NBB Applauds Passage of Energy Bill

nbb-logo.jpgThe National Biodiesel Board is applauding the U.S. House’s passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 by a 314-100. The U.S. Senate passed identical legislation last week, and President Bush has indicated he will sign it.

The biggest selling point of the bill is the significant expansion of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) that will increase the use of biodiesel in the United States, according to this NBB press release:

The expanded RFS provided for in H.R. 6 requires a specific renewable requirement for diesel fuel that will be met by biodiesel and other renewable biomass-based diesel fuels. Increasing the minimum renewable requirement in the diesel pool from 500 million gallons in 2009 to 1 billion gallons in 2012 will create a stable, viable domestic market for biodiesel. In addition, the fuel labeling requirements in the bill will promote consumer confidence in renewable fuels and help ensure that only quality fuels are entered into commerce.

joe-jobethumbnail3.jpg“We congratulate the House and the Senate for the bipartisan efforts of policymakers who worked together to pass this landmark legislation that will help America depend less on foreign oil and more on clean-burning, domestically produced biodiesel,” said NBB CEO Joe Jobe. “Biodiesel producers across America stand ready to meet the aggressive renewable goals provided for in this bill.”

NBB Praises Energy Bill Passage

nbb-logo.jpgThe National Biodiesel Board is applauding the U.S. Senate’s passage of the Energy Bill… especially the section of the bill that expands the Renewable Fuels Standard:

The expanded RFS requires a specific renewable requirement for diesel fuel that will be met by biodiesel and other renewable biomass-based diesel fuels. Increasing the minimum renewable requirement in the diesel pool from 500 million gallons in 2009 to 1 billion gallons in 2012 will create a stable, viable domestic market for biodiesel. In addition, the fuel labeling requirements in the bill will promote consumer confidence in renewable fuels and help ensure that only quality fuels are entered into commerce.
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“Passage of H.R. 6 is a significant achievement that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and increase the use of clean-burning, domestically produced biodiesel,” said NBB CEO Joe Jobe. “The biodiesel industry stands ready to meet the aggressive renewable goals provided for in this bill.”

The bill goes back to the U.S. House for final approval before being sent to the president.

Author Outlines “Energy Victory”

Energy VictoryAn aerospace engineer and author thinks the country needs a new direction in energy policy to “break the economic stranglehold that the OPEC oil cartel has on our country.”

Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics, a private company that does research and development on innovative aerospace technologies, and author of several books including his most recent, “Energy Victory,” in which he advocates Congress passed a law requiring that all new cars sold in the USA be flex-fueled.

“If we create the market by mandating that the cars be flex-fueled, it will break the monopoly,” Zubrin says. “Right now the only fuel that American consumers can buy is what the enemy is selling.”

Zubrin believes the American public is getting tired of being beholden to foreign oil interests. “This has gone on long enough. In 1973, we were 30 percent dependent on foreign oil, now we are 60 percent dependent. At the same time, Brazil – which has had an ethanol policy – went from 80 percent to zero. This is the most important issue affecting our national security and our economic well-being.”

Listen to some of Dr. Zubrin’s comments from an interview here.

Senate Passes Energy Bill

After stripping the bill of a $21 billion tax package, he U.S. Senate has passed an amended energy bill that includes an expansion of the Renewable Fuels Standard to 36 billion gallons of annual renewable fuel use by 2022. The bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for approval before it can be sent to the president for his signature. Removal of the tax increases for oil companies should remove the threat of a presidential veto. The Senate also removed another provision the White House had objected to which would have required that 15 percent of America’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020.

RFARenewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen says the Senate bill takes a big step forward in making the nation more energy stable and environmentally sustainable.

“This bill, and the Renewable Fuels Standard specifically, is an affirmation of what is possible when we work together to achieve a common goal,” said Dinneen in a statement. “By relying more heavily on domestically produced renewable fuels, including next generation technologies such as cellulosic ethanol, we can begin the hard work necessary to mitigate the impact of global climate changes, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and leave a more stable and sustainable future for generations that follow.”

ACEBrian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Ethanol Coalition, commended the Senate for its action. “This may be the most profoundly important step in support of energy security ever taken by the U.S., an unmistakable shift toward renewable fuels and energy conservation and away from our dangerous and expensive reliance on fossil fuels,” Jennings said.

Senate to Change Energy Bill

The Senate fell one vote short in a procedural vote to move the Energy Bill passed by the House that includes tax increases for oil companies. The White House had threatened to veto the bill over that issue.

Majority Leader Harry Reid now says they will eliminate the tax title to get a revised energy package approved later today. “We must begin to break our country’s addiction to oil,” Reid said.

The bill will still include an increased Renewable Fuels Standard and higher CAFE standards.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky predicted the revised bill would be approved with wide bipartisan support.

The legislation, if passed by the Senate, would have to be voted on by the House.

Pennsylvania Senate Passes Energy & Biodiesel Bills

Pennsylvania’s State Senate has passed several bills in the last couple of days that will help renewable energy efforts in the Keystone State.

The Houston (TX) Chronicle reports a $650 million omnibus energy bill and two biodiesel measures received passage on the last day of business for Senate for the year:

senwhite.jpg“This is a wonderful start and is a great way to end our calendar year with what I think is a great success under our belt,” said Sen. Mary Jo White, the Venango County Republican who was a sponsor of all three bills.

The energy bill would divide the $650 million among different sectors of the energy industry and residents and business owners.

The biggest chunk, $380 million, would go to companies that produce energy, manufacture equipment for the industry or research and develop new technologies. Among the energy sectors that could benefit are wind, biofuels, solar, geothermal and coal. Some of the money also would be available to local governments for renewable energy and conservation projects.

Another $165 million would be available for reimbursements and rebates for consumers who buy solar panels, hybrid vehicles and home conservation items such as energy efficient furnaces, air conditioners, windows and doors.

The biodiesel measures would mandate biodiesel be in each gallon of diesel sold in the state, increasing as production in Pennsylvania increases, and would raise the in-state biodiesel production subsidy from 5 cents to 75 cents a gallon.

The bills could face changes when they hit the Pennsylvania House, and the governor has indicated he’s not ecstatic about all the provisions.

Chrysler Fuel Cell Technology in California

Chrysler LLCChrysler LLC has joined the California Fuel Cell Partnership, becoming the 34th member of the organization. Chrysler says the CaFCP is valuable colloboration that encourages engineers to develop solutions for hydrogen technology at an accelerated rate.

“We are pleased to welcome Chrysler as the California Fuel Cell Partnership’s ninth automotive member,” said Catherine Dunwoody, CaFCP’s executive director. “We’re looking forward to the new perspectives and ideas Chrysler will bring to the table as we all work together to commercialize this important transportation solution.”

California Fuel Cell PartnershipChrysler pioneered fuel cell vehicle technology more than 10 years ago. Fuel cells release energy from the reaction of hydrogen with a catalyst and oxygen. This clean technology operates at a high level of efficiency and is true zero-emission. Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles emit only pure water vapor as exhaust. Fuel cell systems are part of Chrysler’s advanced- propulsion technology umbrella, which includes efficient gasoline engines, advanced diesels and hybrid powertrain systems.

Founded in 1999, CaFCP members have placed 188 fuel cell passenger vehicles and transit buses on California’s roads. In addition, CaFCP members have built 27 hydrogen stations, with 11 more planned, forming the largest hydrogen infrastructure in the world.

CaFCP describes itself as an organization of auto manufacturers, energy providers, fuel cell technology companies and government agencies, where members work together to promote the commercialization of hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicles.

Win 30,000 Euro for Energy Efficiency

The German EnergyThe Germany Energy Agency wants to promote energy efficiency around the world, so it´s sponoring an international competition for the Energy Efficiency Award 2008.

The award, in its second year, recognizes outstanding projects to increase energy efficiency in trade and industry. A total of 30,000 euros in prizes is available.

The international competition is particularly aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises. If you have invested in innovative, exemplary measures to increase energy efficiency in your company and implemented these measures successfully, then organizers want to recognize you. The deadline to enter is January 31, 2008.

A prize of 15,000 euros will go to the first-place winner, 10,000 euros to the second-place winner and 5,000 euros to third place. The winners of the competition will be announced during the World Energy Dialogue at the Hannover Messe on April 22, 2008.

Energy Bill Passes with Expanded RFS

The U.S. House has passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (H.R. 6) by a vote of 235 to 181. The measure expands the Renewable Fuel Standard by seven times to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022… with 21 billion gallons of ethanol coming from cellulosic feedstocks, such as wood scraps… and requiring that 500 million gallons of biodiesel and biomass-based diesel fuel be blended into the diesel pool in 2009, gradually ramping up to one billion gallons by 2012.

The bill also extends the biodiesel tax incentive through the end of 2010. The incentive helps make biodiesel competitive with petroleum diesel fuel. It will also close the “splash and dash” loophole, ensuring that foreign-produced biodiesel cannot be transshipped through the U.S. just to claim the biodiesel tax incentive.

The news is welcomed by the National Biodiesel Board and the Renewable Fuels Association:

nbb-logo.jpg“This legislation is an all-around win for achieving America’s energy and environmental goals,” said Joe Jobe, NBB CEO. “We appreciate the House’s willingness to support the U.S. biodiesel industry and the important role biodiesel will play in reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

rfa-logo.gifCommending those supporting this shift in energy policy direction in this country, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen issued the following statement:

“The House of Representatives took an important step forward today in ensuring a stronger and more sustainable energy and environmental future for this country. This bill recognizes the critical importance of diversifying our nation’s motor fuel supply by increasing the use of renewable fuels like ethanol.

“Importantly, the renewable fuels provisions of this bill take a pragmatic approach to ensuring that the promise of advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol is realized. By requiring that nearly two-thirds of the new 36 billion gallon goal must come from advanced biofuels, House leaders have provided the necessary market to foster the continued investment and development of the cellulosic arm of the U.S. ethanol industry.

The measure is paid for by $21 billion in new taxes, mostly on oil companies… which, according to this story in the International Herald Tribune, could cause trouble in the U.S. Senate:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will try to bring it up Friday. Senate Republicans said they will try to strip out the new oil taxes and a requirement that utilities generate more electricity from windmills, solar panels and other renewable sources.

“I don’t think anybody can predict what will happen in the Senate,” (Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi conceded after the vote, but added confidently — and with a hint of possible further compromise: “We will have a bill.”

The White House has promised to veto the bill if the House version passes the Senate.

RFS Supporters Rally

Collin PetersonMembers of Congress and representatives from a variety of organizations held a media event Wednesday morning in support of an increased Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in the Energy Bill.

House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is in full support of the RFS.

“The speaker understands that this is critical for this industry,” Peterson said. “She gets it and she understands what the problem is and she understands why this needs to be done.”

EngleCongressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) described his conversion to being an ethanol supporter. “As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee for many years I voted against the ethanol mandate,” Engel said. “I changed my position 180 degrees, and I changed my position because it’s good for America.”

Herseth SandlinAll of the speakers noted the importance of the RFS to cellulosic ethanol development, which is still in its infancy. In the meantime, Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) said, “Conventional corn ethanol is the bridge we need to move forward.”

It was a long press conference, which got underway late, and the lawmakers had to leave by the time the supporting organizations got to give their statements – which meant many of the media who were there also left. But, those who did stick around heard first from the unusual suspects in the lineup of those supporting the RFS. They were the AMVETS, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Truman National Security Project.

FTC Reports on Ethanol Market Concentration

FTCA new report from the Federal Trade Commission says U.S. ethanol industry become more competitive in 2007.

According to the report, “The ethanol production industry is not concentrated, and has become even more unconcentrated over the last year.”

The FTC utilizes the Herfindahl-Hirschman Indices (HHIs) to determine concentration. As outlined by the FTC and the Justice Department, HHIs with values below 1000 are deemed not concentrated and competitive. Based on actual production volumes of ethanol (as compared to total capacity that includes gallons under construction), the FTC gives the U.S. ethanol industry a score of 465, down from 736 in 2006.

Since 2005, the number of ethanol production facilities operating across the country has increased from 95 to 134 as of December 2007. Similarly, the number of firms producing ethanol has also increased. “As of September 2007, 103 firms produced ethanol in the United States, a one-year increase of 13 firms, and a two-year increase of roughly 28 firms,” the FTC reports. While the number of firms producing ethanol has risen, the market share of the nation’s largest producer has decreased to approximately 16 percent, down from 21 percent in 2006.

Read the FTC report here.

Ohio is Getting Windier

Ohio Business Development CoalitionOhio is embracing wind energy. The Ohio Business Development Coalition says wind energy is a prominent option for meeting the needs of a growing renewable energy industry. The OBDC is a nonprofit organization that recruits opportunities for capital investment in the state and it says the development of wind power is one opportunity the state is poised to take on.

Ohio manufacturing companies are well positioned to meet the needs of the developing wind energy industry within the state, according to the Ohio Business Development Coalition (OBDC). Traditional manufacturing companies are investing in the production of components for wind turbines, further demonstrating the state’s commitment to renewable energy advancements.

Advance Manufacturing Corp., located in Cleveland, Ohio, has its roots in traditional manufacturing but realizes the opportunities in renewable energy. In the last two years, it has invested $6 million to upgrade its facility and produce 22,000-pound components for gearboxes used in large electricity generating wind turbines.

There are 37 companies in Ohio associated with the wind energy industry and 34 more interested in getting involved. Large companies committed to manufacturing wind technology components include Canton-based bearings maker Timken Co. and industrial manufacturer Parker Hannifin Corp. of Mayfield Heights.

Biden Calls for Energy’s “Apollo Project”

biden.jpgDemocratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware) has unveiled a five-year, $50 billion energy plan akin to the Apollo project that put men on the moon during a campaign stop in Iowa.

This story in the Des Moines Register says Biden’s plan will use a combination of alternative energy production and conservation:

“The innovative capacity of the United States of America is so awesome that, I predict in the next 10 years we will once again be in circles where you’ll have no less light, no less heat, no less comfort in automobiles, but we’re going to see technology bloom in my administration,” he said.

Here are some key points to Biden’s plan:

• Increase fuel efficiency and use of alternative fuels Biden proposes raising fuel economy standards by one mile per gallon each year and investing in new technology such as lithium ion batteries which fuel many plug-in hybrid vehicles. He proposes requiring new vehicles to be flex-fuel capable and requiring gas station chains to sell alternative fuels.

• Invest in new energy technology

• Expand use of renewable energy

• Mandating that federal government buildings be more energy efficient and requiring the government to purchase 10 percent renewable electricity by 2010.

• Encourage Amercans to use energy efficiently

• Create “green jobs” in areas of developing alternative energy

Biofuel Makers Want Changes to Farm Credit Rules

Leaders in Iowa’s renewable energy field are asking Congressional leaders to change federal law so Farm Credit would be allowed to make loans to build ethanol and biodiesel plants that do not have a majority of farmer-stockholders as owners.

harkin.jpgThis story in Wallaces Farmer says they’ve sent a letter to both of Iowa’s U.S. Senators, Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin, and to other senators asking for support of the change to Farm Credit’s lending authority because of the problems expanding the renewable fuels industry and maintaining its profitability. The new farm bill, currently under debate, has an amendment with the change:grassley.jpg

The current economic climate is challenging, to say the least,” says Sam Cogdill, president of Amaizing Energy LLC, an ethanol plant at Denison in western Iowa. He is one of eight people representing ethanol and biodiesel plants across the state who signed the letter.

“We understand the struggles of expanding the ethanol and biodiesel industry and trying to keep it profitable in changing economic times,” he adds. “Rising input costs and other factors are creating increasingly smaller margins for ethanol and biodiesel producers.”

But bankers are balking at the idea:

The Farm Credit System was created under a federal charter years ago and operates as a cooperative. “As a government-sponsored lender, they have certain advantages we don’t have,” says Jim Schipper, president of American State Bank at Osceola and current chairman of the Iowa Bankers Association.

The Farm Credit System has preferential tax treatment and access to funding at interest rates a commercial bank is not eligible to get. “That’s fine as long as Farm Credit lenders are within their mission–providing credit to farmers,” says Schipper. “But this expanded horizons idea goes way beyond that. If they want to finance enterprises that are not farmer-owned projects, then they should have to discontinue their federal support.”

Schipper goes on to point out that guys such as Bill Gates, who owns one-fourth of Pacific Ethanol, would be eligible for the Farm Credit loans if the change happens.

Candidates Vye for Iowa Biodiesel Vote

clinton.jpgPresidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and John McCain (R-Arizona) made separate stops at two Renewable Energy Group biodiesel facilities during their campaigns in Iowa today.

mccain-bus.jpgClinton toured the 30-million gallon REG network biodiesel production facility in Newton, while McCain attended the ribbon-cutting of the new REG headquarters in Ames. The fact that two national candidates are pushing biodiesel is a welcome sight to the National Biodiesel Board:

“These two visits in the same day exemplify the bipartisan recognition of biodiesel’s many benefits, ranging from economic development to energy security to climate change,” said Darryl Brinkmann, who serves as Chairman of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and spoke at the event. “The NBB applauds efforts to increase public awareness of the many benefits associated with expanded biodiesel production and use.”

Keep in mind, though, that neither one has been a great advocate of biofuels when it really counted: during their votes in the U.S. Senate. Back on June 5th, I told you about McCain’s flip-flopping ways when it comes to alternative energy with this from a UPI article:

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., skipped the Iowa caucuses, perhaps sensing that, among other things, his opposition to ethanol subsidies would not go over well in a corn-growing state like Iowa.

Seven years later, he is crisscrossing the country again to win support for his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee, and this time his route includes stops in Iowa.

The article points out that in a speech in Virginia in April McCain said that while he would encourage the growth of ethanol infrastructure, he still won’t sign off on government subsidies.

Clinton is a bit of a fair-weathered friend of biofuels as well, as I pointed out in a July 24th post from this Newsday article:

At one time, Clinton stood squarely with ethanol’s opponents, and voted several times against ethanol bills.

When the Senate last took up ethanol-related legislation in 2005, the former first lady unsuccessfully opposed requiring refiners to boost their use of renewable fuels and the 51-cent tax credit.

Previously, she had warned that requiring added ethanol would bring higher gasoline prices and environmental risks.

“We are providing a single industry with a guaranteed market for its products — subsidies on top of subsidies on top of subsidies and, on top of that, protection from liability,” she said during an April 2002 Senate energy bill debate. “What a sweetheart deal.”

So let’s see where both these candidates REALLY stand when the Iowa Caucuses are over.