DOT Issues Energy Transportation Actions

dotThe U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), together with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), has announced a package of targeted actions to address some of the issues identified in recent train accidents involving crude oil and ethanol shipped by rail.

The volume of crude oil being shipped by rail has increased exponentially in recent years, and the number of significant accidents involving trains carrying ethanol or crude oil is unprecedented. “The boom in crude oil production, and transportation of that crude, poses a serious threat to public safety,” stated U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The measures we are announcing today are a result of lessons learned from recent accidents and are steps we are able to take today to improve safety. Our efforts in partnership with agencies throughout this Administration show that this is more than a transportation issue, and we are not done yet.”

The announcement includes one Emergency Order, two Safety Advisories, and notices to industry intended to further enhance the safe shipment of Class 3 flammable liquids.

TV Ad Marks 5th BP Spill Anniversary

americans-changeMarking the fifth anniversary of the BP oil spill, Americans United for Change is running a television ad in Des Moines and Chicago calling it “no rare incident.”

While BP airs their own ads congratulating themselves for their cleanup efforts despite the lingering economic and environmental fallout in the Gulf region, AUFC is kicking off Earth Day week with a message that the Deepwater Horizon disaster was only a drop in the bucket for an industry responsible for 14,000 oil spills every year. The message to lawmakers: Don’t help make a bigger mess by repealing the Renewable Fuel Standard or denying consumers the choice of cleaner alternatives like ethanol at the pump.

The spot called “Rare Incidents” features American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard’s outrageous 2011 comments downplaying the BP disaster as “clearly a rare incident”. The Iowa version is targeted to presidential candidates and concludes: “If Washington guts the Renewable Fuel Standard, expect plenty more ‘rare incidents.’ The version in Chicago is aimed at local leaders who are considering a “E15 Clean Air Ordinance.”

The six-figure effort kicks off an aggressive and ongoing campaign around a new website, www.RareIncidents.com.

Iowa Gov, Lt Gov to Tour Cellulosic Ethanol PLant

QCCPsyngentaQuad County Corn Processors (QCCP) and Syngenta will host Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds for a tour of the cellulosic ethanol production facility in Galva, Iowa, Tuesday, April 21. The QCCP plant is the first commercial cellulosic ethanol production in the state.

QCCP recently passed the 1 million gallon milestone for cellulosic ethanol production using Cellerate™ process technology. Cellerate is a collaboration between Syngenta and Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of QCCP. Cellerate process technology is designed to increase an ethanol plant’s production by allowing the corn kernel fiber to be converted into cellulosic ethanol. With Cellerate, the biofuels industry now has the technology available to create 2 billion gallons of additional cellulosic ethanol – all from corn already being processed.

E15 Could Save Iowa Drivers $50 Mil Per Year

irfaIowa drivers could save a lot of money if they had better access to E15. This news release from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says a new report from the Iowa Department of Revenue shows that if the higher blend of ethanol was widely available, Iowa drivers could save more than $50 million per year in fuel costs.

In its annual report on retail fuel sales, Iowa Department of Revenue data shows Iowa motorists purchased more than 1.2 billion gallons of E10. E15 is approved for use in model year 2001 and newer passenger vehicles and flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs), representing more than 80 percent of the fuel consumed in the U.S. On average, E15 is typically sold at a 5-cent discount to E10 in Iowa.

An IRFA analysis found that even with abnormally low petroleum prices:

· If only 20 percent of Iowa motorists used E15, Iowans could save $12.7 million per year

· If a modest 50 percent of Iowa motorists used E15, Iowans could save $31.7 million per year.

· If 80 percent of Iowa motorists used E15, Iowans would save $50.7 million per year.

“The economics are simple: the more Iowa motorists that have access to and are able to take advantage of low-cost E15, the more money consumers save,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Price is a big motivator when it comes to buying fuel, and cleaner-burning E15 is consistently priced at a discount to E10. If motorists across the state were able to utilize this safe, economical fuel, Iowa drivers would literally save millions of dollars of their hard-earned money, enabling them to spend it elsewhere in the state.”

IRFA reminds drivers that more than 100 million miles have successfully been driven on E15, and the higher blend of the green fuel is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in all 2001 and newer passenger vehicles, as well as flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs).

Hillary Clinton Talks with Ethanol Supporters in Iowa

ARF-LogoDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been meeting with supporters around Iowa this week since declaring her candidacy on Sunday and Wednesday had private meeting with ethanol supporters to discuss the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Mrs. Clinton met with farmer leaders and America’s Renewable Future co-chair Patty Judge, former lieutenant governor and agriculture secretary for Iowa. “We had about an hour with her and had a very good discussion with her,” said Judge in an interview after the meeting. “I felt very good after our conversation.”

Judge says Clinton was very receptive. “I believe that she was supportive of the Renewable Fuel Standard and supportive of continuing the research and development in renewable fuel and renewable energy that we started here in Iowa.”

Clinton supported the RFS when she ran for president in 2007 and Judge expects that to be the case this time as well. “I would like to get her out to see an ethanol plant and see how it works and I think we’ll have that opportunity this summer,” said Judge.

Listen to my interview with Judge here: Interview with Patty Judge, America's Renewable Future co-chair

RFA Welcomes New California E85 Station

RFANewlogoCalifornia is getting its latest E85 station in Calimesa. The Renewable Fuels Association welcomed the partnership between Pearson Fuels and G&M Oil Company, a station that will be selling E85 for just 85 cents a gallon today (Wednesday, April 15).

Robert White, vice president of industry relations at the Renewable Fuels Association, commented, “It is great to see the second largest flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) market get more E85 stations. RFA congratulates Pearson Fuels and G&M Oil Company for identifying the need to bring this low-cost, cleaner-burning, alternative fuel throughout California. Consumers are searching for options, and many will now find E85.”

Pearson Fuels and G&M Oil Company have announced 13 new E85 stations slated for California.

Study Shows Ethanol’s Positive Economic Impact

neethanolboardA new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows Nebraska’s ethanol production capacity growth over the last 20 years is tenfold. This news release from the Nebraska Ethanol Board says the “Economic Impacts of the Ethanol Industry in Nebraska” also reveals ethanol in the state is producing 2,077 million gallons per year with 1,301 full-time employees at 24 facilities, and with the green fuel and dried distillers grain with solubles (DDGS) from the ethanol production, it is putting $4 billion to more than $6.6 billion into the economy.

“The quantifiable economic impact of ethanol production on the Nebraska economy is clear,” said Paul Kenney, chairman of the Nebraska Ethanol Board. “But we should also understand the enormous savings in health and environmental costs associated with displacing toxic petroleum products with cleaner burning biofuels like ethanol. Choosing ethanol fuels brings additional cost savings in terms of our health.”

Nebraska’s large ethanol production results in 96 percent (1.805 billion gallons) being shipped out of state and makes Nebraska one of the largest exporters of bioenergy. In addition, 58 percent of DDGS produced in 2014 were shipped out of state. These out-of-state shipments result in a net positive for the state and represent a direct economic impact by bringing new money into the state economy.

The study noted that Nebraska’s ethanol industry could be affected by emerging trends and at least four are worth watching – the recovery of carbon dioxide (CO2), the extraction of corn oil, and world export markets for both ethanol and DDGS.

Many of these upcoming trends will be discussed later this week during the annual Ethanol 2015: Emerging Issues Forum in Omaha April 16-17.

House E15 Waiver Bill Introduced

adrian-smithCongressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) has introduced legislation to expand the existing waiver of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations regarding Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) of motor vehicle fuel to include 15% ethanol blended gasoline (E15) in addition to E10.

EPA regulations currently curtail retail sales of E15 during the summer months. “Ethanol provides consumers in Nebraska and across America with a competitive, clean, domestically-produced alternative,” Smith said. “However, burdensome EPA regulations are restricting consumers’ options at the fuel pump.

EPA granted a waiver for E10 in 1990 and Smith’s bill would extend this waiver to also include E15.

“Though E10 received a waiver decades ago, the same regulatory relief has not yet been extended to E15,” said Smith. “We must pursue an all-of-the-above energy policy, which includes ethanol and other renewable fuels, by reducing red tape and encouraging innovation in the energy marketplace.”

“We applaud this effort by Congressman Smith to establish greater consumer choice and to remove a major hurdle preventing consumers the opportunity to purchase higher blends such as E15,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “We are hopeful that Congressman Smith’s legislative efforts are successful in granting this much needed waiver to overcome the single largest regulatory hurdle to ensuring consumers have access to higher blends such as E15.”

The legislation is similar to a bill introduced earlier this month in the Senate by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rand Paul (R-KY).

Motor Clubs Make Pitch for E15

ace-flyin-15-hammondThe management of both the Association Motor Club Marketing (AMCM) and the Travelers Motor Club are making their pitch for the higher blend of ethanol known as E15. The American Coalition for Ethanol quotes AMCM Owner Gene Hammond from a blog post he wrote shortly after taking part on the “Biofuels Beltway March” fly-in (and speaking with Domestic Fuel), where he was part of ethanol advocates who visited 17 congressional offices in Washington, D.C.

Hammond writes: “That E15 hasn’t caused any damage to cars is no surprise to us, because during our entire time in the motor club business, we’ve never had a complaint about any blend of ethanol in gasoline, period.”

“But the critics and the E15 ghost stories haven’t gone away, so we did our part recently by meeting with Members of Congress about what we’ve seen, and more importantly what we haven’t seen, from the usage of E15 by our motor club members. If the anti-E15 predictions and warnings Congress has heard for the last two years were true, the people who had those problems would be well known to you by now.

But the charges aren’t true. We let Congress know how safe this fuel is. We don’t think motorists should be forced to use any fuel, but what the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) does is give every driver in the United States the option to buy a quality American made product like the E15 fuel blend if they choose.

More fuel choices mean more competition and that means our members save at the pump.”

Hammond’s entire blog post is available here.

EPA Sets Timeline for RFS Volume Requirements

epa-150Under a court settlement with the oil industry, the Environmental Protection Agency today announced they will propose the 2015 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) renewable volume obligations by June 1, 2015, and issue the final 2014 and 2015 RFS blending targets by November 30, 2015. In addition, EPA will also release the proposed 2016 RFS RVOs by June 1 and the 2016 numbers will be finalized by Nov. 30.

The biofuels industry reacted immediately to the announcement. “This consent agreement is a good start,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “We are particularly pleased that the Agency has committed to addressing the 2016 RVO in the same time frame even though that is outside the scope of the consent agreement.”

“By taking this action, they are ensuring that the RFS is back on a path to certainty for the biofuels industry, providing the necessary guidance for the industry to continue to thrive and advance alternative fuel options for American consumers,” Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said.

“ACE has consistently said it is much more important for EPA to get the RFS done right than it is for them to get the RFS done quickly, and that bears repeating given today’s announcement that the RFS will be getting back on track for implementation,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive VP Brian Jennings.

National Biodiesel Board is pleased the EPA announcement said they would “re-propose volume requirements for 2014, by June 1, that reflect the volumes of renewable fuel that were actually used in 2014.”

“The volumes for Biomass-based Diesel in 2014 were approximately 1.75 billion gallons so EPA reaffirming its commitment to “actual use” appears to be a step in the right direction,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel.

Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) executive director Brooke Coleman says the announcement sends a good signal to the advanced biofuels industry. “Now that we have a better idea of when it will happen, we look forward to working with EPA to make sure that the new RFS proposal supports the commercial deployment of advanced biofuels as called for by Congress.”

EPA intends to issue a Federal Register Notice allowing the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed consent decree.

ARF Challenges Confirmed Candidates

ARF-LogoThe America’s Renewable Future campaign is challenging the two confirmed Republican presidential candidates to take a stand for renewable fuels.

In a letter to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has been forthcoming about his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), ARF questioned his recent reported comment that the oil industry “doesn’t get subsidized.” The letter, with the message that “Oil Subsidies Are Real,” details $165 billion in subsidies and tax breaks the oil industry is poised to receive over the next ten years.

With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officially declaring his candidacy this week, ARF recognized his introduction of the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act as “a step in the right direction” but urged him to commit to supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Sen. Paul has an opportunity to stand up for a commonsense, bipartisan policy that provides access to the marketplace for a clean, domestic alternative to foreign oil and we hope that he will,” said the campaign in a statement.

Another potential presidential candidate, Donald Trump, was in Iowa on Wednesday and took the time to meet with ARF co-chair Annette Sweeney “to discuss the importance of the ‪#‎RFS‬ to America and our rural communities.”

America’s Renewable Future is an Iowa-based coalition formed with the goal of educating presidential candidates about the RFS and urging their support.

Can Rand Paul Pass the RFS Test?

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul officially threw his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday, just a week after co-sponsoring the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015 with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. The legislation would allow 15% ethanol blends to be sold year round by requiring EPA to grant a Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) volatility waiver for E15 in the summer months.

paul-energy“The EPA’s onerous regulation of fuels is artificially limiting options for consumers and producers and preventing the adoption of new fuel options that could benefit our environment, our economy, and our energy security,” said Sen. Paul in a press release about the Act. “Through competition and consumer choice, my bill will free fuel producers and automobile manufacturers to innovate and bring new products to market that can lower costs to consumers, increase domestic energy production, and benefit the environment.”

The official candidate’s new campaign website says nothing specific about biofuels in the Energy section beyond “encouraging energy freedom, new technologies, and discoveries” but does mention support for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sen. Paul did not participate in the recent Iowa Ag Summit where potential candidates were asked specifically about their stance on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) but an aide last week confirmed that he is opposed to “the government telling consumers or businesses what type of fuel they must use or sell.”

“Sen. Paul supports removing regulatory barriers to the use of ethanol and other renewable fuels, which would likely have the effect of growing the use of these environmentally friendly fuels,” said the aide quoted in the National Journal.

Ethanol industry leaders have applauded Sen. Paul for his co-sponsorship of the E15 bill, but all say that support of the RFS is what they really want to see in a presidential candidate.

Nebraska Ethanol Producer Helps Retailers

NEB logoA northeast Nebraska ethanol producer has been working with retailers in that area to provide additional fuel choice for consumers.

According to the Nebraska Ethanol Board
, Husker Ag LLC in Plainview has provided grant money and ethanol for several retail locations in northeast Nebraska including Creighton, Crofton, Hartington, Osmond, Pierce at two locations, and Valentine.

“Many Nebraska ethanol producers work directly with retailers to expand availability of American Ethanol blends like E15 and E85,” said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. “This strategic partnership provides consumers with additional choices at the pump, and makes clear to consumers the value of choosing fuels produced locally from renewable sources.”

husker-ag“We are very excited to see the works of many coming together to expand ethanol usage in Nebraska – the second largest producer of ethanol,” said Seth Harder, Husker Ag general manager. “Partnerships are key to moving the needle on ethanol fuel usage.”

The flex fuel pumps were also paid for in part by the Nebraska Corn Board’s flex fuel infrastructure grant program on behalf of Nebraska’s 23,000 corn producers through their checkoff program.

CARB Holds LCFS Workshop Update

carb-14-2The California Air Resources Board (ARB) held a public workshop on Friday to discuss updates to the recently modified Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (CA-GREET 2.0) Model under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). Stakeholder input was received at the workshop on the new model which made some changes to the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) component.

RFA-logo-13Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Vice President Geoff Cooper said that while they are pleased that CARB made some updates to the CA-GREET model that were recommended by stakeholders, certain elements remain problematic, such as the model’s handling of emissions related to denaturant. “Our larger concern, however, continues to be CARB’s gross overestimation of indirect land use change (ILUC) emissions,” said Cooper. “While CARB is proposing to lower ILUC emissions somewhat, the Agency’s newest estimates are still far above the estimates coming from the rest of the scientific community. Further, CARB continues to rely on speculative and hypothetical scenarios to derive ILUC penalties, rather than using real-world land use data to inform the program. Empirical data from the past 10 years clearly show that farmers have responded to higher crop prices by using existing cropland more efficiently, not by converting non-agricultural lands to cropland. We will continue to encourage CARB to consider the most recent data and best available science on ILUC.”

unica1On the other hand, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) is pleased with the ILUC changes but has other concerns. “CARB’s revision of indirect land-use change (ILUC) modeling resulted in reduced penalties for Brazilian sugarcane ethanol and the lowest overall number in the LCFS, confirming it as the lowest-carbon biofuel available at commercial scale today,” said UNICA’s North American Representative Leticia Phillips.

However, Phillips says the environmental benefits of sugarcane ethanol in the LCFS would be even more significant if CARB included the emissions benefits of electricity co-generation in sugarcane mills using leftover plant material. “We are disappointed CARB has chosen to apply a U.S.-style average electricity mix to Brazil rather than crediting sugarcane biofuel producers for this marginal displacement of fossil energy.”

CARB will be considering re-adoption of the California LCFS at its July 2015 hearing,

RFA Reports February Ethanol Export Record

The Renewable Fuels Association reports that U.S. ethanol exports reached a new record in February, based on an analysis of the latest government data.

RFANewlogoAccording to RFA Research Analyst Ann Lewis, U.S. exports of denatured and undenatured ethanol in February totaled 85.2 million gallons, up 24% from January, the highest February export volume on record. Year-to-date exports at 153.9 million gallons are in line with exports during the same period last year.

The biggest customer for U.S. ethanol remains Brazil, which received about one quarter (28%) of total U.S. ethanol exports in February, followed by India (20%), Canada (17%), and the United Arab Emirates (12%). The Philippines, South Korea, the Netherlands and Peru were other key destinations in February.

In addition, exports of the ethanol co-product distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) rose 13% to the highest monthly level in 5 months, as the Chinese market continues to recover. “However, exports to China remain at about half the level enjoyed prior to the market collapse,” said Lewis.