Ethanol at the Buffalo Chip

rfa-sturgis-14-woodyEvery year that the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has been a sponsor at the Buffalo Chip Campground for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally we get the chance to visit with founder and president of The Chip Rod “Woody” Woodruff, and this year was no exception.

Woody is a laid back guy who founded the campground 33 years ago so people would have a place to stay and visit for the rally, at a time when some people in Sturgis wanted to get the bikers out of town. “So, a small group of us decided to look for a place to have a party outside of town,” he said. “This property kind of fit the bill.” After that, the party site grew into a campground and concert venue where thousands of rally attendees gather every year.

A few years ago, when RFA wanted to reach bikers with the positive message of ethanol, they decided to become a major sponsor at The Chip and Woody says it’s been great, especially when RFA started Free Fuel Happy Hours three years ago. “I have two motorcycles and I don’t know that I’ve ever used anything but ethanol (blended fuel),” he said. “There’s continuing to be more acceptance in using ethanol in your bike… and I don’t know why not. It’s higher octane than regular and less expensive. A cheap guy like me who gets a better product for less money, that’s my kind of tea.”

Listen to Leah’s interview with Woody here: Interview with Rod Woodruff, Buffalo Chip Campground

2014 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Photo Album

Future for Ethanol Blends

ace14-lambertyGetting higher blends of ethanol in the marketplace continues to be frustrating, even with the approval of E15 (15% ethanol).

The biggest problem continues to be roadblocks by oil companies, according to American Coalition for Ethanol Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty, who compared the sale and use of E15 to premium gasoline. “If you total (all the) vehicles that could use E15, we’re closing in on 15 million vehicles,” said Lamberty, which is 20% of the vehicles on the road. In contrast, about 12% of total cars are supposed to use premium gas, according to their owners manuals, but only 3% of the gas sold is premium. “Oil companies demand that marketers put premium in their stations … oil companies ban E15 sales,” said Lamberty. Ron Lamberty, ACE Senior VP

ace14-drakeFollowing Lamberty at the ACE annual conference this week, Dean Drake of the DeFour Group talked about the next chapter for ethanol blend fuels.

Drake, who spent 34 years with General Motors, says increasing ethanol blends will require significant cooperation between automakers, government, and the ethanol industry. “Neither oil nor ethanol by themselves are a perfect transportation fuel, largely because of octane,” said Drake. “Gasoline is the king when it comes to energy density, but it also has a fairly low octane rating. Ethanol, while having less energy, has a very high octane rating.”

He talked about the potential for what he calls “eco-performance” fuels. “What we’re talking about here is a fuel that would be widely available that would allow auto manufacturers to build advanced vehicles,” he said.

Learn more here: Dean Drake, DeFour Group

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

WBIA to Host Free Ethanol Webinar

The Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance (WBIA) is hosting a free webinar on Google Hangouts August 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm EST to discuss the results of their ethanol poll. Recently, the WCGA released a poll showing Wisconsin citizens favor the use of ethanol in fuel by a 2 to 1 margin. Sixty percent of individuals support blending ethanol into gasoline versus only 32 percent who oppose.

WBIA logo“Less than one third (32%) of participants were unsupportive of ethanol blends in their fuel,” said Joshua Morby, executive director of the Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance. “Clearly the public understands what Big Oil is doing their best to cover up and ignore: Ethanol is cleaner-burning, efficient, and homegrown right here in Wisconsin.”

The webinar will include a detailed analysis of the responses from WBIA and WCGA representatives. The webinar will be available as a live YouTube stream through Google Hangouts. Viewers can post comments and ask questions before, during, and after the webinar.

American Ethanol Driver Picks Up Trophy at Pocono

dillon1Ethanol-powered engines and sponsorship helped a young NASCAR driver to a recent win and could propel him to rookie of the year honor’s in NASCAR’s top division. According to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), American Ethanol spokesman Austin Dillon picked up a trophy at Pocono in the Camping World Truck Series this past weekend and has himself racing for a slot in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Championship.

The feat accomplished three things: it reminded people how the rising race star got to be the truck champion in 2010; the win in a Chevy truck ended Toyota’s 12-race winning streak in the series; and it showcased American Ethanol, which was displayed on the side of his truck. Dillon scored his sixth career Truck Series win by surviving a green-white-checkered finish.

Ethanol supporters behind American Ethanol hitched a ride with Dillon three years ago as we he was just emerging as a household name in the sport. The move has proven to be a good one, with Dillon moving through the ranks of NASCAR’s finest, first winning the truck series in 2010, capturing the intermediate Nationwide title last year, and now vying for Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors.

Some experts say this year’s competition has been the best in a decade, as Dillon and fellow rookie Kyle Larson have been battling for one of the 16 spots in the race for the chase where the Sprint Cup Champion will be determined.

Motorcycles Fill up on Free E10 at Sturgis

rfa-sturgis14-fuelThe third annual “Free Fuel Happy Hours” sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association at the Buffalo Chip Campground for the Sturgis Motorcyle Rally was once again a rousing success.

“Obviously everyone has a motorcycle here, but they also have other engines at home, whether it be car, truck, SUV, lawnmower, you name it,” said RFA Director of Market Development Robert White. “The point is we want to talk to them about ethanol and make sure all their questions are answered.”

rfa-sturgis14-whiteWhite says they offered free 10% ethanol blended fuel for a total of nine hours this week over three days, allowing bikers to fill up, get a free Ethanol Fueled With Pride t-shirt, and get their questions about ethanol answered. “We even have people who don’t fuel up because their tank’s already full, but they stop by and talk to us,” White added.

RFA has had a presence at Sturgis for six years now, with the last three offering the free fill ups, and White says word has definitely spread. “They were talking about it on the radio, there’s banners and announcements throughout the campground, and a lot of people say their neighbor camping told them about it,” he said.

White says talking one on one with people allows them to correct lots of misinformation about ethanol out there. “This fuel has been proven for well over 30 years,” he said. “Every engine here in the United States has been built for it, its warranty is covered, and we’re just here to explain the details.”

Listen to Robert talk with Domestic Fuel reporter Leah Guffey who was at the rally this year: Interview with Robert White, RFA, at 2014 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

See all the photos from the rally and RFA’s involvement in the 2014 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Photo Album

Export Opportunities for Ethanol and DDGs

U.S. exports of ethanol totaled 59.9 million gallons (mg) in June, up 13% from the seven-month low in May, according to a Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) analysis of government data, and the opportunities are expanding.

ace14-geneThat was the topic for the last session at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference this week in Minneapolis and one of the speakers was Gene Griffith of Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan, Illinois.

“U.S. ethanol is the cheapest motor fuel in the world, it’s needed and it can be blended in any country for clean air,” said Griffith, noting that the industry will continue to grow and produce more than we need in the country. “We must develop these worldwide markets. It’s not just Brazil, it’s not just the United States, there’s a lot of countries around the world that need our DDGs and our low cost, clean burning fuel.”

Listen to Gene explain in detail here: Gene Griffith, Patriot Holdings, on ethanol exports

ace14-chsClayton Haupt with CHS Renewable Fuels Marketing discussed China import issues with distillers grains, noting that the game has changed considerably since he was asked to do this talk in June.

July 24, it was announced you have to have a government stamp that has to say (DDGS imports are) clean of all GMO traits not approved in China,” said Haupt, noting that the U.S. Grains Council responded that simply cannot be done. “You’re kind of put in an environment today that you’re probably not going into China.”

Listen to Haupt’s presentation here: Clayton Haupt, CHS Renewable Fuels Marketing

ace14-ecoenergyLastly, Chad Martin with Eco-Energy wrapped up with an overall look at export markets.

“Ethanol demand is no longer driven solely by the U.S. blender,” said Martin. “That’s obviously a good thing but it comes with some complexities in terms of import quotas, different specs, different market factors to be considered…things our industry has never really had to focus on until we started exporting both distillers grains and ethanol.” Chad Martin, Eco-Energy

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Ethanol Plant Innovators

Four ethanol producers who are innovating plants through new process and product technology took the podium at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference this week to talk about what they are doing.

ace14-ronFirst up was ACE president Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol who talked about the importance of carbon, particularly the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and how it impacts ethanol production. Alverson is a corn farmer in South Dakota and he discussed how carbon intensity ratings for corn ethanol are improving and will continue to improve down the road. Ron Alverson, Dakota Ethanol

ace14-baker-adkinsRay Baker, general manager of Adkins Energy in northwest Illinois, who talked about the new biodiesel plant they are building to co-locate with their 50 million gallon ethanol plant and use corn oil as a feedstock. “Having corn oil as your main feedstock gives you a competitive advantage,” he said.
Ray Baker, Adkins Energy

ace14-erhart-prairieMike Erhart, CEO of Prairie Horizon Agri Energy in Kansas, says he runs a biorefinery, not an ethanol plant. “I think ethanol plant is antiquated,” he said. “It’s now time that we become a biorefinery and start touting that.” Erhart also talked about why his plant is producing renewable diesel. Mike Erhart, Prairie Horizon Agri Energy

ace14-delayneDelayne Johnson, Quad County Corn Processors, has the distinction of producing the very first gallons of cellulosic ethanol, just about a month ago. He talked about his plant being the first to use Syngenta Enogen corn and efficiencies they have implemented in the production process.
Delayne Johnson, Quad County Corn Processors

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

MN Gubernatorial Candidates Differ on Biofuels

mn-flagAll politics is local, and how some local and regional elections this year could help determine the fate of biodiesel and ethanol for a much larger area. Case in point, this article from the St. Cloud (MN) Times looks at how the four Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to take on current Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in November have differing views on biofuels as they go into the August 12 Republican primary in that state.

A Marshall resident and former state representative, [Marty] Siefert said the state has created thousands of jobs, and the state should not change the requirement that gasoline include 10 percent ethanol.

“I see this as the status quo for now,” he said, not jumping on a bandwagon to increase ethanol percentages.

For diesel, Seifert said, he can understand concerns about biodiesel gumming up fuel filters in cold weather. “Biodiesel mandates are not going to go up if I’m governor.”

Raised on a North Dakota farm and now a Maple Grove resident, [Kurt] Zellers said he wants to look into increasing the ethanol mandate to 15 percent but needs more information before fully supporting it.

At minimum, he said, he wants to keep existing mandates in place.

[Jeff] Johnson, who grew up in Detroit Lakes and lives in Plymouth, said he favors eliminating mandates from state law, including those affecting biofuels.

However, he added, he has been around government enough to know that the mandates cannot be eliminated right away.

“Government has created somewhat of a dependency,” Johnson said, adding that eliminating biofuel mandates is not a priority and that he would like to phase them out.

There is none of that waiting for [Orono businessman Scott] Honour.

“I would try to push away from mandates as quickly as possible,” Honour said. “My view is that the less government is trying to influence a free market, the better.”

So there you have it Minnesotans. Choose wisely when you go to the polls on August 12.

Collin Peterson Honored for Ethanol Support

ace14-merle-collinThe American Coalition for Ethanol meeting in Minneapolis this week honored Congressman Collin Peterson of Minnesota with its highest award for supporters of ethanol, the Merle Anderson award. Anderson himself presented Peterson with the award, as well as an ethanol lapel pin and five dollars for his campaign.

Peterson says ethanol has been great for agriculture and he continues to fight for it in Congress. “It’s just been a tremendous success story in agriculture because it’s changed the marketplace so farmers can get a decent price for their corn,” he said. “We do have our opponents and they are still working to undermine things,” he continued, noting that just last week Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) attempted to bring up a bill to get rid of the RFS. “They want to go back to $1.85 corn and I tell them if they are successful they will rue the day because nobody can grow corn for $1.85.” Peterson says the only way farmers survived when prices were $1.85 a bushel was because of the government subsidy “and that’s gone.”

Peterson remains hopeful that the EPA will eventually come out with a better final rule on the 2014 volume obligations for the RFS. “I think the fact that they delayed this for now a third time shows they are listening,” he said. “It appears to me that they realize they made a mistake here and they’re trying to figure out how to undo it.” He thinks it could be next year before the rule is final, but “a delayed decision is better than a bad decision.” Interview with Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) at ACE Conference

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

RFA Pumping up Ethanol for Motorcycles

sturgis-14-fuelThe Renewable Fuels Association is pumped up to provide some free 10% ethanol for motorcyclists attending the 74th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this week.

RFA set up this morning for the Free Fuel Happy Hours taking place from 1–4 pm today through Thursday. This is the sixth year that RFA has had a presence at the legendary motorcycle event and the main meeting place at the Buffalo Chip campground.

On hand to educate the bikers and pump them up with free fuel is RFA director of market development Robert White, who took part in the Legends Ride on Monday morning at the Rally, riding his flex-fuel Harley during the week to promote the benefits of ethanol. RFA sponsored the seventh annual charity ride, which begins in Deadwood, S.D., with the proceeds going to benefit charities in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, including the Black Hills Special Olympics.

There’s a lot going on at the rally, but not much in the way of internet access, so we’ll have more from Sturgis when we get wired!

See all the photos from the rally and RFA’s involvement in the 2014 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Photo Album

ACE President Optimistic About Ethanol Industry

ace14-alversonAmerican Coalition for Ethanol president Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol says there are lots of reasons to excited about the ethanol industry right now.

“We’re just super competitive,” Alverson said in his opening comments at the 27th annual ACE conference, showing a graph indicating the positive price spread between ethanol and gasoline. “I think we’re building new markets because of that.”

ace14-ron-billThe new theme for ACE is Power by People and Alverson kicked off the conference by presenting the President’s Award to someone he believes is “one of the finest ethanol advocates” in the industry. That award was given to Bill Couser of Couser Cattle Company in Nevada, Iowa. “He immediately struck me as a very passionate advocate for agriculture and ethanol both,” said Alverson. Interview with ACE president Ron Alverson, Dakota Ethanol

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

ACE Celebrates “Power by People”

This morning during the opening session of the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference, the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) launched a new campaign featuring the people of ethanol. Their redesigned website features personal and authentic stories of the people who built and continue to innovate the ethanol industry. In addition, ACE released a new video, “The Home Place”.

ace14-jennings“Instead of keeping the industry’s most valuable players on the bench and pouring all our trust and money into playing defense with facts-alone, ACE’s Power by People campaign features the compelling and positive stories of the individuals and families who built the ethanol industry and those who support and continue to benefit from ethanol,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings during his state of the union address this morning.

“The story of ethanol is a profile in courage about grassroots people who, without any precedent to guide them, set out with their families and neighbors to rescue their communities from economic disaster by building ethanol plants,” continued Jennings. “For far too long the stories of these people have gone untold, and that’s why ACE is launching the new Power by People campaign.”

Jennings said the organization has produced several video testimonials from people of all walks of life that ACE members can use to promote ethanol on their websites, through social media, and in meetings with the public. He also noted the group plans to continue and expand the campaign in the months ahead.

Listen to Jennings’ opening comments at the ACE conference: Brian Jennings, ACE Executive VP

View the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

Report Shows Oil Companies Paid 11.7% Tax Rate

According to a new report from Taxpayers for Common Sense, oil companies paid only 11.7 percent of the U.S. income in federal taxes over the last five years. This is compared to the statutory 35 percent corporate tax rate paid by other companies.

“This is a perfect example of how the oil industry is allowed to play by a different set of rules than everyone else,” commented Jeremy Funk, communications director with the ETRcover4nonprofit organization Americans United for Change who supports choice at the pump through biofuels. “They can dodge billions of dollars in taxes, and Washington lets them get away with it. This is the same industry that is now fiercely lobbying the White House for yet another special interest favor: gutting the Renewable Fuel Standard and allowing more foreign oil into the U.S. gasoline supply at the expense of cleaner, cheaper renewable fuels made in America. Isn’t the system rigged enough in Big Oil’s favor without Washington helping them become a monopoly at the pump, too?”

The country is still waiting the final rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFs) that if passed as proposed, would reduce the amount of domestically produced biofuels at the pump while increase foreign oil. Funk points out that gasoline costs more than renewable fuels such as ethanol, and the EPA proposal would cost Americans millions of dollars at the pump, ‘killing’ American jobs. Funk also said that because the EPA proposal effectively allows oil companies to block access to the marketplace by refusing to install fueling infrastructure for renewable fuels, it will be particularly devastating to America’s emerging advanced biofuel industry.

To achieve such a low current tax rate, oil companies were able to take advantage of special tax breaks and loopholes that allowed them to defer more than $17 billion in taxes they would have otherwise owed, explained Funk. One “small” oil company, Apache, earned $6 billion in profits between 2009 and 2013 but deferred its entire tax bill. Not only did the company avoid paying any taxes, but it actually reaped a tax benefit worth $220 million according to Funk.

The report concludes with a damning indictment of the oil industry’s deceitful rhetoric about its tax obligations:

“Oil and gas companies may pay a lot in income taxes, but it is not to the U.S. government. Indeed, the “current” federal income tax rate of some of the largest oil and gas companies – the amount they actually paid during the last five years – was 11.7 percent. The “smaller” companies included in the study which reported positive earnings only paid 3.7 percent. Many of the tax provisions available to the oil industry are not available to other taxpayers, giving these companies a significant tax advantage. The language the industry uses gives the impression that it pays a high federal income tax rate. The American Petroleum Institute cites an industry-wide effective tax rate of 44.3 percent. In reality, the amount oil and gas companies pay in federal income tax is considerably less than the statutory rate of 35 percent, thanks to the convoluted system of tax provisions allowing them to avoid and defer federal income taxes.”

Students Present Research at Ethanol Conference

Several University of Minnesota students are giving the ethanol industry a preview of their cutting-edge research in biofuels, biochemicals and bioproducts during the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference in Minneapolis. One such student is Sahana Ramanna who is a PhD student who is working on improving the pre-treatment technologies used for biomass, specifically Aspen.

Sahana RammanaRamanna explained that one of the most difficult and energy intensive parts of converting biomass (aka cellulose) to sugar is in the initial phase. Using 3D imaging, similar to the technology used for brain scans, she and her team are able to test “pre-treatment” strategies and see how it affects the structure of the biomass.

Ultimately, Ramanna said they are looking to increase the amount of biomass that can be converted into biofuels and other biochemicals and products, thus increasing the amount of biofuels. In addition, the processes they are looking at would significantly improve the energy efficiency during this process. Next steps – refining the process for Aspen and then testing it on other forms of biomass.

Listen to Sahana Ramanna discuss her research here: Interview with Sahana Ramanna

Another student I spoke with is just beginning his PhD studies and has spent the last year working on an interesting biofuels project. Joseph Molde works in the BioTechnology Institute and he and his team are working on a process called hydrothernmal carbinization using distillers grains (DDGs), a bi-product of ethanol production.

Joseph Molde U of MWhat is really neat is the process is producing two new possible co-products: liquid carbon and biochar. The liquid carbon can be used as an organic fertilizer on fields, while the biochar can be used in various applications including biomaterials and biochemicals. Molde said that similar research has been taking place in Europe, but not much has been done with biochar here in the states.

Molde also noted that the process improves efficiency throughout the production process – just one more way the ethanol industry is working to improve its technology and environmental footprint – while also adding valuable additional co-products to an ethanol plant’s portfolio. He said they are scaling up the technology now and that he hopes to see it in commercial scale application in the next five to 10 years.

Listen to Joseph Molde discuss his research here: Interview with Joseph Molde

View the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

Minnesota Gov Mark Dayton Kicks Off 27th ACE Conf

Minnesota Gov Mark DaytonThe 27th Annual Ethanol Conference kicked off last night with some brief remarks from Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) annual event, taking place at the Depot Renaissance Hotel, began with hundreds of ethanol advocates who heard from Governor Dayton that he appreciated ethanol producers, “for what you are doing,” to boost the nation’s energy independence, lower gas prices, and clean the environment.

Governor Dayton noted that ethanol enjoys overwhelming bi-partisan support in the Minnesota legislature “because we know it is good for Minnesota and the nation”. He noted that Minnesota is the nation’s fourth largest ethanol producing state and there is support for higher blends of ethanol, such as E15 and E85. He also advocated that every vehicle should be a flexible fuel vehicle (FFV), capable of burning higher blends of ethanol so consumers can have a choice at the pump.

Check out the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.