A1 Auto Repair and Protec Fuel joined forces to launch a new E85 station in Baltimore, Maryland. The public can now fuel with E85 at 3041 Frederick Avenue thanks to partners Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board (MGPUB) and the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, Clean Cities Coalitions.

Three Brothers Car Repair E85 pumpThis is the first E85 station for owner Paul Goeller whose stationhttp://www.a1autothreebroscarrepair.com/ also features an auto repair business: A1 Auto Repair. “I noticed all the flex-fuel vehicles coming through and was surprised there was nowhere to fuel with E85 in Baltimore,” said Goeller. “As a mechanic, I wanted to give a choice that not only is better for the environment and our country, but has certain engine benefits such as higher octane, performance and a cleaner engine.”

Paul Spies, eastern shore farmer and president of MGPUB said of E85, “We invest in projects that support U.S. jobs and protect our environment, and the opening of this E85 station well fits that mission. Ethanol is farm-grown and renewable, and today’s answer for replacing petroleum-based fuels from volatile foreign markets. As our domestic alternative fuel industry grows, we expect to provide even greater benefits for U.S. consumers, the environment, and our farmers.”

E85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline that can be used in flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs), as can gasoline. Automobile manufacturers such as Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and General Motors all produce FFVs.With more than 16.5 million FFVs on the road, there is strong need for more stations offering higher level blends of ethanol. Visit GoE85.com to check if your vehicle can run on E85 and find more station locations.

“Many cars have flex-fuel capability, whether the drivers know it or not,” added Steve Walk, a VP of Protec Fuel who helped the station add the E18 pump. “Alternative fuels like this, as well as E15 fuel or other ethanol blends, benefit air quality in sensitive areas such as big cities like Baltimore.”

Gevo’s Plant Co-producing Isobutanol & Ethanol

Gevo’s plant in Luverne, Minnesota is now co-producing isobutanol and ethanol with one fermenter dedicated to isobutanol production and three fermenters dedicated to ethanol production. With the completion of the last phase of capital for SBS, Gevo has begun to produce and ship isobutanol in railcar volumes.gevo logo

This equipment facilitates the extraction of isobutanol from the plant, which should enable Gevo to boost production levels of isobutanol by debottlenecking the downstream side of the plant. This distillation equipment was commissioned in early September and is already showing improved results at the plant, such as:

  • A doubling of isobutanol batch sizes;
  • A 50% reduction in isobutanol batch turnaround times;
  • Consistent yields of >90% based on starch content; and
  • A continued decrease in isobutanol production costs towards targeted
    economic rates.

“We are on track with the SBS. We completed the installation of our isobutanol distillation column and it operates well. We are continuing to boost isobutanol production levels while simultaneously driving cost out of our production processes. We are pleased to be shipping both ethanol and isobutanol in railcar quantities. This isobutanol is destined for the solvents and specialty gasoline blendstock markets, as well as to supply our demo plant in Silsbee, TX, to convert our isobutanol into hydrocarbons such as bio-jet fuel and isooctane,” said Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s CEO.

Gruber continued, “By installing the last phase of capital at Luverne, we remain confident that we will be able to achieve production levels of 50-100 thousand gallons of isobutanol per month by the end of 2014. As we continue to learn and optimize the isobutanol production process, we believe we can ultimately increase our production rate to approximately 2-3 million gallons of isobutanol per annum under the SBS, while we are producing ethanol in the other three fermenters.”

Cellulosic Making Progress Despite Uncertainty

Advanced and cellulosic biofuels producers continue to press the administration for certainty in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to continue making investments for future expansion.

“Today we’re at the start, like oil was 160 years ago, or corn ethanol was four years ago, said Steve Hartig with POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels during a teleconference organized by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) highlighting progress in the industry. His company just celebrated the grand opening of a cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa. “We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in this and are convinced cellulosic ethanol will be a key part of our future energy mix.”

Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, KS

Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, KS

Chris Standlee with Abengoa Bioenergy said his company is also invested substantially in commercializing cellulosic ethanol technology. “Abengoa’s been working on perfecting this technology for over 10 years,” said Standlee, adding that their plant will be holding a grand opening in Hugoton, Kansas next month.

Also participating in the teleconference was Vonnie Estes with GranBio, a plant being built in Brazil using sugarcane straw and bagasse as feedstocks. She noted that the uncertainty of the RFS is impacting their plans because they intend to export at least half of their plant’s production to the U.S. “The company has spent over $200 million in capital on this plant,” she said. “The plant (will be) really good for the U.S. in that it’s a source of low carbon fuels into the market.”

All three company representatives noted that they are postponing decisions to increase production of cellulosic biofuels due to the uncertainty created by EPA.

BIO teleconference on cellulosic ethanol advancements

Minnoco Expands Higher Ethanol Blends in Twin Cities

Independent fuel retailer Minnoco is expanding its outlets with 18 new locations joining the brand. When completed, the brand will feature 24 retailers, many of whom will be offering higher blends of ethanol, such as E15, and biodiesel to consumers.

“Our owners believe we have a competitive advantage by offering more fuel choices like E15 to consumers,” stated Lance Klatt, executive director for Minnoco. “Our new brand not only draws in consumers for more affordable fuels but is also a great business model for retailers.”

Minnoco signLeveraging existing convenience store and automotive repair locations in many cases, retail owners are moving away from a branded oil contract into the independent brand of Minnoco. “With Minnoco, I’m able to offer E15 as a more competitive fuel to my customers at a much lower price vs. regular,” explained Rick Bohnen, president of Minnoco and owner of Penn Minnoco. “This is a better business model for me because it significantly reduces my operational costs vs. branded fuels and I’m able to pass the savings on to consumers.”

In addition, Minnoco retailers have more freedom to offer biofuels that are grown and produced in Minnesota. Though the product offering will vary slightly by retail location, Minnoco will be offering E15, E30, E85 and diesel along with regular grades of gasoline.

“All of our regular 87 gas already contains 10% ethanol,” explained Jerry Charmoli, Minnoco owner and a mechanic for more than 30 years. “E15 is approved for vehicles 2001 and newer and we’ve had zero problems, in fact my customers love the cost savings and extra performance.”

In response to the announcement today by Minnoco, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said, “Minnesota has always been a leader in offering renewable fuels to consumers. I am glad to see an increasing number of service station owners and convenience stores offer a higher performing, less expensive, renewable fuel option. Minnoco understands what consumers want, and also appreciates the importance of improving our environment, creating and supporting jobs right here in America that cannot be outsourced, and reducing our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels and foreign oil, all while saving consumers at the pump.”

Bobby Likis Car Clinic Globalcast Features Ethanol

likis-logoBobby Likis Car Clinic recent globalcast featured topic was ethanol with guest Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). More specifically the two discussed issues around the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

During the program, Dinneen explained that the RFS and ethanol production saves consumers money at the pump, decreases America’s foreign oil dependence, and helps rural America. He discussed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed cuts to the RFS and the negative impact those cuts would have on consumers and investment in next-generation ethanol.

Dinneen said, “In today’s environment of misinformation and spin, it is absolutely vital that consumers know the truth about ethanol and understand the role the Renewable Fuel Standard plays in furthering America’s energy independence, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and lowering the price of gasoline for drivers.” He adds, “I was proud to join Car Clinic’s Bobby Likis to give an overview of the political, regional, and agricultural factors that play into the future of ethanol production and explain the benefits of ethanol to drivers all across the country. Their votes of confidence in the RFS will count in the upcoming election.”

Likis, who is an automotive and ethanol expert, reflects, “When presented with facts – which Bob Dinneen delivers in easy-to-understand terms – American consumers and voters are smart enough to make the right decision at the polls in November. That’s how the RFS was passed in the first place. Clearly, the RFS has delivered to voters: lowering prices at the gas pump; reducing dependence on foreign oil; stimulating regional economies; giving the environment a fighting chance; and incenting investors to keep their money in the US as they research and develop new seed and other technologies to increase efficiencies and crop yields.”

FAPRI: Biodiesel, Ethanol Feedstocks Bigger than Expected

FAPRI logoA new report shows that the main feedstocks for biodiesel and ethanol, soybeans and corn, are going to have bigger harvests than previously expected. The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri says while the big crops will push prices for those feedstocks down – even further down than what was projected just a couple of weeks ago – soybean and corn prices will recover a bit as markets adjust.

- Larger corn and soybean crops translate into lower projected 2014/15 prices for many grains and oilseeds. Corn prices drop to $3.50 per bushel, soybeans to $9.92 per bushel… In all … cases, these projected prices are close to the midpoint of the price ranges reported in the September USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

– Larger crops in 2014/15 also result in larger beginning stocks and total crop supplies in 2015/16. As a result, corn and soybean prices for next year’s crop are lower than projected in August. Corn prices average $3.80 per bushel in 2015/16, and soybean prices drop to $9.04 per bushel.

– Prices recover as markets adjust. Corn prices average $4.10 per bushel, soybeans average $10.21 per bushel … over the 2016‐18 period.

Previously, FAPRI said that corn prices would stay at about $4 per bushel for corn, but the new, bigger numbers for yield estimates push those prices down even more.

RFA Submits LCFS Comments to CARB

The California Air Resources Board has released a proposal to transition to a new version of the GREET model that is used to determine a fuel’s greenhouse gas reduction score or more specifically, the direct lifecycle carbon intensity as part of its Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). CARB has proposed to use Argonne National Laboratory’s latest version of GREET as the basis of its update to the original California GREET model, which was RFANewlogointroduced in early 2008 and has been in use for the past six years.

Geoff Cooper with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has submitted comments to CARB and writes, “We believe Argonne’s GREET1_2013 model contains a number of important improvements and updated inputs that more accurately reflect the current CI performance of corn ethanol and many other fuel pathways … it is encouraging to see the LCFS regulation finally catching up to the actual state of the industry.”

RFA believes CARB’s migration to the newer GREET version is a step in the right direction, but “several additional revisions to CA-GREET2.0 should be considered.”

Cooper outlines three specific changes that RFA would like to see CARB address to the new GREET model:

  • CARB should integrate the Argonne GREET1_2013 default assumptions on ethanol co-product feed (i.e., distillers grains) displacement rates.
  • CARB should revise the CA-GREET2.0 model’s treatment of emissions from agricultural lime application based on new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • CARB should adopt the GREET1_2013 methodology for estimating land use change (LUC) emissions in lieu of CARB’s current standalone GTAP methodology.

“Adopting these recommendations would further reduce corn ethanol’s direct CI score by 8–10 percent, and would slash CARB’s current ILUC factor by approximately 70 percent,” according to Cooper. “Integrating RFA’s suggested revisions, along with the proposed changes already planned by CARB, would better reflect the actual nature of ethanol’s lifecycle carbon intensity and confirm ethanol’s ability to significantly reduce GHG emissions relative to gasoline.”

ACE Urges Support for STB Reauth Act of 2014

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) is urging leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee to support S. 2777, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Ace of 2014. In a letter, Brian Jennings, executive vice president for ACE writes U.S. corn-based ethanol is the most economical transportation fuel in the world. And when factoring in its favorable blending economics along with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), ethanol is capable of comprising more than its 10 percent share of the U.S. gasoline market.

ACElogo“But in order to do that, reliable and timely rail service is critical,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, during most of 2014, railroads have failed to provide reliable and timely service. Logjams built-up this winter due to extreme cold and snow which reduced the speed and size of trains, and all year long it has appeared that railroads have provided favorable service to crude oil shipments at the expense of ethanol and agricultural commodities….”

“Many of ACE’s ethanol producer members are captive shippers and have reported chronic rail service disruptions this year, such as delayed tank car arrivals, insufficient tank cars received for ethanol off-take, loaded cars parked and overdue for power to arrive, and turn-around times that have doubled. As a result, storage tanks at ethanol plants are full and many of our members have been forced to slow production or worse yet, shut down operations at a time when demand for ethanol is on the rise because of its low price and clean octane benefits, writes Jennings.

The letter continues, “To cope with unreliable rail service, some biorefineries have invested in additional storage or considered adding unit train capability, but it is hard to justify those investments without meaningful commitment by the railroads that service will improve. Moreover, we are concerned that a record harvest of corn and soybeans this fall could make a bad situation on the rails even worse.”

Jennings notes that while the S. 2777 does not immediately nor comprehensively overcome all the problems, it is a step in the right direction.

Iowa RFA Ad Challenges Biden on RFS

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) took out a full page ad in today’s Des Moines Register to ask Vice President Joe Biden to set the record straight on reports that he may have intervened to reverse the Obama Administration’s previous support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

biden-iowaWith the headline “Say it ain’t so, Joe” the ad questions the vice president about the story out of Philadelphia in May that he urged EPA to lower the RFS after receiving a call from a Pennsylvania congressman on behalf of a refinery owned by the politically connected Carlyle Group. “This report, if true, is deeply troubling. We hope you’ll take the opportunity today to set the record straight. And more importantly, work with us to fix the Administration’s flawed proposal. It’s not too late – but we need your help.”

IRFA and other individuals and organizations involved in Iowa’s renewable fuels industry wrote a letter to the Vice President asking him to clarify the reports and to discuss the issue with Iowans. “Because he has thus far not responded, IRFA is now addressing the issue more publicly with Biden as he visits Iowa today,” said IRFA.

The Vice President delivered remarks in Des Moines today at a kick-off event for the Nuns on the Bus “We the People, We the Voters” bus tour. Not surprisingly, he did not mention renewable fuels during his address.

DuPont Chooses Murex to Market Cellulosic Ethanol

DuPont LogoDuPont Industrial Biosciences (DuPont) has selected Murex LLC to market the cellulosic ethanol produced from its 30-million-gallon-per-year plant in Nevada, Iowa. Upon completion, the facility will be the largest cellulosic ethanol plant in the world.

murex“Murex is a leading marketer in today’s ethanol market. Its team understands domestic and international ethanol dynamics and can hit the ground running to drive growth in the emerging cellulosic ethanol industry,” said DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol Commercial Leader Steven Ogle. “With this collaboration, DuPont is well-positioned to lead the deployment of cellulosic ethanol at a commercial scale.”

Murex has a strong presence in the domestic ethanol market and has been the largest exporter of domestically produced ethanol since 2010. Murex was one of the first marketers of advanced Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) and developed an in-house due diligence program prior to the Quality Assurance Program that allows smaller producers of advanced RINs to deliver their products and RINs to market.

E15 Could Help Lower Gas Prices at the Pump

The end of summer is here and with the season change, “summer gasoline” and its Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) requirements will also come to an end. With fall in view retailers who want to offer E15 to their customers may now do so.

“We’re seeing reports and predictions of lower gas prices, with some celebrating the fact that the price is ACElogodown to $3.39 nationwide,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty. “In the Midwest, where E15, E30, and E85 are more widely available, even E10 prices are already under $3.00 in some markets. Ethanol adds octane and lowers prices because it provides competition for higher priced, lower octane gasoline.”

“E15 brings environmental benefits as well,” continued Lamberty. “Recent studies highlight the reduction in cancer causing emissions offered by E15. E15 means cleaner, higher octane fuel at a lower price and fuel marketers are starting to realize that. Fuel retailers like CHS/Cenex and Protec have taken steps to make E15 available in more markets soon and others will follow.”

Lamberty is encouraging retailers to take note of the growing number of vehicles that can use E15. E15 use is covered under warranty for most cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 model years, and some automakers approve it for 2012 vehicles. That’s 30 million vehicles or more with more vehicles hitting the roads each week that are approved for E15 use.

“This is exactly why Big Oil fights so hard and spends so much time and money to convince EPA and elected officials that the 10% “blend wall” is real, and why they have contract restrictions that prevent branded stations from offering E15.” Lamberty concluded, “It’s not the 5% market share that could be taken by E15 that worries Big Oil – it’s what competition for that 5% does to the prices they can charge for the rest of the gallon. More ethanol means lower prices.”

RFA Calls on EPA to Undo Unfair Fuel Regulations

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to address the unfair fuel volatility regulations that keep the sale and expansion of E15 from occurring. Because E15 does not have the same 1 psi Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) as E10, the ethanol fuel blend can not be sold during summer months. In a letter to McCarthy, Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of RFA writes that EPA’s failure to put E15 on the same footing as E10 has been a substantial roadblock to the rollout of E15.

According to the letter, “…faced with a hopeless decision every spring: stop selling E15 during the summer volatility control season, or secure the appropriate low-RVP gasoline blendstock. For most retailers, neither of these options are acceptable business decisions.”

RFANewlogoDinneen says the EPA continues to handicap market opportunities for E15 by effectively making it a seasonal fuel. This causes retailers and marketers to be hesitant to invest in a fuel that can only be offered part of the year. “Our biggest frustration is that there is simply no legal or environmental justification for EPA’s unequal volatility treatment of E10 and E15. If the Administration is serious about addressing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping gas prices in check, it should immediately correct this gross inequality,” said Dinneen.

RFA points to the larger implications of the RVP restriction in the letter writing, “Slow market adoption of E15 has unnecessarily complicated compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and led the Agency to embrace the oil industry’s ‘blend wall’ concept in the proposed rule for 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations. The bottom line is that E10 and E15 should be treated consistently in the marketplace with regard to RVP….There is simply no sound technical justification, no air quality benefit, and no economic rationale for denying equal RVP treatment for E15 and E10.”

Murphy USA Promoting E15, E85 In Iowa

Murphy USA is partnering with Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) and the Iowa Corn Growers Association to hold grand openings of E15 and E85 pumps across Iowa. The events will include fuel discounts, door prizes and free food with fuel purchase.

“Iowa motorists will now be able to benefit from increased access to cleaner-burning, lower-cost ethanol blends like registered E15 and E85 at many Murphy USA fueling sites across the state,” said IRFA Managing Director Lucy Norton. “To launch its renewed commitment to homegrown, economical fueling options in Iowa, Murphy USA is also stepping up to offer even greater savings on E15 for 2001 and newer vehicle owners and E85 for flex-fuel vehicle owners during its scheduled grand opening celebrations. Be sure to stop by a Murphy USA location near you to save some of your hard earned money while also improving air quality and supporting Iowa jobs.

During the ethanol fuel events, customers will be able to take advantage of E15 for $2.15 per gallon, E85 for $1.85 per gallon. The Murphy USA locations in Clinton, Davenport, Fort Dodge, Mason City and Sioux City will also offer biodiesel. A list of event dates is below:

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 10.56.03 AM

Norton added, “E15 is the lowest priced fuel available for most Iowans, and E85 is the lowest priced fuel for flex-fuel vehicle owners. Now motorists in seven large Iowa cities will have ready access to fuels that not only burn cleaner, but are also the least expensive fuels on the market for the vast majority of drivers.”

Fuels America Thanks Biofuels Supporter Sen Harkin

As Iowa Senator Tom Harkin prepares to retire, Fuels America is thanking him for his unwavering and tireless support of biofuels with a full-page advertisement in the Sunday, September 14, 2014 Des Moines Register and on Iowa radio. Sen. Harkin will be holding his final steak fry with Secretary Hilary Clinton, who is the keynote speaker. During the event he plans on taking the opportunity to update Clinton on biofuels progress across Iowa and the country.

“We’re grateful to Senator Harkin for his leadership, and proud to welcome Secretary Hillary Clinton to Iowa for the last Harkin Streak Fry,” says Fuels America’s radio ads that began running on Wednesday and will continue through Sunday on stations throughout the Des Moines area. “As one great Iowa tradition ends, another is growing.”

Fuels America Harkin-Clinton AdThe ads note that Iowa has doubled renewable fuels production since 2007, and that the Iowa renewable fuels industry now supports over 73,000 jobs. The ads go on to appeal to Clinton’s experience as Secretary of State, noting that she knows the danger that America’s addiction to foreign oil poses to our national security, economic security, and energy security. Instability in Ukraine and Iraq has recently created even more uncertainty in an already tumultuous global oil market, and America’s reliance on foreign oil has left us at the mercy of hostile and unstable foreign actors.

The advertisements come as President Obama is giving final consideration to this year’s final rule on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which will determine the extent to which renewable fuels will be allowed to compete with foreign oil in our fuel supply. At the same time, Secretary Clinton’s arrival in Iowa marks the beginning of a larger national dialogue on the future of renewable energy sources.