NY Considers State Biodiesel Heating Oil Mandate

englebrightA measure before the New York state legislature would require biodiesel to be mixed into every gallon of heating oil sold in the state. This article from The Legislative Gazette says the bill would set a 2 percent mandate and start no later than July 1, 2016 if it is passed.

Bill A.6070 is sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Englebright, D- Setauket, in the Assembly and has the support of environmental groups, consumer groups, labor unions and farmers.

“Clean air is really a birthright for New Yorkers and this will help underwrite that premise,” Englebright said. “We think it is part of a whole series of measures that we’re going to have to take to clean up our environment in the state.”

Kevin Rooney, CEO of the Oil Heating Institute of Long Island, supports the use of biodiesel because it provides many benefits.

“The use of biofuels blended with ultra-low sulfur heating oil provides unquestioned energy efficiency, it provides environmental benefits, it increases or enhances public health benefits at no cost whatsoever to the end-use consumer, the home owner,” Rooney said.

The Ways and Means Committee is currently considering the bill.

Biofuel Advocates Invite Candidates to Learn RFS

ARF-LogoIt 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.”

Urban Air Initiative Challenges EPA Ethanol Models

epa-150The 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.

Iowa Biodiesel Plant Latest Victim of Govt Inaction

westerndubuque1An Iowa biodiesel plant is the latest victim of the government’s inaction on measures that are aimed to help the biofuels industry. This article from the Dubuque (IA) Telegraph Herald says the 30-million gallon nameplate Western Dubuque Biodiesel has had to stop production completely – just another of the too many biodiesel refiners that have had to shut down due to the federal government’s failure to give clear direction on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the expiration of the $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel tax credit.

“All the tanks are full and no one is buying,” General Manager Tom Brooks said. “How do you sell product to a buyer who doesn’t know what he has to blend against? That’s the frustration.”

Across the U.S., biodiesel production fell from a high of 1.8 billion gallons in 2013 to 1.75 billion last year. In Iowa, production fell slightly, but it remains the nation’s leading producer, accounting for 16 percent of biodiesel output in 2014, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

Uncertainty sent prices falling nearly 25 percent for all of 2014 and led to a 73 percent decline in industry profitability, Brooks said. The result: Dozens of biodiesel plants have stopped production or laid off workers in recent months.

“It creates doubt and uncertainty for investors and lenders, because they don’t know whether the industry is stable. Is the business growing or stagnating?” he said. “And when you’re running the plant at half capacity, your costs increase.”

The article goes on to say that state biodiesel tax credits have helped a little, but industry officials worry the same uncertainty in federal policy will continue to plague biodiesel in 2015.

Administration Releases Wind Energy Report

Wind Turbine in Northern IowaThe Department of Energy today released a new analysis of America’s wind energy industry – Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States.

According to the report, the wind energy industry could support more than 600,000 jobs by 2050, including engineers, construction workers, truck drivers, factory workers, utility operators, maintenance technicians, electricians and other supporting services. Currently, the United States has utility-scale wind plants installed in 39 states. The report shows that with continuing technological advancements, cost reductions, and siting and transmission development, the nation can deploy wind power to economically provide 35% of our nation’s electricity and supply renewable power in all 50 states by 2050.

White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech and Under Secretary for Science and Energy Lynn Orr hosted a conference call this morning to highlight the new report.

Administration call on wind energy report

Moms Fight Colorado Roll Back of Renewable Energy

CO_MomsKnowsBest1A group of moms in Colorado are fighting proposed changes in that state’s legislature to Colorado’s renewable energy standards. The group, Colorado Moms Know Best, say they oppose the changes that would rollback from 30 percent down to 15 percent of the energy produced and consumed in the state.

“Moms believe we have a moral obligation to protect children’s health and future, ensuring they have clean air is one of the very basics,” said Data Gutwein with Colorado Moms Know Best. “The reality is that chopping the state’s renewable energy standard in half would mean relying more on coal-fired plants and more kids dealing with asthma and other respiratory problems.”

Colorado has been a leader in renewable energy. In 2004, Coloradans passed the first state ballot initiative to establish a renewable energy standards; 29 states and the District of Columbia have since adopted similar standards. In the years since, Colorado has added tens of thousands of clean tech jobs with an average salary of $78,000, according to the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Energy Cluster report.

“Renewable energy is not only good for kids’ health, it’s also great for their future career options,” said Colorado Moms Know Best’s Dana Gutwein. “If Colorado can remain on the cutting edge of the renewable energy industry, our children will be able to prepare for plentiful high-paying, clean tech job opportunities.”

The group has previously helped influence Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission to adopt stricter air quality standards for oil and gas operations in the state of Colorado.

USDA Gives Biomass Energy Development $8.7 Mil Boost

usda-logoUp to $8.7 million in federal funding is being made available for next-generation bioenergy development in biomass. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding the bioenergy research and education efforts and will be publishing the final rule for a program that provides incentives for farmers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy.

“USDA’s support for innovative bioenergy research and education supports rural economic development, reduces carbon pollution and helps decrease our dependence on foreign energy,” said [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “These investments will keep America moving toward a clean energy economy and offer new jobs and opportunities in rural communities.”

USDA will publish the final rule on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in tomorrow’s Federal Register. BCAP provides up to $25 million each year in financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and non-industrial private forest land who wish to establish, produce, and deliver biomass feedstocks to a qualifying energy facility. The rule includes modifications to cost sharing, eligible types of biomass and other definitions. Stakeholders are encouraged to visit www.regulations.gov to review program details and provide comments during a 60-day public comment period. Comments are due by April 28, 2015. The full program will resume in 90 days on May 28, 2015. Additional information on application dates will be announced this spring. For more information on the program, visit the web at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.

USDA is also looking for applications for research and education grants through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), a joint program through NIFA and the U.S. Energy Department (DOE) to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products to help replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles, and diversify our energy portfolio.

Biofuels and Ag Groups Protest Anti-RFS Bill

mess-rfs U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today introduced legislation that would abolish the corn ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) as a co-sponsor. The move was immediately criticized by both ethanol and agricultural organizations.

“Senators Feinstein and Toomey continue to operate under the misguided assumption that the RFS is driving food prices higher” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen. “It is not. Corn is less expensive today than when the RFS was passed! As the World Bank recently concluded, ‘most of the contribution to food price changes from 1997-2004 and 2005-2012 comes from the price of oil.’”

“Just like their previous failed attempt, this legislation is incredibly shortsighted,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “Nearly identical legislation has been introduced in the past and has always failed to gain any traction since a majority of senators understand the importance of homegrown, American renewable fuels. This bill would eviscerate the RFS – the most successful energy policy enacted in the last 40 years.”

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson says the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act would “cripple rural America’s economy and be an enormous step backwards for America’s goal of energy independence by a decade or more.”

National Corn Growers Association
board member Keith Alverson of South Dakota added that Congress should not turn its back on success with renewable fuels. “The Renewable Fuel Standard is working,” said Alverson. “With a second consecutive record crop, there is more than enough corn to meet all demands for food, fuel, feed, and fiber. Corn farmers have more than met our commitment on the RFS. There are many good reasons to continue this policy, and we look forward to working with Congress to support it.”

Fuels America held a telephone press conference to discuss the legislation on Thursday with Dinneen, Alverson, POET’s Jeff Lautt, BIO’s Brent Erickson, and Advanced Ethanol Council’s Brooke Coleman. Listen or download here: Fuels America press conference on Toomey-Feinstein bill

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.

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

Clean Energy Nets North Carolina $4.8 Billion

NCSEAThe clean energy industry in North Carolina is netting the state $4.8 billion. The NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) says the sector is a key driver in the state’s economy, growing by about 25 percent since 2012 – outpacing the growth of other industries in the state.

“This year’s Census not only reveals good news for the clean energy industry; it demonstrates powerful news for all of North Carolina,” said NCSEA executive director, Ivan Urlaub. “Consider the rise of clean energy business sectors like building efficiency and energy storage, which are creating immediate jobs and lowering business expenses, while preparing our state to affordably meet future energy demand. Our state is not only better off with clean energy, it’s thriving – and becoming a national model for how clean energy development can help strengthen economic competitiveness.”

Driven largely by the state’s market-based clean energy policies, North Carolina was recently named one of the fastest growing markets for clean energy solutions, and is ranked fourth nationwide in installed solar power. NCSEA created the Census in 2008, a first of its kind nationally, to help measure the impact of North Carolina’s clean energy policies and identify where policy is and is not achieving the results that policymakers, economic developers and industry members envisioned. One such policy is the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit, which has reportedly returned $1.93 for every $1.00 utilized by state and local governments.

NCSEA is also crediting growing success in the biomass sector, with animal waste, poultry litter-to-energy and swine-waste-to-energy projects helping fuel the clean energy growth.

You can read the full 2014 North Carolina Clean Energy Industry Census report here.

Murphy USA E15 Expansion Brings Call for Law

beale1The announcement by Murphy USA to offer a 15 percent blend of ethanol, E15, at more locations in Chicago is prompting a city councilman calling for an ordinance to support renewable fuel efforts in the city. Alderman Anthony Beale has been working for some time now to get an E15 ordinance on the book.

“While I welcome E15 to our region, it pains me that due to our 7-month process of debate, Chicago retailers have not had the ability to offer E15 first and therefore to more ably compete with suburban sellers. This news, as welcome as it is, underscores the need to make sure the market is similarly open to retailers in the city, where Big Oil currently has the ability to block this choice of fuels from the market.

“As a national distributor and retailer, Murphy USA can offer whatever products they like. Chicago retailers, on the other hand, are at the mercy of the Big Oil companies, who as we have seen through the thousands of dollars they’ve spent on ads, will go to any lengths to keep drivers dependent on fossil fuel, whatever the consequences for the health of our air and residents.

“It’s time to end the monopoly and stranglehold of the oil companies – who keep us dependent on foreign oil and give us high prices and petcoke in return. It’s time – for the good of Chicago’s air, for the good of Chicago’s health, for the good of Chicago’s beleaguered filling-station owners – to pass the Clean the Air with E15 ordinance.”

Beale’s ordinance has enjoys some pretty widespread support, including backers from the American Council on Renewable Energy, American Lung Association in Illinois, Chicago gas station owner Luke Casson, as well as several other biofuel, agribusiness and environmental groups.

Biodiesel’s Role in Meeting California’s AB 32 Goals

calbiodieselallianceBiodiesel is playing a critical role in helping California meet its goals under the state’s clean air legislation, known as AB 32. The California Biodiesel Alliance says that during the recent Fourth Annual California Biodiesel Conference, attendees heard from a variety of speakers who talked about how the green fuel is making a difference.

Don Scott, Director of Sustainability at the National Biodiesel Board, kicked off the first panel with several important statistics about biodiesel benefits relative to petroleum diesel: biodiesel reduces GHGs by 50 – 80%; decreases wastewater by 79% and hazardous waste by 96%; and its use prevents hundreds of premature deaths in California from reduced PM2.5 exposure. Making the same comparison with petroleum diesel, panel moderator Lisa Mortenson, Co-Founder and CEO of Community Fuels, presented U.S. EPA data on biodiesel’s health benefits showing significant reductions in emissions associated with smog, cancer causing compounds, and respiratory illness, and made an insightful observation: “Imagine if . . . biodiesel were the standard and petroleum diesel were trying to gain approval.”

High-level California regulatory officials presented at the conference. Richard Corey, Executive Officer of the California Air Resources Board (ARB), reported on progress toward the adoption California’s groundbreaking carbon reduction strategies by other states and Canada. Adding to ARB’s well-known acknowledgement of the value of biodiesel’s GHG-lowering emissions profile (biodiesel generated 13% of LCFS credits through Q3 2014), Mr. Corey referenced the state’s reliance on biodiesel for “future reductions of toxic diesel particulate matter.”

Janea A. Scott, Commissioner at the California Energy Commission (CEC), gave an update on funding under the agency’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, citing that biodiesel is making tremendous gains and showcasing four biodiesel production projects with construction or expansion underway using agency grants.

The principal consultant for AB 32 author Senator Fran Pavley, Henry Stern, encouraged industry participants to keep coming back to tell positive biodiesel stories.

Midwest Governors Pen NY Times Op-Ed

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad have an op-ed piece in the New York Times today rebutting a recent controversial, oil industry-funded report from the World Resources Institute about renewable fuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

“The World Resources Institute’s report suggests that the world’s agricultural system can’t possibly meet future demands for food and bioenergy in a sustainable way,” the governors write. “We disagree, based on data and recent real-world experience. As governors of two states at the forefront of the nation’s bioeconomy, we have witnessed firsthand the sustainable development of robust and dynamic bioenergy industries.”

We recognize the need for future technological advancements and are optimistic that recent high-tech innovations in precision agriculture will continue to meet the future food and energy demands of a growing world population. Our agricultural system can — and will — continue to meet those demands in a way that is environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and economically efficient.

Read the whole op-ed here.

EIA: Ethanol, Biodiesel, Renewables to Grow in 2015

The latest government numbers show the amount of ethanol and biodiesel, as well as energy produced from wind and solar will increase in 2015. The latest Short-Term Energy Outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows growth for the biofuels, while total renewables used for electricity and heat generation will grow by 3.8 percent this year.
EIA11feb2015
Ethanol production averaged 933,000 bbl/d in 2014, and EIA expects it to average 938,000 bbl/d in 2015 and 936,000 bbl/d in 2016. Biodiesel production averaged an estimated 80,000 bbl/d in 2014 and is forecast to average 84,000 bbl/d in both 2015 and 2016.

In 2013, the electricity generation shares were 6.6% and 6.2% from hydropower and nonhydropower renewables, respectively. Wind is the largest source of nonhydropower renewable generation, and it is projected to contribute 5.2% of total electricity generation in 2016. Wind capacity, which grew by 7.7% in 2014, is forecast to increase by 16.1% in 2015 and by another 6.5% in 2016. Because wind is starting from a much larger base than solar, even though the growth rate is lower, the absolute amount of the increase in capacity is more than twice that of solar: 15 GW of wind versus 6 GW of utility-scale solar between 2014 and 2016.

EIA expects continued growth in utility-scale solar power generation, which is projected to average almost 80 gigawatthours (GWh) per day in 2016. Despite this growth, solar power averages only 0.7% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2016.