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.

Senators Urge EPA to Approve Biodiesel Volumes

A bipartisan group of senators is urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to quickly approve strong biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

nbb-advancedThe group of 32 senators, led by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) sent a letter Monday to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy noting that the agency’s delay in issuing Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOSs) for 2014 and now 2015 have created “tremendous uncertainty and hardship for the U.S. biodiesel industry and its thousands of employees.”

“Plants have reduced production and some have been forced to shut down, resulting in layoffs and lost economic productivity,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to get biodiesel back on schedule under the statutorily prescribed Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) process and quickly issue volumes for 2014 at the actual 2014 production numbers. We also hope you move forward on the 2015 and 2016 biodiesel volumes in a timely manner.”

The senators’ letter also said EPA should take into account the anticipated increase in Argentinian imports in setting biodiesel volumes to prevent the displacement of domestic production. “Two weeks ago I called on the agency to stop prioritizing the imports of foreign competitors over our workers here at home, and to recommit itself fully to supporting American energy by providing certainty to the American workers who contribute to our national goal of energy independence,” said Sen. Heitkamp in a news release.

Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, praised the senators’ action and hopes EPA’s McCarthy will respond quickly. “There is absolutely no reason for continued delays in the biodiesel volumes in the RFS,” said Steckel. “This could be done tomorrow.”

Anti-RFS Bill Re-Introduced

Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Steve Womack (R-AR) and Peter Welch (D-VT), today re-introduced legislation called the RFS Reform Act “to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to help ease concerns created by the ethanol mandate and protect consumers, livestock producers, food manufacturers, retailers, and the U.S. economy.”

Livestock and poultry producer organizations are among those supporting the bill, but general farm groups and corn growers say the RFS is working fine just the way it is.

mess-rfs“The elimination of the corn-based ethanol mandate and blend cap will gut the nation’s biofuel production, strand existing investment in second generation biofuel production and hurt family farmers, ranchers and rural communities that have experienced much-needed reinvestment from this policy,” said National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson. “This is not only a bad step for agriculture, but also is a major setback to the environment and our nation’s attempts to manage its carbon emissions.”

National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling notes that “the price of corn today is lower than the cost of production, and less than when the RFS was passed” and that “repealing the RFS would increase the cost of farm programs, hurt rural communities, and make America more dependent on foreign oil.”

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen called the legislation a “reckless paean to Big Oil” and said it was “a slap in the face to corn farmers across the country who responded to the RFS with increased production and yields.”

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis
says the bill is also a gift to Big Food “in their effort to extend their record profitability by blaming ethanol for food price increases” even as corn prices have been declining. “This has provided an economic boon to the integrated U.S. livestock and chain restaurant industries that tout their profitability to their stakeholders while consumer food prices, led by the meat sector, continue to escalate,” said Buis.

According to the sponsors, the RFS Reform Act “eliminates the corn-based ethanol requirement, caps the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10 percent, and requires the EPA to set cellulosic biofuels levels at production levels.” There are currently 34 co-sponsors for the bill.

EPA Response on RFS and CARBIO Plan

EPA_LOGOI just received the following response information from the EPA attributed to Byron Bunker, Director, Compliance Division, Office of Transportation and Air Quality. The EPA representative I spoke with says the agency knows of the biodiesel industry concerns and wanted to provide a response to those concerns. The response is in the form of eight bullet points:

1. EPA is committed to getting the RFS program back on track.

We understand industry’s desire for certainty. EPA is committed to getting the RFS program back on track. We expect to take action on 2014, 2015 and 2016 this spring. We look forward to talking with all stakeholders throughout the process.

2. The CARBIO plan DOES NOT lower the RFS sustainability standards for Argentinian biodiesel producers.

Any claim that the CARBIO plan decreases environmental oversight is flatly wrong. The sustainability standards are exactly the same for all parties. This Alternate Biomass Tracking plan is simply one mechanism by which Argentinian producers can meet the record keeping requirements of the program.

The sustainability standards were defined in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. Namely, in order to qualify for the RFS program, planted crop and crop residue used as feedstock for biofuels must be harvested from agricultural land cleared or cultivated prior to December 2007 (the date of EISA’s enactment).

The RFS regulations Congress established in 2007 apply to both foreign and domestic producers. Any foreign or domestic renewable fuel producer or renewable identification number (RIN) generating importer may meet the recordkeeping requirements for tracking feedstock from qualified lands with an alternative biomass tracking program that has been approved by the EPA. In fact, several countries already import biofuel under the existing regulations.

3. The CARBIO program actually provides for more rigorous oversight of Argentinian producers who choose to participate in this program.

For example:

· The plan is intended to ensure that qualifying fuel can be traced to pre-identified and pre-approved lands from which “renewable biomass” may be harvested consistent with regulatory definition of that term. The alternate biomass tracking program is a robust program that covers the whole soybean biodiesel supply chain, from soybean production through intermediate processing, to biodiesel production.

· CARBIO’s method for tracking chain of custody relies on a product transfer document called a cartas de porte, or waybill that has been mandatory in Argentina since 1998. In addition CARBIO will use land cover data from satellite imagery to identify land that was cleared or cultivated prior December 19, 2007 and actively managed or fallow and non forested on December 19, 2007.

· Any volumes that would qualify under this plan would need to have all steps verified by the approved third-party auditor before a RIN can be generated.

· Any and all other necessary RFS regulatory requirements also apply per the regulations.

4. Why would Argentine producers appeal to EPA for more stringent requirements?

It’s like someone asking a professional tax preparer to do your taxes. They know the codes, the regulation and how to manage the documentation. People want certainty and protection that they are complying with the extensive laws, which most common people don’t know or understand, and so they want the protection of the professional tax preparer. This is no different for the parties in Argentina.
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Biodiesel Conference Honors Franken for Impact

nbc-15-frankenA long-time advocate for biodiesel was honored during the recent National Biodiesel Conference & Expo. Sen. Al Franken from Minnesota was honored with the the 2015 “Eye on Biodiesel” Impact award for his work for biodiesel in Washington, taking a particular leadership role last year in challenging the EPA’s initial proposal that would have weakened Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes.

Sen. Franken has helped organize his Senate colleagues in holding meetings on the issue with senior Administration leaders. He has coordinated advocacy letters from members of Congress. And he has spoken out publicly to highlight biodiesel’s benefits in Minnesota and across the country as he fought for a strong RFS. Additionally, Sen. Franken has been a consistent and vocal advocate for the biodiesel tax incentive. His advocacy and leadership have been instrumental in helping to develop a policy environment in which biodiesel can continue to grow.

In recorded remarks played for the crowd gathered at the conference, Franken thanked the group for the honor and reiterated his opposition to the Obama Administration’s proposal to cut biodiesel requirement under the RFS to 1.3 billion gallons annually.

“Our annual biodiesel production meets and even exceeds the expectations set in the [RFS]. Last year, you produced 1.8 billion gallons – each one of those gallons is helping improve our energy security and creating good jobs here at home,” said Franken, pointing out that he’s talked with anyone who would listen in the administration, including President Obama, telling them all how opposed he was to the proposal. “We need a strong RFS, not a weak one.”

Franken vows to keep fighting for the biodiesel industry, also working to reinstate the federal biodiesel tax credit.

“It doesn’t make sense for taxpayers to spend billions of dollars each year subsidizing Big Oil, while letting investments in clean, homegrown energy, like biodiesel, lapse.”

Listen to Franken’s remarks here: Sen. Al Franken speaks to biodiesel conference by video

2015 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Biodiesel, Soybean Groups Criticize Import Decision

Proponents of the biodiesel industry in this country and the feedstocks that make it are blasting the U.S government’s decision to allow Argentinian biodiesel easier access to American markets. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and the American Soybean Association (ASA) say the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ease sustainability requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to fast-track the South American fuel couldn’t come at a worse time.

nbb-advanced“This decision poses a tremendous threat to U.S. industry and jobs, not to mention the overriding goal of the RFS of developing clean, homegrown renewable fuels,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “This is incredibly damaging, particularly in light of the continued delays in establishing RFS volumes. The Obama administration has effectively run the U.S. biodiesel industry into a ditch over the past year by failing to establish a functioning renewable fuels policy, and instead of pulling the domestic industry out, it is fast-tracking foreign competition.”

ASAlogo1“Today’s decision issued by EPA on Argentinian biodiesel shows a lack of coordination and alarming tone-deafness regarding the purposes of the Renewable Fuels Standard,” said ASA President and Brownfield, Texas, farmer Wade Cowan. “EPA has put the interests of our foreign competitors above those of soybean farmers here in the U.S. At this point, we can only scratch our heads and wonder what EPA’s priorities are when it comes to the domestic renewable fuels industry.”

Under the RFS, feedstocks generally must be grown on land that was cleared or cultivated prior to Dec. 18, 2007 – when the RFS was implemented. Typically, foreign producers must closely map and track each batch of feedstock used to produce imported renewable fuels. EPA’s decision allows Argentinian biodiesel producers to use a survey plan for certifying that feedstocks used, far less stringent than the current map and track requirement and more difficult to verify. NBB estimates that up to 600 million gallons of Argentinian biodiesel could enter the U.S. as a result of the change.

“At a time when our U.S. industry needs a lifeline, it feels instead like we’re being pushed back under water,” Steckel said. “This decision simply makes no sense from an economic perspective, an energy security perspective or an environmental perspective. It is baffling.”

First RFS Education Ad in Des Moines

AmRenewFuture adAfter kicking off the new America’s Renewable Future campaign on Thursday last week, the first ads starting appearing in the Des Moines Register on Friday as potential Republican presidential candidates began to gather for the Iowa Freedom Summit.

“We want to send an unmistakable message to both parties about the remarkable, bipartisan success story of the Renewable Fuel Standard in creating jobs and making America more energy independent,” said Eric Branstad, Executive Director for America’s Renewable Future. “Iowa’s renewable fuel production has more than doubled under the RFS, and now supports more jobs and families than ever before. Candidates who support the RFS has always done well in Iowa, but it will be an even bigger issue in 2015 and 2016.”

The Des Moines Register ad noted the RFS supports 73,000 Iowa jobs, more than 50 ethanol biodiesel refineries across Iowa and has helped put foreign oil imports at a 20-year low. It’s call to action is a pretty straightforward message to candidates and caucus goers alike: “Don’t put Iowa out of business. Support the Renewable Fuel Stand… Take a stand.”

RFS a No-Show at Freedom Summit

freedom-summitJust days after Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad kicked off a campaign to promote the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as a “candidate” in the 2016 presidential race, it was basically a no-show at the conservative Freedom Summit featuring many presidential hopefuls.

Asked about the RFS in an interview with the Des Moines Register on Friday, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said he would continue his opposition to the law as “a matter of principle.”

One of the potential candidates who received some positive reviews at the summit was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was recently criticized by biofuels producers in his state for not joining the ranks of other Midwestern governors in support of the RFS. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, Walker says “he’s keeping a campaign pledge to not take a position in the debate that has pitted ethanol producers against Wisconsin’s small-engine industry, which opposes increased use of the fuel additive.”

Also attending the summit was former Texas governor Rick Perry, a long time opponent of the RFS who advocated a waiver of the law when he was governor.

Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush both skipped out on the summit which was organized by Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King. Speaking to members of the media on Saturday, Gov. Branstad said Iowa is still an important state for a presidential candidate. “This is one of the battleground states that’s going to, I think, determine who’s going to be the next president of the United States,” said Branstad. “I don’t think it’s wise to skip Iowa.” The governor also advised, “I think it would be a disadvantage in Iowa to not support the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Branstad said.

One friend of biofuels who can be counted among the potential candidates who attended the Freedom Summit is Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania and candidate in the 2012 Republican primary. Santorum will be making a few other appearances in Iowa this week, including at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association conference on Tuesday. He spoke at that same event in 2011.

Corn Growers: Not the Time to Cut RFS

ncga-logo-newTwo record corn crops and low prices for the grain – that’s not the time the U.S. should be cutting the amount of ethanol to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply. That’s the message coming from the National Corn Growers Association, as the group laments the fact that altering the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) couldn’t come at a worse time.

“Corn ending stocks – the amount above and beyond current demand – are estimated at nearly 2 billion bushels this year, thanks to two back-to-back record harvests,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling, a corn farmer in Maryland. “And with corn selling at low prices, any legislative attempt to cut one of our key markets will drive prices even further below cost of production. We have a policy that works well not just for the environment and energy security – but for the rural economy. We need to support farmers, not bankrupt them.”

NCGA also shot back at an attempt in the U.S. Senate to attach an anti-ethanol amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline legislation, pointing out the many benefits ethanol brings and why it’s an important part of the fuel supply.

“Corn ethanol is better for the environment than fossil fuels and has historically lowered the cost of filling our tanks by nearly a dollar,” said NCGA Director of Public Policy Beth Elliott. “It has been proven that ethanol does not have an impact on the price of food. The Renewable Fuel Standard is working – creating clean, renewable, American-grown energy and good American jobs.”

NCGA says it wants to work with the new Congress to support the RFS.

Iowa Coalition to Promote RFS as Candidate

americas-futureIowa Governor Terry Branstad today announced a major new bi-partisan campaign called America’s Renewable Future that will promote the Renewable Fuel Standard in the 2016 Iowa Presidential caucuses.

“I’m very passionate about the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Governor Branstad during a conference call to announce the effort. “It’s made a real difference for farm income and good jobs, reducing our dependency on foreign oil, improving the environment – so I’m really excited to see this strong, bi-partisan effort being made to educate people that come to Iowa and presidential candidates.”

America’s Renewable Future will be co-chaired by former Iowa State Representative Annette Sweeney, a Republican, and former state Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, a Democrat, as well as Iowa renewable fuels industry leader Bill Couser.

Sweeney, who is a corn, soybean and cattle producer, says it’s important to educate lawmakers and the public about the RFS. “Once it’s explained, (they see) what a great thing renewable fuels are for this country,” she said.

Coordinating the effort will be Governor Branstad’s son Eric, a public affairs specialist and campaign operative. “We have partners coming in from all over the country and those partners have committed millions to fund this effort,” said Eric Branstad. “We are designing it to look like a presidential campaign and the RFS is our candidate.”

From now until the Iowa Caucuses, America’s Renewable Future “will wage a mulitimillion dollar, multi-platform effort” to educate presidential candidates about the benefits of the RFS and ask them to take a stand.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to be part of this grassroots organization and being able to bring these candidates to our farms and our feedlots,” said Couser, who is a livestock and crop producer and ethanol plant co-founder. “We’re very excited about meeting these candidates on a bi-partisan partnership, bringing them here and educating them.”

The group also intends to build a statewide campaign organization to educate Iowa caucus-goers in both parties about which candidates support the RFS. The campaign will include advertising, earned media, public opinion research, stakeholder engagement, digital and social media outreach.

Listen to the conference call announcing the effort here: America's Renewable Future campaign announced

President Touts Domestic Energy in SOTU

sotu15“We are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years,” said President Barack Obama in the first few minutes of his 2015 State of the Union address Tuesday evening.

“We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet,” said Obama. “And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.”

President Obama also hit on climate change in his address, noting that “over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it.”

Responding to the president’s address, Novozymes Americas President Adam Monroe said they are excited to see President Obama focusing on climate change and said that the United States “has an opportunity to lead the world in reducing atmospheric carbon by investing in science.”

“The United States also has a chance to be the world leader in alternative fuels,” said Monroe. “The Renewable Fuel Standard has been successful in moving our cars and trucks away from fossil fuels. If President Obama wants to reduce emissions today he should put this policy back on track and support cleaner, domestic biofuels.”

Keystone Amendment Targets Corn Ethanol

An amendment to the Keystone pipeline bill would eliminate corn ethanol from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a move that ethanol industry groups say would set U.S. energy policy back by decades.

The amendment was offered
by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on the premise that corn ethanol “drives up the cost of everything from gasoline to groceries.”

mess-rfs“The fact of the matter is that corn is less expensive today than when the RFS was passed in 2007,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “There is simply no truth to the notion that ethanol has driven up the price of food. In fact, the UN concluded that food prices are driven more by the price of energy than the cost of commodities. To that point, ethanol has been less expensive than gas for the better part of the past four years and has helped reduce consumer pain at the pump.”

“This amendment is an unnecessary solution to an imaginary problem,” Dinneen added. “If approved, it would set our nation’s energy, economic, and climate agenda back decades.”

“This amendment would eviscerate the RFS – the most successful energy policy enacted in the last 40 years,” Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said. “If this amendment was adopted, it would embrace the status quo of our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil, concede we no longer are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and seek to pursue a policy that would result in massive upheaval and job loss in today’s booming rural economy.”

The amendment was introduced in the Senate on Friday.