“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.”
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.”
“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.
Regulators are being urged to re-think corn ethanol’s carbon value. In a news release from the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), the group’s President of its board of directors, Ron Alverson, reveals in a white paper how corn ethanol’s carbon footprint is decreasing, thanks to technology innovations by farmers and ethanol facilities to improve the accuracy of carbon intensity modeling for biofuels.
“ANL scientists have documented significant reductions in corn ethanol’s CI since 2008. Through updates to the Greenhouse gases Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation (GREET version 2.0, 2013) model, ANL recently determined that average ethanol manufacturing energy use has decreased 25%, corn farming energy use decreased 24%, corn fertilizer and chemical use decreased by 3%, and that ethanol facilities are extracting 3% more ethanol from each bushel of corn. ANL has also updated their Land Use Change (LUC) calculations with recent data and now estimate LUC of just 7.6 grams of CI, a 75% reduction from the widely used and outdated estimate of 30 grams CI. A significant portion of this reduction resulted from soil carbon modeling which predicts soil carbon sequestration from corn,” Alverson notes in the White Paper.
“Unfortunately, low carbon fuel market regulators, such as the U.S. EPA and the California Air Resources Board, have yet to acknowledge these improvements and update their models with this new science,” continues Alverson. “Because fossil fuel CI is getting worse and corn ethanol CI is improving, failure to account for these trends unfairly penalizes biofuels in low carbon markets.”
Alverson, a farmer and founding board member of an ethanol facility in South Dakota cited new research and improved modeling by the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. He argues that “corn farmers have responded to market signals and rapidly adopted precision application technology to reduced fertilizer application rates,” new realities those regulators need to now consider.
Natural gas inventories are up dramatically from last winter, and wind is expected to lead renewable energy capacity additions in the coming year. Those are just a couple of findings in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest Short-Term Energy Outlook. EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski says those prices for natural gas have also dropped to two-year lows as growing domestic natural gas production has bolstered the inventories.
“Natural gas inventories at the end of the winter heating season in late March should be about 9 billion cubic feet above the five-year average, much higher than the same time last year when inventories were approaching 1 trillion cubic feet below normal.”
Sieminski adds that following nearly two years of relatively moderate generation capacity growth for renewables, wind power will be the clear leader in utility-scale renewable capacity additions in 2015.
“About 11 gigawatts of wind capacity is expected to enter service in 2015, the second-highest level of generating capacity that the wind industry has ever added in a given year.”
The EIA report goes on to say that petroleum producers continue to see dropping prices for crude oil and many oil companies have cut back on their exploration drilling in response. However, petroleum production is still expected to climb in 2015, as those producers concentrate drilling activities in established areas that already have productive wells.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture honors some ethanol and biodiesel marketers in the state. Mark McKinley and Galen Barker from Fuel Time in St. Ansgar and Steve Neuendorf from Farmers Win Cooperative in Fredericksburg are the 2015 winners of the Secretary’s Ethanol and Biodiesel Marketing Awards, recognizing fuel marketers who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to promote and sell renewable fuels.
“Fuel Time in St. Ansgar and Farmers Win Cooperative in Fredericksburg have made it a priority to make biodiesel and ethanol more available to Iowa drivers and promote these home-grown fuels,” [Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill] Northey said.
The Secretary’s Ethanol and Biodiesel Marketing Awards were designed to recognize businesses that market the renewable fuels they have available through creative efforts including, but not limited to: hosting special events highlighting their renewable fuels, development of creative signage, initiation of new advertisements or marketing efforts, and dramatically increase renewable fuel availability…
Fuel Time sources its ethanol from the local ethanol plant and passes the saving on to customers, and the result has been that on several occasion it offered the lowest priced fuel in the country.
The facilities at the Fuel Time station were recently remodeled and they have had a number of events promoting E15 and higher blends of ethanol at the site. In response to their aggressive promotion and competitive pricing of renewable fuels, monthly sales show that E85 sales are typically equal to or greater than E10 sales…
Farmers Win Cooperative, under Neuendorf’s leadership, has made it a priority to give customers a choice at the pump, including access to higher blends of biodiesel. Farmers Win has installed a biodiesel blender pump that in spring thru fall offers a clear #2 diesel as well as blends of 10 percent (B10), 20 percent (B20), 30 percent (B30), and 50 percent (B50). They now offer these products in Burr Oak and Fredericksburg.
The winners were announced and recognized during the Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Stores of Iowa Annual Meeting in Des Moines on Jan. 13th.
Anti-ethanol legislation has already been introduced this very first week of the brand new 114th Congress.
On Tuesday, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced legislation to require additional testing for 15% ethanol blended fuel (E15), a bill he has repeatedly introduced over the past four years.
Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen says the bill would hinder the growth and expansion of E15 and would simply repeat extensive studies that have already been done on the higher-level fuel blend. “The study Mr. Sensenbrenner seeks has been done. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy undertook the most exhaustive analysis ever conducted prior to approving the 211(f) fuel waiver. But even more significantly, E15 has been driven more than 100 million miles by consumers without a single reported case of engine failure or performance problems,” said Dinneen. “The rest of the world has moved beyond the hyperbolic angst about E15 and has accepted the fact that higher level ethanol blends are good for consumers, good for air quality, and good for energy security. Mr. Sensenbrenner should as well.”
A recent RFA report found that nearly 70 percent of all new vehicles are approved by automakers for use of E15.
As the 114th Congress is sworn-in today, the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) is confirming plans to visit for the 7th annual grassroots fly-in on March 24-25, 2015.
“With more than seventy new members in Congress and concerns over EPA’s implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), there is no better time for people who have a stake in the success of the ethanol industry to join fellow grassroots advocates for ACE’s fly-in,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings.
At the 2014 “Biofuels Beltway March,” eighty people from all walks of life, including farmers, fuel retailers, students, and bankers, joined ethanol producers to meet with representatives from the White House, EPA, and USDA. The group also met with 160 congressional offices.
“In addition to a large crop of incoming freshmen, just a small fraction of current lawmakers were in office when the original RFS was enacted in 2005 and modified in 2007 by Congress. Our fly-in is an important opportunity to highlight how America is benefiting from the RFS, the successful development of cellulosic ethanol, and the reliability and progress of E15 and higher ethanol fuel blends,” said Jennings.
Click here for more information.
The federal government is seeking public comment on its preliminary analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to the production of biomass sorghum feedstock to make biofuels. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invited the comments after a recent study by the agency that showed biomass sorghum is suitable for the same conversion processes as approved cellulosic feedstocks such as switchgrass and corn stover and would qualify for cellulosic biofuel (D-code 3) renewable identification numbers (RINs) or cellulosic diesel (D-code 7) RINs.
This notice explains EPA’s analysis of the growth and transport components of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from biomass sorghum, and describes how EPA may apply this analysis in the future to determine whether biofuels produced from such biomass sorghum meet the necessary GHG reductions required for qualification under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) program. Based on this analysis, we anticipate that biofuels produced from biomass sorghum could qualify for cellulosic biofuel renewable identification numbers (RINs) if certain fuel production process technology conditions are met.
More information on the comment process and period is available here.
Sworn in for his second, second term as Governor of the state of California on Monday, Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown, Jr. outlined three energy-related goals he would like to see the state accomplish within the next 15 years.
“First, increase from one-third to 50 percent our electricity derived from renewable sources,” said Gov. Brown in his inaugural address. “Two – and even more difficult – reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent; three, double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.”
He continued: We must also reduce the relentless release of methane, black carbon and other potent pollutants across industries. And we must manage farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands so they can store carbon. All of this is a very tall order. It means that we continue to transform our electrical grid, our transportation system and even our communities.
I envision a wide range of initiatives: more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles.
Brown was sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term as California governor this week, with his second and third terms separated by over 30 years.
News out this week that Chinese officials committed to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack that the ban on imports of U.S. distillers grains (DDGs) containing the MIR 162 trait will be dropped is being met with optimism by the ethanol industry.
“While we are still awaiting the official regulatory announcement from China regarding the approval of this policy, it is welcome news for America’s ethanol industry,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “I would like to personally thank Secretary Vilsack for his leadership and steadfast commitment to ensuring a resolution to this issue. Additionally, the many hardworking professionals of the USDA and the USTR deserve praise for their dedicated work behind the scenes and for their persistence in working with their Chinese colleagues to re-establish market access for U.S. DDGs.”
“China has always been somewhat schizophrenic with our protein feed,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen in an interview today. “There are times when they desperately want it and can’t get enough of it, there are times when they will erect these mysterious trade barriers so that we can’t get our product in there … We think we may be getting through it now.”
According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, one of the outcomes of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meetings was in the area of agricultural exports related to biotechnology traits. “China announced that it would approve the importation of new biotechnology varieties of U.S. soybeans and corn … and also that it would pursue a regular dialogue with the United States focused on the benefits of the increased use of innovative technologies in agriculture, for both the United States and China.”
Three retiring state lawmakers in Iowa have been honored for “their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels.” The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says the outgoing lawmakers were given the “Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels” award for their long, distinguished careers and steadfast support of renewable fuels.
“It’s bittersweet to see these distinguished individuals leave the state legislature after long, successful careers, and we wish them nothing but the best in the future,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “Their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels issues will be greatly missed, and we sincerely thank them for their enduring accomplishments.”
IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill, former Sens. Nancy Boettger and Daryl Beall, and IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.
The Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels awards were given to:
State Senator Daryl Beall of Fort Dodge, Iowa. Sen. Beall was an enthusiastic supporter of renewable fuels who worked tirelessly to promote ethanol and biodiesel both inside and outside the state legislature.
State Senator Nancy Boettger of Harlan, Iowa. As a farmer, Sen. Boettger was a rock solid supporter of renewable fuels who was critical in winning support for Iowa’s renewable fuels policy, including tax credits for retailers offering higher ethanol and biodiesel blends and fuel dispensing equipment grants for renewable fuels upgrades.
State Senator Hubert Houser of Carson, Iowa. Sen. Houser was also instrumental in passing the framework of today’s renewable fuels policy in Iowa, and was active in the creation of Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE), an ethanol production facility in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
With 43 ethanol refineries producing more than 3.8 billion gallons annually and 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce nearly 315 million gallons annually, Iowa is the nation’s renewable fuels leader.
Harvesting biomass from forests is not only helping those forests’ health, it’s helping the country achieve energy independence. This news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) has removed 200,000 tons of biomass that could have been a fire risk and was turned into biofuels.
“This initiative helps to retrieve forest residues that are a fire risk, but otherwise are costly to remove,” said [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “In just three months, working with private partners across the country, the program helped to reduced fire, disease and insect threats while providing more biomass feedstock for advanced energy facilities.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency administered the program earlier this year. Eligible farmers, ranchers or foresters participating in BCAP received a payment to partially offset the cost of harvesting and delivering forest or agricultural residues to a qualified energy facility. Up to $12.5 million is available each year for biomass removal.
This past summer, 19 energy facilities in 10 states participated in the program.
The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday on the supplemental rulemaking proposal outlining best practices for the regulation of animal food under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The act outlines regulations for animal feed, which includes the ethanol co-product dried distillers grain.
RFA submitted comments earlier this year following the initial proposed rule noting that animal feed would be unnecessarily regulated in a similar fashion to human food. RFA praised the FDA for addressing this concern in its updated version, noting that the “revised CGMPs (current good manufacturing processes) in the supplemental proposed rule appear more applicable to the animal feed industry and appear to provide more flexibility for the wide variety of the animal feed facility processes covered.”
However, RFA raised concerns with additions to the rule that would implement “…product and environmental testing programs, supplier approval programs, and verification programs that were not in the initial proposed rule language.” The comments stress that an individual plant “…should be provided the flexibility to determine its own needs and compliance strategy.” RFA also noted that “If applied in a prescriptive and indiscriminate way, these programs can add unnecessary cost burdens and divert resources away from the effective practices that ethanol producers currently use to assure safe, high quality co-products.”
Read RFA comments here.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation Acting Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe testified before a House oversight subcommittee today on the agency’s management of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.
“The EPA recognizes that the delay in issuing the 2014 standards has exacerbated uncertainty in the market for both renewable fuel producers and obligated parties,” said McCabe in her prepared remarks. “Issuing rules every year has proven to be a significant implementation challenge, particularly in the last several years as cellulosic biofuels have continued to face challenges in scaling up to commercial production and the fuel pool has become saturated with E10, raising concerns about the E10 blend wall.”
Facing questioning by lawmakers about the delay and EPA’s pledge to get the standards for 2014, 2015 and 2016 released some time next year, McCabe was unable to provide any time frame when that might be accomplished. Subcommittee Chair James Lankford (R-OK) expressed his doubt EPA can get it done. “My concern is that this is going to come out November 30 of 2015 and we’ll literally have two years in a row that we will not have anything,” he said. “It cannot take that long to promulgate a rule.”
Biofuels organizations reacted to McCabe’s testimony. “While it’s important for EPA to put the annual RFS rulemaking process back on schedule, it’s much more important for the Agency to get the RFS right,” said Brian Jennings with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE). “We look forward to working with EPA to ensure they use their authority to hold oil companies legally responsible for making cleaner and less expensive renewable fuel choices, such as E15 and E85, available to consumers as they issue the final 2014 rule, and RFS proposals for 2015 and 2016.”
Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis also stressed the importance of EPA getting the methodology right. “The EPA’s proposed rule was flawed from the beginning. There was no way the methodology in the proposed rule would ever work, as it went against the very purpose and policy goals of the RFS,” said Buis. “Hopefully, the EPA can get back on track, establish certainty among stakeholders and implement the RFS as it was originally envisioned.”
Click here to watch the hearing.
Biodiesel producers are pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to reinstate the biodiesel tax incentive as part of the tax extenders package passed on Wednesday, but they would prefer a longer term deal to provide more certainty for the industry.
“While we appreciate a one-year extension, we are urging Congress to continue pressing for a longer-term policy that can afford this industry the certainty needed to invest and grow,” said National Biodiesel Board VP of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “Biodiesel businesses across the country are poised to expand their operations, hire new workers and build new infrastructure, but we need forward-looking policy.”
She added that the deal passed Thursday is only good until the end of this year, so the biodiesel tax incentive expire once again on January 1,for the fourth time in six years. “It is very difficult to run a business with that kind of uncertainty,” Steckel said.
“The biodiesel incentive is proven to create jobs and economic activity, and it pays tremendous dividends in terms of reducing costly pollution and improving our energy security as well,” said NBB Board Chairman Steven J. Levy, managing director at Sprague Operating Resources. “It is a successful policy that is working so there is no reason to have this kind of perpetual uncertainty.”
The House voted 378-46 Wednesday night to approve HR 5771, setting up a potential Senate vote in the coming days.