Advanced Ethanol Progress and Concerns

nec15-advance-panelWhile it’s making progress, there are still plenty of questions and concerns regarding advanced ethanol production. During the the 20th National Ethanol Conference, a panel of advanced ethanol producers talked about the challenges and opportunities facing their industry.

Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman moderated the panel which included Bill Feehery of DuPont Industrial Biosciences (pictured at the podium), Adam Monroe of Novozymes, Paula Corollo with Beta Renewables, and Abengoa’s Chris Standlee. Coleman said while there are naysayers, who try to talk down the cellulosic industry, saying it’s not going fast enough or isn’t successful enough, he sees incredible progress over the last five years for the industry. But it’s not going to get easier.

“This is a crossroads and the part where it gets hard. This is the part where we diversify feedstock, introduce new technologies, and the [Environmental Protection Agency] has to look down and decide if we’re going to change the fuel markets at a fundamental level or just change them to where the oil industry is comfortable,” Coleman said.

Feehery’s presentation focused on the progress cellulosic ethanol has made, calling the recent advancements that are delivering a cleaner, more sustainable transportation fuel that’s also invigorating rural America’s economy. “It’s a victory of science, industry policy, and plain good, old-fashioned hard work, and it’s an accomplishment we all share together.”

Looking ahead, Feehery said it’s also important to look back at what has been successful to see the path forward. He pointed to efficiencies and technologies, such as enzymes, that are making cellulosic more affordable and more commercially viable. He’s also excited by how celluslosic ethanol is being embraced by American companies not just within the fuels markets, such as Procter & Gamble, which is using cellulosic ethanol in its formulation for Tide laundry detergent. He concluded that these technologies and adoptions by industry are key drivers in how cellulosic ethanol will grow in the years to come.

“What we see is the beginning of a bioeconomy in action,” Feehery said.

Listen to Feehery’s presentation before the group here: NEC 15 Advanced Ethanol Panel

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Ethanol Helps Create Jobs and More Jobs

Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan, Illinois

Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan, Illinois

At the National Ethanol Conference last week, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) released the latest economic study on the “Contribution of the Ethanol Industry to the Economy of the United States in 2014,” and found it to be better than ever in 2014.

Among the benefits of ethanol production in 2014 according to the study by ABF Economics:
• $52.7 billion to America’s gross domestic product
• 83,949 direct jobs
• 295,265 indirect and induced jobs
• $10.3 billion in federal, state and local taxes
• Displaced 515 million barrels of oil, the equivalent of $49 billion

John Urbanchuk, author of the study and managing partner of ABF Economics, concluded his analysis by noting, “The ethanol industry continues to make a significant contribution to the economy in terms of job creation, generation of tax revenue, and displacement of imported crude oil and petroleum products. The importance of the ethanol industry to agriculture and rural economies is particularly notable. Continued growth and expansion of the ethanol industry through new technologies and feedstocks will enhance the industry’s position as the original creator of green jobs, and will enable America to make further strides toward energy independence.”

The full study, prepared on behalf of the Renewable Fuels Association, can be found here.

Growth Tells Ethanol Producers to Talk to Congress

growth-energy-logoAs alternative energy producers have gathered in Washington, D.C. for the 2015 Energy Independence Summit, the leader of a group representing ethanol producers’ interests is encouraging them to take time to see lawmakers while they are in town. Growth Energy’s Tom Buis told attendees to let their representatives know how critical the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is in achieving energy independence.

“The RFS has been the most successful energy policy this nation has enacted in the last forty years,” Buis noted. “It has helped reduce our dependence on foreign oil by nearly 50 percent, it is cleaner and better for our environment, it creates American jobs that cannot be outsourced, supports a robust rural economy and in 2014 it contributed more than $50 billion dollars to our GDP. Furthermore, it provides the American consumer with a choice and savings when they go and fill up at the pump.”

Attendees of the Energy Independence Summit are scheduled to meet with members of Congress this week and Buis concluded by encouraging attendees to, “Educate members of Congress on how the RFS plays a critical role in achieving energy security and independence. Explain that is working, and succeeding in reaching the goals it was designed to meet. Now is the time to move forward, not backward on policies that promote renewable energy.”

The 2015 Energy Independence Summit concludes today and is sponsored by a number of ethanol, biodiesel and clean energy groups, as well as some of the companies using them, such as UPS and carmakers. It features the nation’s Clean Cities Coalitions and transportation energy leaders coming together to share best practices and educate federal policy makers about the need for incentives, tools and resources to overcome barriers to the widespread use of cleaner vehicles and fuels.

Ethanol 2015 Outlook and Pocket Guide Available

rfa-outlook-2015at the 20th Annual National Ethanol Conference, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) released the updated Ethanol Industry Outlook and Pocket Guide to Ethanol for 2015.

RFA’s two most popular publications touch on every core issue facing the ethanol industry today, providing readers with the most up-to-date information available. New data and statistics give a sense to the incredible progress the industry has made and where it is headed with in-depth looks at key topics that include the Renewable Fuel Standard, energy security, the environment, impacts on the economy, U.S. agriculture, international trade, transportation, and cellulosic technology.

The 2015 Ethanol Industry Outlook and Pocket Guide to Ethanol are available in print and online at www.EthanolRFA.org.

Ethanol Conference Going Global Panel

nec15-global-panelThe theme of the 20th National Ethanol Conference was “Going Global,” and the title panel featured five international experts to discuss building ethanol demand in new markets.

Moderated by Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) general counsel Ed Hubbard, the panel included Pedro Paranhos of Eco-Energy; Lakeview Energy CEO Jim Galvin; Henrique Pacini of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Mike Dwyer with the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service; and Robert Wright with ePure.

Hubbard started off the conversation, pointing out that while the U.S. ethanol industry hit record-breaking levels of ethanol exports to the world – 836 million gallons in 2014 – there’s still room for growth.

“As long as U.S. made ethanol provides a valuable, cheaper and cleaner alternative to petroleum-based gasoline, it will continue to be sought all over the globe. This panel’s goal is to help you identify some opportunities, new and expanded, to address some of the challenges we face as we move forward,” Hubbard said.

Paranhos echoed those sentiments, as he broke down how Brazil has seen its overall ethanol market grow over the last 10 years but has plateaued in the last few. Part of that is some of the same issues U.S. ethanol producers are facing: economics and regulatory, in America’s case, the blend wall. The panel talked about how export markets are helped the most by mandates, which help fuel growth of ethanol. Presenters pointed out that producers need to consider sustainability and environmental factors to meet certain countries’ and regions’ requirements to get into those markets, which also, in turn, return better profits for ethanol plants.

Dwyer told those attending that ethanol has made tremendous global gains over the past few years – impressive when you consider the green fuel had to overcome the “food-versus-fuel” debate and a 54-cent-per-gallon tax on ethanol exports.

“In 2008, when I took over this job, if I had told you that the U.S. would become the world’s largest exporter of ethanol, you would have thought I was drinking that ethanol,” he said, pointing out how while gasoline consumption has dropped in the U.S., it’s growing worldwide, making American ethanol competitive on the global market. “A lot has happened in five years.”

The panel members said, even when you consider where ethanol has been and the obstacles ahead, there still is great potential for growth worldwide.

Listen to the panel’s complete remarks here: NEC 15 Going Global Panel

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

South Dakotan Wins E85 “Post Your Price” Contest

rfa-sd-e85-2During the National Ethanol Conference last week, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) announced the winner of the E85 “Post Your Price” contest.

Scott LeBrun of South Dakota was chosen at random to receive one year of free E85 in the contest, which was announced last October and concluded last Tuesday, asking individuals to submit photos of E85 prices nationwide. The photos received will assist RFA in gathering data on E85 prices to determine how the higher-level fuel blend is being priced in markets across the country.

In addition to the overall winner, RFA also awarded free E85 for a month to the individuals participating in the contest that submitted pictures with the largest and smallest disparity between the E85 price and the price of regular unleaded gasoline. Michael Scholl submitted a photo of a station in Hartford, Michigan, that had E85 at $1.64/gallon and regular unleaded at $2.89/gallon. Additionally, Douglas Cochran identified a station in Albany, Georgia, listing E85 at $1.94/gallon and regular unleaded at $1.68/gallon. The price disparity at the Georgia station goes to show there are still marketers not passing through the real savings of E85 to consumers.

RFA Chairman Pleased with 20th Ethanol Conference

nec15-doyleRenewable Fuels Association (RFA) chairman and Al-Corn Clean Fuel CEO Randy Doyal was pleased with this year’s turnout at the 20th National Ethanol Conference in the “heart of oil country.”

“This has been a really great conference,” said Doyal, whose farmer-owned cooperative plant in Claremont, Minnesota is about 20 years old as well. “Twenty years ago when we were starting the plant we had, for the first time, five dollar corn,” he said. “It was perfect timing because we got up and running when a lot of the industry was ceasing because of that price and because of our co-op nature we were able to do that.”

Doyal is a firm believer in the RFA and what they are able to accomplish as an organization for the entire industry, and he wishes all producers were members. He compares it to the co-op structure of his plant. “There’s a reason why co-ops work,” he said. “It’s because people join together and work hard to achieve common goals and that’s what RFA is all about.” Interview with RFA Chairman Randy Doyal, Al-Corn

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Political Insiders Provide Ethanol Policy Perspective

nec15-insiders-panelRenewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen welcomed back veteran Washington Insiders panelists at the 20th National Ethanol Conference last week, kind of like a Saturday Night Live reunion, he joked.

The panelists were National Corn Growers Association Executive Vice President Jon Doggett, John Eichberger with the National Association of Convenience Stores, Bob Greco of the American Petroleum Institute, Shane Karr with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman. Each offered their views on a number of policy and political topics from what Congress may do regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to who the presidential candidates will be in 2016.

NEC 15 Washington Insiders Panel

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NREL: Biodiesel Leads Biofuels Growth in US

renewenergydatabookThe latest numbers from the federal government shows biodiesel was the leader in growth among biofuels in the United States. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book showed good gains for many of the renewable energy industries, while energy consumption from petroleum actually slumped, despite an overall increase in the amount of energy consumed.

United States overall energy consumption grew to 97.3 quadrillion Btu in 2013, a 2.4% increase from 2012. Energy consumption from coal and renewables grew slightly, while consumption from petroleum and natural gas fell slightly.

Biodiesel was the fastest growing biofuel type, with production increasing by 64% in the United States and 17% globally, from a relatively small base.

Renewable electricity [including hydropower and biopower] grew to nearly 15% of total installed capacity and 13% of total electricity generation in the United States in 2013. Installed renewable electricity capacity exceeded 171 gigawatts (GW) in 2013, generating 534 TWh.

[S]olar electricity was the fastest growing electricity generation technology, with cumulative installed capacity increasing by nearly 66% from the previous year.

[W]ind electricity generation increased 20% in 2013, while wind electricity capacity grew 1.8%.

The report also found that in 2013, renewable electricity accounted for more than 61 percent of all new electricity capacity installations in the United States. By comparison, renewable electricity captured 4 percent of new capacity additions in 2004 and 57 percent in 2008.

Globally, solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) are among the fastest growing renewable electricity technologies— between 2000 and 2013, solar electricity generation worldwide increased by a factor of nearly 68.

Where RFA and EPA Disagree

nec15-dinneen-grundlerEPA Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality Chris Grundler was sincere and apologetic during his appearance at the National Ethanol Conference last week, but he admits to having areas of disagreement with Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen.

“E15 will never realize its full potential until there is parity with regard to EPA volatility regulations for E10 and E15,” said Dinneen in his State of the Industry speech at the 20th annual ethanol conference. “To date, the Agency has rejected our efforts to secure parity, thereby ensuring that E15 is at best a seasonal fuel, a huge disincentive for marketers to adopt E15 at their stations.”

Asked about this issue by DomesticFuel, Grundler said, “That’s one of the areas that Bob and I have vigorous debates on, because I’m questioning how big a factor that is in terms of the slow uptake in E15.”

Grundler said parity is not an issue in regions where reformulated gasoline is required. “That accounts for between 30 and 40 percent of our fuel supply …. including places like Chicago,” he said, adding that governors have the ability to petition EPA to remove this one pound RVP waiver for their states but they “have received no such petitions.”

I also asked Grundler what he thought about Dinneen’s criticism of the EPA in his speech. “I didn’t think it was too harsh (but) I didn’t agree with everything he had to say,” said Grundler, adding that he thinks all stakeholders in this issue seem to overestimate EPA’s authority. “That’s where (Bob) and I differ. He thinks we can do some things that I don’t think we can,” he said.

Listen to Grundler’s answers to my questions here: EPA's Chris Grundler press questions

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NASCAR Starts 5th Year on American Ethanol

american-ethanol-fuelFuel with 15 percent ethanol, known as E15, has been approved for sale by the Environmental Protection Agency since January 2011. Two months later Sunoco Green E15 debuted at the 2011 Daytona 500.

American Ethanol
celebrated the start of the fifth year of its partnership with NASCAR at the Great American Race this weekend. “They’ve put over six million hard-earned miles at high RPMs on these race cars,” said Tom Buis of Growth Energy at the race on Sunday. “They got better performance, they didn’t lose mileage and they haven’t had a single problem.”

Interview with Tom Buis, Growth Energy, at Daytona 500

NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar says the partnership with American Ethanol has been very positive for them. “What we love about ethanol is not only is it a great renewable but it’s a great racing fuel, higher octane so it’s great performance for the drivers,” he said. “It’s also great for the environment, reduces greenhouse gases, homemade here in America …. it’s a win-win-win and in car races we’re all about winning!”

Dewar lived in Brazil as that country was moving to higher ethanol blends and he hopes to see it grow here in the United States as well. Interview with Brent Dewar, NASCAR, at Daytona 500

Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association, New Holland and POET-DSM are partners in American Ethanol with NASCAR.

Ethanol Conference Scholarship Winner

nec15-scholarshipThis year’s National Ethanol Conference scholarship winner hails from Brazil where she received her master’s degree in international relations in 2012 from San Tiago Dantas, a graduate program supported by three of Brazil’s premier universities.

Lais Thomaz, pictured here with Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen, was pleased to be able to attend the conference to learn more first hand about the U.S. ethanol industry that will help in her research. Her dissertation, which focused on the role of advocacy groups in the shaping of ethanol trade policies, was published as a book by Brazil’s Editora UNESP. Her research previously won the Top Ethanol Award promoted by the Brazilian Sugarcane Ethanol Industry Association (UNICA). She is currently a Ph.D. candidate and a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Government at Georgetown University.

Listen to my interview with Lais here: Interview with NEC 15 Scholarship Winner

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

#NEC15 Wrap Up

nec15-globalRenewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen wrapped up the 20th annual National Ethanol Conference on Friday as optimistic as ever.

“The atmosphere in the room, the attitude of the producers that I talked to, the confidence that they continue to show in their industry,” said Dinneen. “They are braced for whatever comes their way and we’re not going away.”

Dinneen gives an overview of the convention last week and some of his takeaways. NEC15 Wrap up with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NFL Hall of Fame Member Supports Ethanol

nec15-houstonJoining in the golf tournament prior to the start of the Renewable Fuels Association’s National Ethanol Conference last week was NFL Hall of Fame member Kenny Houston.

Houston finished his career with the Washington Redskins in 1980 and played in 12 Pro Bowls and the more than 30 teams at NEC 2015 golf tournament really enjoyed hanging out with him. For his part, Houston enjoyed learning more about the ethanol industry from them. “Being from Texas I definitely know about ethanol so I jumped at the chance (to attend the conference) and I’m glad I did,” he said.

Houston agrees that ethanol has been good for the economy and helped to hold down gas prices. “I think they (the ethanol industry) work for a balance,” he said. “Right now, I think it’s a win-win.”

Listen to my interview with Kenny here: Interview with Kenny Houston

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Panel Explores Progress of RFS and LCFS

nec15-panel1A diverse group of stakeholders gave a diverse set of opinions on the progress to date of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper moderated the panel which featured (L to R) Jeremy Martin with the Union of Concerned Scientists, Chris Highsmith of Eco-Energy, Derek Regal of oil refiner Tesoro, Pacific Ethanol president Neil Koehler, and Michael Rensing with the British Colombia Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Cooper called the RFS “a remarkable success to date…by any metric that you choose” and said despite efforts by California to eliminate corn ethanol “the LCFS has succeeded so far because of grain-based ethanol” but they still have concerns about the program going forward.

Listen to the panelists viewpoints here: NEC 15 Panel on RFS and LCFS

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album