While AAA may be an outspoken critic of ethanol blended gasoline and E15 in particular, some other motor clubs think differently, and one of them was on Capitol Hill this week with the American Coalition for Ethanol to tell his story to lawmakers.
Gene Hammond with Association Motor Club Marketing and Travelers Motor Club, which represent 50 years in the business and over 20 million members, says they studied their claims over the past several years to see if there were any related to ethanol. “And what we discovered is that we have not had one ethanol-related claim where we’ve had to go out and tow,” said Hammond. “In fact, the opposite is true.”
Hammond explains that claims related to gasoline freeze used to be common in the northern part of the country, “but that’s gone away, we don’t have that anymore with ethanol.”
Hammond was pleased to join ethanol supporters in Washington this week for the ACE Fly-in to tell members of Congress and their staff his experiences with ethanol from an automotive standpoint. Interview with Gene Hammond, AMCM and Travelers Motor Club
2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album
A group of Congressional representatives wrote to the House Appropriations leadership this week specifically asking that any funding to help install blender pumps or promote corn ethanol exports be eliminated from the USDA budget.
In response to the letter, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said “the request is neither helpful nor logical,” and also “unnecessary since there is already a prohibition on USDA funding blender pump grants in the 2014 Farm Bill.”
The letter was signed by 18 mostly Republican members of Congress, led by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Jim Costa (R-CA), who claim that “the federal government’s creation of an artificial market for the ethanol industry is negatively impacting American consumers, livestock farmers, food producers, retailers, air and water quality, and the ability to feed our nation’s hungry.”
“This request stems from a flawed and inaccurate argument that has been disproven time and again,” said Buis. “The government is not creating an artificial market for ethanol, but the RFS is seeking to level the playing field and ensure alternatives to fossil fuels have market access so consumers are given a choice instead of a de-facto mandate to use petroleum based products.”
The 18 members of Congress who signed the letter represent ten states – California, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Vermont, Virginia, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final rulemaking this week to clarify the data sources and methodology used to calculate the Cellulosic Waiver Credit (CWC) price.
Under the rule, EPA has calculated the CWC prices for 2014 at $0.49 and for 2015 at $0.64. According to the EPA document, “The price of CWCs are determined using a formula specified in the Clean Air Act (CAA). The cellulosic waiver credit price is the greater of $0.25 or $3.00 minus the wholesale price of gasoline, where both the $0.25 and $3.00 are adjusted for inflation.”
The direct final rule also amends the regulations to remove the CWC prices from the code of federal regulations allowing them to be announced in a more timely fashion on EPA’s website.
Iowa cattle producer and ethanol advocate Bill Couser was a man on a mission this week in Washington DC with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Fly-In.
Couser finally got a sit down with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to talk about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and other issues. “I was able to schedule a half hour with her and I took the cattle industry and the ethanol industry in there and we sat down there as one,” said Couser. “The impression we got from Gina is that she’s there to work with us.”
Couser is co-chair of the Iowa-based America’s Renewable Future, which recently helped to sponsor the Iowa Ag Summit where potential presidential candidates were interviewed live about their views on important agricultural issues, including the RFS. At that event, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who just became the first to officially throw his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential race, stated his opposition to the RFS and Couser had a chance to speak with him about it. “He’s a man from Texas who is set in his ways,” said Couser. “We’re looking forward to the future and visiting with him more.”
Listen to an interview with Bill from the ACE fly-in here: Interview with Bill Couser, America's Renewable Future
2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album
The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) and more than 70 of its members have been in Washington, DC this week meeting with lawmakers, administration officials, and top staff members as part of the group’s “Biofuels Beltway March” annual fly-in.
The group had 160 meetings with lawmakers or their staff representing 43 states scheduled during the two day event with a primary focus on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ACE President Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol was pleased with how the meetings went Tuesday. “It was really a stark contrast to the last few years we’ve been out here in that these folks really know the RFS now,” he said.
Alverson noted in particular meetings that he had with senators from Arkansas and Delaware who had concerns about poultry feed costs, but they were able to find areas of common ground. “One of them is energy security and the other is the low cost fuel we produce,” he said. “I thought we had really constructive conversations.”
Listen to Jamie Johansen’s interview with Alverson here: Interview with ACE president Ron Alverson
2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album
Kansas-based ICM, Inc. is celebrating 20 years of innovating in the ethanol and renewable fuels industry. The company credits the passion of its people for its longevity and its ability to design more than 100 ethanol plants.
“I think 20 Years of Innovation is an appropriate way to describe the life of the company,” says ICM President Chris Mitchell. “It started out as a small group of people who had to come together and figure out what they were going to do when they started the business. Over the years, it transformed into a larger family of people who’ve had to come together and figure out how to best meet the needs of an evolving industry.”
Some of these needs have led to the development of key innovations such as improved dryers, greenfield plants, Corn Oil Separation, Selective Milling Technology™, Fiber Separation Technology™, and Gen 1.5 Grain Fiber to Cellulosic Ethanol Technology™.
Reflecting on the company’s history, ICM CEO Dave Vander Griend says, “There was kind of a defining moment in time when a lot of things — like policy, public perception, and technology — all came together to help ethanol find its place. I feel fortunate to have been there, to have the background I had at the time, and to be surrounded by a good group of people and industry partners who could rally together and really grab ahold of the thing and help it grow.”
You can learn more about ICM on the company’s 20th anniversary web page.
It won’t be long until presidential candidates invade Iowa once again (and some already have). So, Iowa-based America’s Renewable Future (ARF) has publically invited Sen. Ted Cruz and all potential 2016 presidential candidates to tour Iowa renewable fuel facilities across the state to learn more about the success of the industry.
“The goal of our organization is to educate candidates on the economic importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its many advantages, not only locally, but nationally,” said former Lt. Gov. and ARF co-chair, Patty Judge, “the RFS sustains 73,000 jobs in Iowa and over 800,000 nationally. Iowa farmers epitomize hard work and are a beacon of rural America’s success and we hope that Sen. Cruz will stand with them.”
Following Sen. Ted Cruz’s opposition to the standard at the March 7 Iowa Ag Summit, the organization is especially interested in drawing the Texas senator to an ethanol plant tour on his upcoming trips in April. “Sen. Cruz’s remarks show that there is a chance to have important dialogue on this issue,” said ARF co-chair and Nevada, IA cattleman, Bill Couser, “I had a chance to personally invite Sen. Cruz at the Ag Summit in addition to the two formal invitations ARF has sent to his campaign and I hope that he will not miss this chance to see just what this policy means for real Iowans and their families.”
“This comes down to supporting independence from foreign oil while supporting American jobs or giving in to foreign interests and Big Oil,” added Couser, “We hope that Sen. Cruz we will make time to hear from folks who have seen the success in this industry and ask questions about his concerns.”
Pearson Fuels will celebrate the opening of San Francisco’s first E85 station. The company says there will be a ribbon-cutting today at All Stars Fuel located at 2831 Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco, where the high-blend of ethanol will sell today for just 85 cents a gallon.
Pearson Fuels General Manager, Mike Lewis states, “It is crazy that a city as large and progressive as San Francisco, has never had an E85 dispenser! E85 burns much cleaner than gasoline and add to that the fact that it is renewable, domestically produced and currently selling at substantial discounts to gasoline. We expect this new station to do very well. Our preliminary projections show that it might be one of the highest volume dispensers we supply. We estimate that there are at least 50,000 E85 compatible vehicles driving in San Francisco every week and we are happy those vehicles now have an alternative to gasoline available.
Station owner Ali Yaldiz said, “We are very glad to be working with Pearson Fuels on this project. We contacted them and they were right on it. They handled all the permitting and signage, they made sure we did it the right way and we look forward to working with them for many years. It is just refreshing to work with a group that does what they say they are going to do. We are happy and proud to be the first station in all of San Francisco to offer this progressive fuel and we hope the public embraces it is much as we do. To get things started off right, we decided to offer it way under cost for most of the day to show the public we appreciate them and we mean business!”
The project was partially funded by the California Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program.
The 10th annual Ethanol 2015: Emerging Issues Forum is set for April 16-17, 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska hosted by the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB). The event is designed for ethanol producers and others integrally involved in production, technology, policymaking and marketing of ethanol and its co-products.
NEB has announced that Paul Argyropoulos, senior policy advisor to the Office of Air Quality and Transportation at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will be the featured speaker April 16th. Argyropoulos will address EPA’s plans for the final rule on Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2014 and plans for 2015 and 2016. In addition, he will address issues associated with the RFS including steps EPA is taking to get the RFS back on track.
“Paul is as knowledgeable as they come on these issues and we are absolutely delighted that he will be able to join us this year,” said Todd Sneller, NEB administrator. “He has worked on fuel and air quality programs for more than 20 years and with new ozone standards, the Tier 3 program and fuel economy standards all impacting the future of ethanol. It is a very timely addition to the program.”
Other topics during the forum include ethanol marketing challenges; domestic and international ethanol marketing opportunities and barriers; emerging trends in ethanol co-products; low carbon fuel standards; and integrating technology for efficiency, profitability and sustainability.
Some straight talk this weekend on ethanol on the syndicated car-talk program “Bobby Likis Car Clinic.” Judd Hulting of Patriot Renewable Fuels talked with Bobby about the operations, products and statistics of Patriot’s ten-year old, ethanol plant located near the Quad Cities.
Hulting was able to tout the benefits of ethanol, including the growing worldwide export market for American-made ethanol and distillers grain. Likis was already a fan of ethanol and pointed out that while some Americans are worried about moving up to a 15 percent ethanol blend (E15), Brazil has just moved up to E27 as the baseline for gasoline in the South American country.
You can listen to the conversation between Hulting and Likis here.
The high blend of ethanol, E85, had a big year in Iowa last year. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says a new record of nearly 12 million gallons was sold in the Hawkeye State in 2014, more than a million-gallon increase over 2013.
“Another year, and another E85 sales record in Iowa,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “The most impressive aspect of this record is that retail gasoline prices dropped significantly in the second half of the fourth quarter of 2014, yet Iowa motorists remained committed to the homegrown, cleaner-burning fuel by setting a new fourth quarter record for E85 purchases. This fourth quarter data proves that not only is E85 being purchased at a record rate where available in Iowa, but consumers are realizing the benefits of this more locally-produced, environmentally-friendly fuel, beyond simply its cost advantages.”
The nearly 3 million gallons sold in the fourth quarter of 2014 was also a fourth quarter record.
Ceres, Inc., an agricultural biotechnology company, and Brazilian energy company Raízen S.A., today announced the signing of a multi-year collaboration agreement to develop and produce sweet sorghum on an industrial scale.
Under the collaboration, the companies will each contribute in-kind services and resources and share in the revenue from the ethanol produced from Ceres’ sweet sorghum above certain levels. This season, Raízen has planted Ceres’ sweet sorghum evaluation in a single location and plans to expand to multiple mills in the seasons to come.
Sweet sorghum can be grown to complement existing feedstock supplies and extend the operating season of Brazilian sugarcane-to-ethanol mills. In addition to sweet sorghum, Ceres markets high biomass sorghum to mills and other agri-industrial facilities for use in generating electricity, heat and steam in Brazil. In the U.S., Ceres is marketing improved forage sorghum hybrids to dairies and livestock producers.
The Urban Air Initiative is challenging the federal government’s models on ethanol emissions from automobiles. This news release from the group says it has filed a new petition with the Environmental Protection Agency challenging the EPA’s Motor Fuel Emission Simulator model, which it says “wrongly blames ethanol for creating harmful tailpipe emissions.”
One of the biggest factors currently holding domestically produced ethanol back from reaching its full potential is bad information. This includes focused misinformation campaigns like the tactics used by big oil for years and bad computer modeling basing assessments on erroneous or inaccurate information.
“Many Americans are not aware of the very real and dangerous consequences of our dependence on foreign oil,” said Michigan farmer Jeff Sandborn, who is chairman of the NCGA Ethanol Committee. “Much of the time the focus has been on jobs and ethanol’s economic contributions, but increasingly the urban public is looking at the dangers related to the pollutants in gasoline. Ethanol reduces carbon and these toxic compounds while providing the higher octane modern engines need.”
The EPA’s study and resulting model obscures the fact that “blending ethanol into ordinary gasoline reduces harmful emissions produced when gasoline combusts in an engine,” according to the group’s petition.
EPA’s study, in an effort to look at optimal temperatures and a variety of blends, results in findings that increasing ethanol can be associated with increasing emissions, the petition said. “This conclusion is misleading at best,” the group said, arguing that it ignores real-world factors in burning fuel. Other studies have found that increasing the amount of ethanol in fuels reduces emissions.
The group says this model in question underlies a number of key issues regarding EPA and states’ treatment of ethanol, including state implementation plans to meet a variety of air quality standards.
The heads of both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency spoke to the National Farmers Union (NFU) convention in Wichita Monday and talked about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted that her agency was “in the hot seat” over the RFS after failing to set standards for the industry last year.
“The RFS is a complicated program, and we weren’t able to accomplish what we needed to do last year,” she said. “Implementing the RFS as Congress intended has been challenging.”
“We need to set levels that send a longer-term message,” McCarthy continued, explaining the agency’s intention to set Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for 2014, 2015, and 2016 before summer of this year.
Listen to McCarthy’s speech here, courtesy of Ken Rahjes, AgView.net. EPA Chief Gina McCarthy at 2015 NFU Convention
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stressed his continued support for the RFS. “I love the RFS – I’m for RFS,” he said. “We need to make sure Congress doesn’t do anything to damage it or repeal it or make it difficult to use. We need to be advocates, spokespeople for this industry. We need to go out and tell folks this is the right thing to do,” he said.
Vilsack urged the crowd to continue to educate the public about the potential of weaning the nation from foreign oil imports and highlighting the potential of renewable fuels. He pointed to areas of the economy, like the military, that were converting to home grown fuels. “Navy is starting to look at renewable fuels. I am optimistic about this. We need to be advocates for this industry. We don’t want to lose this amazing marketing opportunity.”
Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits (LBDS) along with Mascoma, LLC have been awarded a patent for the technology used in TransFerm Yield+ in the US (US 8,956,851 B2). As explained in Lallemand company materials, this yeast product provides for novel metabolic pathways that reduce or eliminate glycerol production subsequently increase ethanol yield by yeast or other microorganisms.
“We are extremely proud to have introduced these products into the marketplace. This drop-in, game-changing technology is one example of how our Mascoma business unit has produced real results,” said Angus Ballard, president, LBDS. “To be able to increase yields and thus increase the profitability of ethanol plants, at a time where margins are tight, is huge. This is just the beginning of a long line of Mascoma developed products that will be brought into the market by our team.”
During the past three years, LBDS and Mascoma introduced TransFerm and TransFerm Yield+ yeasts into the ethanol industry citing that the products help reduce the amount of glucoamylase needed in fermentation and also provide a substantial yield increase through the introduction of the glycerol reduction pathway. Today more than 50 ethanol plants have utilized the TransFerm platform producing over 4 billion gallons of ethanol.
Kevin Wenger, executive vice president of Mascoma, added, “Development of this technology is the result of years of dedicated R&D effort by Mascoma. We are quite pleased that the U.S. Patent Office has allowed the patent; we believe it shows how innovative and significant this new approach really is. TransFerm Yield+ is truly the first product of its kind to offer this type of step change technology in ethanol production.”