Iowa RFA Pleased with Election Results

branstad-ernstThe Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) is pleased with the results of Tuesday’s election in the state and the strong support for renewable fuels among the winning candidates.

“It’s not surprising that ethanol and biodiesel enjoy broad, bipartisan support in Iowa,” stated IRFA PAC Treasurer Walt Wendland. “It’s also encouraging to see that renewable fuels will remain in good hands in Iowa. We look forward to working with all of the 2014 election winners for state and federal offices to continue to preserve and advance Iowa’s leadership in renewable fuels production, agriculture and environmental stewardship.”

In the races for federal office, Iowa elected Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate, and David Young and Rod Blum to the U.S. House. Iowans also re-elected Governor Terry Branstad, and Reps. Steve King and Dave Loebsack. Each winning candidate reported strong support for renewable fuels and the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in IRFA’s renewable fuels candidate survey.

Register Now for 9th IRFA Summit

2015 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit crowdsRegistration is now open for the 9th annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show. The event will take place January 27, 2015 at The Meadows Conference Center located at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa and is free and open to the public. Click here for registration and sponsorship information.

With ongoing discussion over renewable fuels policy, the 2015 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit will discuss state and national issues impacting the renewable fuels industry, including the future of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the impacts of the mid-term elections on U.S. energy policy, and emerging opportunities for cellulosic ethanol, E15, and biodiesel. Featured speakers will be announced leading up to the Summit.

“The Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit provides a great opportunity to listen to experts address state and national issues impacting the future of renewable fuels, as well as network with biofuels professionals and business leaders from throughout the Midwest,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Taking into account the unclear impacts of mid-term elections and the uncertain future of the RFS, there’s a no shortage of interest in the 2015 Summit that will bring together industry leaders, decision makers and the general public to shape Iowa’s energy future.”

Two-Thirds of New Vehicles Approved for E15

E15-americasAuto manufacturers explicitly approve the use of E15 (15 percent ethanol blend fuel) in approximately two-thirds of new vehicles, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

RFA’s analysis of model year (MY) 2015 warranty statements and owner’s manuals finds that nearly 63 percent of MY 2015 vehicles will have E15 approval from their manufacturers. E15 is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for all 2001 and newer vehicles — accounting for roughly 80 percent of the vehicles on the road today. When coupled with expected MY 2015 flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) production, it is estimated that E15 will be allowed in close to 70 percent of MY 2015 vehicles. Manufacturers approve the use of up to 85 percent ethanol blends in FFVs.

The RFA analysis revealed several interesting trends:

After approving the use of E15 in some of its 2014 Honda and Acura models, Honda Motor Company has extended E15 warranty coverage to all models in 2015.

All Toyota models in 2015 include explicit E15 approval, up from just a fraction of Toyota models in 2014. Just as in 2014, E15 is approved for use in most, but not all, 2015 Lexus models.

For the fourth year in a row, General Motors approves the use of E15 in all models. Similarly, E15 is approved in all Ford models for the third year in a row. Vehicles from these two automakers alone account for roughly one-third of sales in the United States.

Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche, and Volkswagen also expressly approved the use of E15 in their 2015 models.

The analysis also found that the Chrysler Group failed for the fourth year in a row to approve the use of E15 in owners’ manuals for its models. Despite that, a significant share of Chrysler output is expected to be FFV-capable, meaning E15 is approved for use in those vehicles.

Solenis Receives Corn Oil Extraction Patent

Solenis has received a U.S. patent (Patent No. US 8,841,469 B2) for the use of chemical additives to improve the separation of corn oil. In addition to yielding more corn oil, the company says its corn oil extraction aids, which are marketed as Dimension corn oil extraction aids, also reduce solids in the oil, resulting in a cleaner, higher-quality oil. The extraction aids, which are easily introduced into the process, also have been shown to reduce system deposition, resulting in less downtime for system cleaning and maintenance according to Solenis.

Solenis logo“Our goal is always to drive the profitability of the companies we do business with – and our extraction aids do just that,” said Allen Ziegler, global marketing director of biorefining at Solenis. “We’re not a one-trick product company. We have a full line of products that can benefit our customers – from reducing costs to increasing productivity. On top of that, our process experts are always looking for innovative ways to further build efficiencies. It’s inherent in everything we do.”

Previously known as Ashland Water Technologies, Solenis was part of Ashland Inc. until earlier this year when it became a stand-alone company. In addition to its corn oil extraction technologies, the company’s product portfolio includes a broad array of process, functional and water treatment chemistries as well as monitoring and control systems.

“The reality is that we were first to market with this technology and we have hard data to demonstrate its value, whereas with competitor products there can be significant variances in product performance,” said Ziegler. “Whether customers have a specially blended product or want validation that our technology works the same or better than what they’re currently using, we’ll work with them to get the product they need and the performance they expect.”

“We’re seeking to bring greater value to fuel ethanol plants with our patented and proven technology. But just as important, we want to establish good relationships with those companies,” Zeigler added.

Italy Binds Biofuel Targets

Italy has passed a law that will set the way for national binding targets. The news comes on the heels of talks by the European Union (EU) on what, if any, binding renewable energy targets should be in place. The official degree as published in the “Gazzetta Ufficiale” states that fuel suppliers will be obligated to blend fuel:

  • at least 0.6% advanced biofuels in petrol and diesel beginning January 1, 2018;
  • 0.8% beginning January 1, 2020; and
  • 1% beginning January 1, 2022.

The passage of Italy’s law comes at the same time the European Council released its 2030 Energy and Climate Package where the transportation sector has seen the most positive changes when compared to the first proposal. The law now puts Italy as the lead in Europe on mandating advanced biofuels from waste and residues.

The Italian decree comes six months after the Italian Ministry of Economic Development announced in May the intention to fund the construction of three advanced biofuels EU 2030 Climate Targetsfacilities in Southern Italy and is part of the country’s initiatives to boost competitiveness.

In the fall of 2013, Novozymes, together with Italian company Biochemtex opened the world’s first commercial-scale advanced biofuels refinery in Italy – using agricultural waste as input. When asked by DomesticFuel what message Italy’s mandate sends to other countries, Novozymes’ Vice President for Biomass Conversion, Sebastian Søderberg answered, “In general, it will send a very positive signal to the other European countries and outside Europe. Italy and a number of other member states have been pushing for a mandate for advanced biofuels at EU level for more than 2 years and Italy’s move will support this process.” Continue reading

Ethanol Coalition: Auto Engineers Expose EPA’s Oil Bias

ACElogoA new paper from automotive engineers shows how the federal government has a bias toward Big Oil. Officials from the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) praised a new Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) paper authored by experts from Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, and AVL Powertrain Engineering Inc. that concludes that emissions from higher ethanol blends are cleaner than gasoline, and the approach used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to estimate exhaust emissions, the Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES) model, is biased in favor of oil.

“We applaud these Ford, General Motors, and AVL Powertrain engineers for exposing that EPA’s MOVES model is biased in favor of a result oil companies prefer and ignores the way gasoline is blended with ethanol in the real-world,” said [ACE Executive Vice President Brian] Jennings. “This is just the latest example of how Big Oil is twisting EPA’s arm to limit ethanol use. First, it appears EPA is about to completely rewrite the Renewable Fuel Standard to help oil companies avoid their legal responsibility to blend fuels, like E15 and E85, which reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now, EPA is relying on a biased approach for estimating tailpipe emissions, remarkably making gasoline appear cleaner than ethanol.” Continue reading

Growth Energy Staffer on Advisory Committee

growth-energy-logoU.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has appointed Jim Miller, Growth Energy’s Vice President and Chief Economist, to a position on the Department of Commerce’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee. The departmental committee was established to advise the Secretary on programs and policies to expand U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency exports.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help increase awareness of the importance of renewable fuels as well as expand markets across the globe to help export clean, sustainable energy that will help create jobs right here at home, while improving the environment around the globe and reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels,” said Miller.

Miller previously served as the Senior Policy Advisor on the Budget Committee under Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). Prior to his service on Capitol Hill, Miller was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Also appointed to the committee was Kelly Davis of the Renewable Fuels Association.

DuPont to Sit on RFA Board

RFANewlogoDuPont will now be sitting on the governing board of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The company has been an associate RFA member for more than 10 years and has now upgraded its membership as its first cellulosic ethanol plant is in its final stages of construction. The biorefinery will be co-located next to Lincolnway Energy in Nevada, Iowa and when complete will produce 30 million gallons per year of ethanol using corn ag waste.

“Next generation cellulosic ethanol is emerging on the market and DuPont is at the forefront of innovation. Their knowledge and expertise in all aspects of the biofuels industry make them a valuable addition to the Renewable Fuels Association,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA. “I am eager to work together to advance the renewable fuels industry, which is already directly and indirectly employing nearly 400,000 people, reducing GHG emissions, and lowering America’s foreign oil dependence.”

William Feehery, president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences said of their renewed commitment to the ethanol association, “RFA is a leading voice in Washington on issues related to our industry and we look forward to working even more closely together as we reach full cellulosiDuPont Logoc production in the coming year. We acknowledge the hard work RFA has done to promote and defend the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) both as an individual organization and as our partner in the Fuels America Coalition. A stable RFS is vitally important to support growth for the existing corn ethanol industry while garnering the investment needed to expand and grow cellulosic ethanol in the United States. We must keep the technology, research, and development here in the United States so consumers can continue to have choices at the pump and America can reduce its reliance on foreign oil.”

RFA’s Davis Appointed to Advisory Committee

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis has been appointed to the Department of Commerce’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee.

According to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the function of the committee is to “provide consensus advice on the development and administration of programs and policies to expand U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency exports.”

“It is truly an honor to be selected by Secretary Pritzker to serve on the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee,” said Davis. “I look forward to having a seat at the table and helping Secretary Pritzker ensure that our global trading partners understand and appreciate the benefits of U.S. produced ethanol in reducing consumer gasoline prices, improving energy diversity and security, and addressing climate change.”

Davis recently participated in a trade mission to China, led by USDA Under Secretary Michael Scuse, to promote U.S. ethanol and co-products and strengthen the trade relationship between the two countries. Last year, she joined a similar trade mission, led by the U.S. Grains Council, to South Korea and Japan. The RFA board of directors has made opening new markets for ethanol and distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) abroad a top priority, and Davis’ appointment to this prestigious advisory committee reflects that commitment.

API: Extend Domestic Fuel Supply To Lower Gas Prices

In a recent blog post authored by Geoff Cooper, senior vice president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the American Petroleum Institute (API) recently released a study that argues that the fracking boom has led to dramatically lower prices for crude oil and refined products between 2008-2013. Cooper wrote that the study suggests that increased Cooper Graphic in API study articledomestic production of crude oil, natural gas liquids (NGLs) and lease condensate from fracking has already extended U.S. supplies and helped to lower gas prices.

The study finds that every 1 million barrels/day of new supply reduces consumer prices for petroleum products between $0.06-0.20 per gallon. Cooper writes that according to economics more supply generally results in lower prices, in this case there are two problems with API’s rationale.

  • Problem 1: Global demand for petroleum products continues to grow faster than global supply. EIA data show global production of crude oil, NGLs and condensate grew by 4.1 million barrels/day between 2008 and 2013. But global consumption of those products ramped up by 5.4 million barrels/day over the same period. Thus, demand gains outstripped supply gains by more than 30%.
  • Problem 2: When energy economist Phil Verleger and researchers at Louisiana State University, Iowa State University, University of Wisconsin, the Department of Energy, and others separately showed that extending the U.S. gasoline supply with ethanol leads to lower pump prices, Big Oil defiantly screamed “NOT SO!” Verleger found that consumer paid $0.50-$1.50 per gallon less for gasoline in 2013 because of ethanol’s extension of the fuel supply. His conclusion corroborated results from Iowa State/University of Wisconsin that showed consumers saved up to $1.09 in 2012 due to ethanol’s aggregate effect on gasoline supplies.

Cooper ends his article by asking the question, “So, which is it API? Does adding volume to the fuel supply reduce prices, or doesn’t it?”

Chicago to Vote on E15

Today the Chicago City Finance Committee is considering an amended ordinance that according to Alderman Ameya Pawar, one of the bill’s co-sponsor, will ensure Chicago motorists will have a choice at the pump. The “Chicago Clean Air Choice” ordinance would enable retailers to offer drivers E15 fuel.

Chicago E15 logo“Through the ordinance the City of Chicago will once again help lead the way in cleaning up the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other toxic carcinogens in the air,” said Alderman Pawar. In his remarks he was referring to the Chicago City Council’s actions in 1984 that banned leaded gasoline in the city and its 2000 action where the Council banned various toxic additives.

Co-sponsor Alderman Anthony Beale, added that the ordinance has economic and security implications. “By reducing our dependence on fossil fuels by increasing ethanol usage, this ordinance is supporting a renewable fuel that is grown in America, keeping American dollars and troops at home, instead of sending them overseas.”

The original ordinance was introduced last summer. The enhanced ordinance includes an exemption of all filling stations selling less than 850,000 gallons of fuel per year and a 360 day phase in.

SIUE Prof to Write Book on Illinois Biofuels History

The Illinois biofuels industry will be reading about its history in a book. Assistant Professor Jeffery T. Manuel, who teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), is teaming up with NCERC at SIUE to write the book. He works in the Department of Historical Studies and his biofuels history project was selected for a faculty fellowship award. The Center’s faculty fellowship program is sponsored by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board to foster collaborative research between the NCERC and the University community.

“Farmers, researchers, business leaders, politicians, and many others have been working to build Illinois’ biofuels industry for decades,” said Manuel. “This is an important but overlooked aspect of the state’s agricultural and business history. Fuel alcohol has been suggested as a promising alternative to oil and gas for over a century. My research asks why Americans have repeatedly turned to alcohol fuel as an alternative energy source and why earlier efforts to promote alcohol fuels were unsuccessful.”

gI_88188_Manuel-JeffManuel said his work will include recorded, in-depth interviews of key players in the biofuels industry. The interviews will be archived at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield as part of the Agriculture in Illinois oral history collection.

“We truly appreciate the Illinois Corn Growers’ support of this collaborative relationship, and we are excited to partner with Dr. Manuel on his project,” said NCERC Director John Caupert. “The biofuels industry has a long and fascinating history, with deep roots in Illinois. Dr. Manuel’s work will shed light on the industry’s evolution, and demonstrate the resilience and innovation of the industry’s past and present pioneers.”

Manuel added, “I believe my research will add a valuable historical perspective to SIUE’s existing strengths in biofuels research. I hope that SIUE can become a world leader in a multidisciplinary study of biofuels as we work to create this valuable record for the general public and future researchers.”

NC State Breaks Down Cell Walls

According to Quanzi Li, the greatest barrier to producing biofuels is from stubborn plant cell walls that resist being broken down into biofuel ingredients. Li is the lead author of a paper published in Plant Biotechnology Journal about North Carolina (NC) State’s Forest Biotechnology Group biofuel research progress. Cell walls contain desirable cellulose and hemicellulose, which is “covered up” with lignin, the substance that contributes to the strength of wood but gets in the way of biofuel production.

In the case of wood, the lignin must be removed and then the resulting cellulose is converted to ethanol. Production begins with an expensive pretreatment, followed by enzyme use to release the sugars that can be fermented to produce ethanol. Li and her team are focusing on simplifying the process in various ways.

NC State lignin researchNC State’s team has created genetically modified trees with reduced lignin content. “Normally when you reduce lignin, plant growth is negatively affected, which also reduces biomass production,” explained Li. “However, we now know that we can produce transgenic plants with strong cell walls and normal development but much less lignin.”

Fast-growing trees with high energy content could grow on marginal land without disrupting crop production. NC State has worked extensively with black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa). Forest Biotechnology Group researchers in the College of Natural Resources have developed engineering models that predict how 21 pathway enzymes affect lignin content and composition, providing the equivalent of GPS directions to guide future research.

This comprehensive approach, which involves genes, proteins, plant chemical compounds and mathematical models, fits into a systems biology perspective that’s the key to future breakthroughs, Li said. She added, “Progress has been made in many areas, but we still lack a complete understanding of how the cell wall is formed. We have to have a better idea of the factors that control its formation to produce better biomass for biofuels.”

Promoting American Ethanol Texas Style

American-Ethanol-and-NASCAR-LogoThey say that everything is bigger in Texas so it’s appropriate that one of the largest E15 promotions of the year will be held this weekend about the benefits of American Ethanol for NASCAR fans at the Texas Motor Speedway.

“We have done 12 major promotions this year and have exposed millions of NASCAR fans to the performance and environmental benefits of Sunoco Green E15, but there is a lot of excitement surrounding this event,” said Jon Holzfaster, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s NASCAR Advisory Committee. “American Ethanol will be everywhere at this race, on the track, on the Midway, in the campgrounds and even on Big Hoss.”

big-hossBig Hoss is the world’s largest, high-definition LED video board, stands 218 feet wide by 94.5 feet tall and features 20,633.64 square feet of high-definition display. The 108 ton beast of a screen will be showing an American Ethanol video throughout the race.

American Ethanol partners Growth Energy and NCGA are joining forces with the Texas Corn Producers to make sure E15 fuel is prominently promoted at this high profile race.

The contest for the NASCAR Championship is now in its third round, and results in Texas and Phoenix will trim the field to only four drivers who will be eligible to win the Sprint Cup Trophy on November 16. As a result, tens of thousands of fans are expected to flock to the full weekend of races, with millions more tuning in on Sunday for the marquis Sprint Cup duel. Every car will be fueled with E15, and will sport the green American Ethanol fuel port as they have all season.

EIA Lowers Energy Content of Gas

“EIA has adjusted its estimates of the energy content of retail motor gasoline in the Monthly Energy Review (MER) to reflect its changing composition. Ethanol and other oxygenates, which have lower energy content than petroleum-based gasoline components, have seen their share of total gasoline volumes increase from 2% in 1993 to nearly 10% in 2013. As a result, EIA’s estimate of motor gasoline’s average energy content per gallon has declined by about 3% over this 20-year period,” writes the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its latest Monthly Energy Review.

To better understand the changes, a recent “Today in Energy” looked at how higher U.S. ethanol use has cut the average energy content of a gallon of gasoline.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 10.44.44 AM

The EIA explains that the adjustment of the average energy content per gallon of motor gasoline reflects changes in response to 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations that split the U.S. gasoline market into three segments: conventional, oxygenated, and reformulated. Oxygenated and reformulated gasoline was required to be blended with compounds that contained oxygen, such as MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether) or ethanol. This Act was designed to reduce toxic air emissions in cities and it was successful. However, EIA states that while these additives reduced air pollution, they also resulted in lower heating value compared with conventional gasoline, translating to fewer miles per gallon, because they have lower energy density.

In response to these regulations, EIA began collecting separate data on the production of conventional, oxygenated, and reformulated gasoline in 1994. The gasoline heating value was estimated based on the relative volumes of conventional, oxygenated, and reformulated gasoline in the total motor gasoline product supplied to the United States. Continue reading