Minnoco Expands Higher Ethanol Blends in Twin Cities

Independent fuel retailer Minnoco is expanding its outlets with 18 new locations joining the brand. When completed, the brand will feature 24 retailers, many of whom will be offering higher blends of ethanol, such as E15, and biodiesel to consumers.

“Our owners believe we have a competitive advantage by offering more fuel choices like E15 to consumers,” stated Lance Klatt, executive director for Minnoco. “Our new brand not only draws in consumers for more affordable fuels but is also a great business model for retailers.”

Minnoco signLeveraging existing convenience store and automotive repair locations in many cases, retail owners are moving away from a branded oil contract into the independent brand of Minnoco. “With Minnoco, I’m able to offer E15 as a more competitive fuel to my customers at a much lower price vs. regular,” explained Rick Bohnen, president of Minnoco and owner of Penn Minnoco. “This is a better business model for me because it significantly reduces my operational costs vs. branded fuels and I’m able to pass the savings on to consumers.”

In addition, Minnoco retailers have more freedom to offer biofuels that are grown and produced in Minnesota. Though the product offering will vary slightly by retail location, Minnoco will be offering E15, E30, E85 and diesel along with regular grades of gasoline.

“All of our regular 87 gas already contains 10% ethanol,” explained Jerry Charmoli, Minnoco owner and a mechanic for more than 30 years. “E15 is approved for vehicles 2001 and newer and we’ve had zero problems, in fact my customers love the cost savings and extra performance.”

In response to the announcement today by Minnoco, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said, “Minnesota has always been a leader in offering renewable fuels to consumers. I am glad to see an increasing number of service station owners and convenience stores offer a higher performing, less expensive, renewable fuel option. Minnoco understands what consumers want, and also appreciates the importance of improving our environment, creating and supporting jobs right here in America that cannot be outsourced, and reducing our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels and foreign oil, all while saving consumers at the pump.”

Protec Fuel Expands E15, E85 in the South

Protect Fuel is working with retailers in the South and Southeast to open 28 E15 and E85 stations. The announcement marks the first phase of an introduction of E15 to cities including Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, Texas. Florida and Virginia will also be on the target list.

protecfuel1“Because of the success of our retailers who have offered E85 in the past, our retail customers are asking us for E15,” said Todd Garner, CEO of Protec Fuel. “With our proven expertise in the field, it’s natural for us to help meet the demand of many convenience store retailers – large and small – who want to offer products different than their competitors. Further, this can aid in helping to meet the Renewable Fuel Standard [RFS] blend wall, after market concentration of E10,” Garner said.

E15 can be used in vehicles 2001 or newer while E85 can be used in any flex fuel vehicle. Protec Fuel provides ethanol blends to retailers as well as installs ethanol stations. The company currently supplies, either directly or through distribution partners, more than 200 E85 stations.

In response to the announcement, Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO said, “Protec has listened to their customers and retailers, and has taken the initiative to offer higher ethanol blends that improve the environment, create jobs at home, and strengthen our energy and national security. Furthermore, Protec knows that by offering a homegrown, less expensive fuel they will continue to build a customer base by providing a choice and savings at the pump.”

“Bottom line – consumer demand for homegrown, high performance, low cost fuels cannot be ignored,” added Buis. “E15 continues to spread across the nation and Protec is a leader in a larger movement that will increase E15’s footprint across our nation, finally ending Big Oil’s stranglehold on the liquid fuels marketplace.”

Growth Energy’s Model Ethanol Plant

Growth Energy Model PlantDuring the Farm Progress Show last week several companies featured some cool technologies and displays featuring agriculture’s role in producing clean energy such as biofuels. One partnership that has been very successful is that between New Holland and Growth Energy. New Holland has very publicly shown its support for ethanol has developed equipment for farmers to more easily harvest their energy crops.

When visiting the New Holland booth not only could you see this amazing equipment, but you were able to see a model ethanol plant – thousands of Farm Progress attendees have never has the opportunity to visit an ethanol plant.

In this video with Kelly Manning, vice president of development for Growth Energy, you can get your own virtual tour of the ethanol plant. The educational display was under glass and the ethanol plant was built to scale demonstrating the role feedstocks play in the production process as well as how the products are delivered from the plant.

CHS Supports Cenex Tank Program to Boost E15

CHS has developed a new program to better enable some of the 1,400 Cenex branded locations across the country to meet consumer demand for E15 ethanol fuel blend. “We are excited to offer a new Cenex® Tank Program, which further demonstrates CHS leadership in renewable fuels and helps keep the Cenex brand at the forefront in meeting consumer demand for ethanol blends,” said Doug Dorfman, CHS vice president – refined fuels.

Cenex StationThe Cenex Tank Program will cover a significant portion of the cost to purchase and install an additional storage tank for the purpose of offering E15 for interested retailers. The Cenex network was one of the first to begin offering mid-level ethanol blends and according to Dorfman, the stations have seen significant increases in ethanol sales.

“Growth Energy applauds CHS Inc. and Cenex for their steadfast commitment to renewable fuels and their announcement of the Cenex Tank Program, which will better enable some of the 1,400 Cenex branded locations to meet consumer demands for E15,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy in response to the news. “The new program will cover a substantial part of the cost to obtain and install an additional E15 storage tank for retailers interested in expanding their offerings.”

Buis continued, “Their decision also demonstrates the strength of consumer demand for higher ethanol blends such as E15. It proves once again that consumers will select a high performance, low cost fuel when given the choice. Cenex is clearly a leader in the marketplace and is acutely in tune with what their customers want and need. I am impressed by all that Cenex is doing for our consumers and our country. They are empowering consumers with the ability to improve our environment and increase our nation’s energy and national security, all while saving money at the pump.”

Currently, E15 is available at more than 90 stations. The locations are spread between 14 states including: Wis., S.D., Ohio, Neb., N.D., N.C., Mo., Minn., Miss., Kan., Ind., Ill., Iowa and Ariz.

RFS Headed to OMB for Review

epaThe Environmental Protection Agency has sent its final rule on 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review in a last step before public release. Renewable fuels groups responded to the news today.

“We’re pleased to see the process moving forward and hope the final rule will show that this Administration is standing behind our national goals for clean, domestic fuels that strengthen our economy and national security,” said National Biodiesel Board Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “The original EPA proposal and continued delays have severely disrupted the U.S. biodiesel industry this year. We can begin to reverse that damage with a meaningful increase in the biodiesel volume that is finalized as quickly as possible so that producers can ramp up production in a timely fashion.”

“While we have not seen the rule, we hold strong in our belief that EPA and OMB will fulfill President Obama’s commitment to biofuels as a means of greater energy independence, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and wider availability of cost-saving alternative fuels for American consumers,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “This decision is about more than targets and gallons, it is about a rationale that places highest importance on the long term strength of this country and not the bottom line of oil companies.”

“While OMB has up to 90 days to review this rule, what is most important is the content of the final rule,” added Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “Ultimately, this final rule should promote the policy goals of the RFS and call for an increase in the production of renewable fuels, so we can continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs at home that cannot be outsourced and mitigate climate change, while we improve our environment.”

Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol, says his members are pleased with the progress. “Anything short of that turns the keys to the RFS over to the oil companies and puts cellulosic biofuel at risk,” said Jennings. “While all stakeholders have waited a long time for the final rule, and it could take another 30 days or more for interagency review, getting the rule done right is far more important than getting it done quickly.”

Since the rule is not public yet, there is no word on whether the volume requirements were changed from the initial proposal, which reduced the amount of ethanol and kept the biodiesel requirement the same. Senator John Thune (R-SD) expects some middle ground. “I think we’ll see an upward change,” he says. “I hope it’s a significant upward change and I hope that in ’15 they look at this in a different way.”

Thune still expects it will be later in the fall before a final rule is announced. EPA received over 340,000 comments on the proposal.

USDA Predicts Record Corn Crop

U.S. farmers are expected to produce more corn than last year, according to the latest USDA report out today.

The August Crop Production report finds that good growing conditions are expected to help growers bring in a record-high crop at 14.0 billion bushels of corn, up 1 percent from 2013 which was also a record at the time. Yields are expected to average 167.4 bushels per acre, which would be the highest yield ever for the United States. Objective yield data indicate the greatest number of ears on record for the ten largest corn producing states.

NCGA-LogoDue to the increased production, the average farm price was lowered a dime from its July estimate, to a range of $3.55 to $4.25 per bushel, which National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre says makes it important to keep demand moving forward. “Now is not the time for our federal policymakers to be cutting into the ethanol standard, imposing undue regulations or going slow on trade agreements,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre. “Our farmers are doing their part, working hard and smart on their farms to bring in a good crop. It’s time Washington removed obstacles and cleared a path so we can sell America’s biggest and most versatile crop at a good and fair price.”

growth-energy-logoThe new World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate projects ending corn stocks to be 1.808 billion bushels, up 7 million bushels from July and the highest level of carryover stocks since 2005. “It is clear from this report that the food versus fuel debate over the U.S. renewable fuel policy can be put to bed,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “It is time to stop attacking a homegrown American industry that is creating jobs, improving our environment and mitigating climate change, all while decreasing out dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels. It is time that the facts, not rhetoric drive the debate and today’s WASDE report should finally end these ridiculous claims. This report makes clear that the American farmer can fuel America and feed the world.”

Grains Council Working on Ethanol Exports

usgrainscouncil1The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is working on promoting exports of U.S. ethanol through a partnership between USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

“We’ve been working since late March, early April to determine which markets we’re going to do market assessments in and then next year we’ll shift into market development activities,” said Ashley Kongs, USGC manager of ethanol export program. The Grains Council is planning three regional market assessment programs this year, going to Japan and Korea in September, Latin America in November, and southeast Asia in early December.

Earlier this year, USGC participated in a trade mission to China with USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse where they were able to discuss the possibility of ethanol exports to that country. “They visited with a Chinese ethanol plant and they had meetings with the National Energy Administration in China,” said Kongs. “Currently ethanol can only be sold in six designated markets in China for blending with fuel, but the group had discussions about the possibility of expanding ethanol use nationwide.” Kongs says while there are challenges in the Chinese market, the Grains Council sees great potential for the future to open the door for U.S. ethanol exports.

USGC continues to build on its success in promoting exports of the ethanol co-product distillers grains and will be again this year joining RFA in hosting the Export Exchange, an international trade conference focused on the export of U.S. coarse grains and ethanol co-products held every two years. Early registration for the event is open until July 31 and USGC and RFA members are eligible for discounted pricing.

Mudsummer Classic Features American Ethanol

dillon-ethanolAmerican Ethanol will be in the spotlight today as driver Austin Dillon will be defending his crown at Eldora Speedway for NASCAR’s Mudsummer Classic World Truck series race in Ohio.

Last year, Dillon won the historic race driving his American Ethanol branded truck, his first truck race since winning NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series championship in 2011.

“Eldora is always an exciting race for NASCAR fans, but it is an exciting opportunity for corn farmers too,” said National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) NASCAR Advisory Committee Chair Jon Holzfaster. “With American Ethanol spokesman Austin Dillon firmly in the spotlight, Eldora provides a great platform to get our message about the environmental and economic benefits ethanol offers all Americans to a broader audience. The buzz continues to grow. Ethanol helps clean our air, improve our economic independence and benefits American consumers and farmers alike.”

American Ethanol is a partnership of Growth Energy and the National Corn Growers Association.

Ethanol & Corn Production Up, Food & Gas Prices Down

Growth Energy is attacking the myth that ethanol production increases food prices.

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy notes that time and again, Big Oil, big Food and special interests are attacking the ethanol industry and placing blame on them for rising food prices. “But when you look at the facts, nothing could be further from the truth. Recently, there has been a surge in ethanol production, while at the same time corn prices have been falling. Currently, corn is trading at $3.99, half the cost of Growth_Energy_logo-1what it traded for two years ago, yet food prices continue to rise because the cost of oil continues to climb. In fact, a recent World Bank study outlines how crude oil prices are responsible for 50 percent of the increase in food prices since 2004.”

Buis continued by noting that while Big Oil continues its “fear mongering” about the use of ethanol, American Consumers have just experienced a six year high in gas prices over the 4th of July weekend. In fact, he said, gas prices continue to stay at near record prices while ethanol is trading around one dollar per gallon below the cost of wholesale gas.

“Clearly global political unrest is once again responsible for driving consumer fuel prices higher, ” said Buis. “And, because of Big Oil’s monopoly over the fuels market, consumers currently have to pay more to drive to the store and the hits keep on coming when they check out at the grocery line! What I find interesting is that while Big Oil and Big Food continue to propagate the same old myths about food and renewable fuels, they are not as forthcoming when it comes to explaining to the public why they are making record profits on the backs of American consumers.”

“As President John Adams once said, ‘Facts are stubborn things.’” “Clearly,” said Buis, “this is the case for Big Oil, Big Food and their cronies, who are doing everything in their power to find a straw man to divert attention away from their excessive appetite for increased profit margins at the expense of hardworking American families.”

Railways Not Required to Report Ethanol Delays

stbA few weeks ago, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) directed Canadian Pacific Railway Company and BNSF Railway Company to report their plans to resolve the backlogs of grain car orders and to submit weekly status reports on grain car service.

However, the order failed to address rail service problems for the delivery of ethanol, and Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis has sent a letter to the STB asking why.

growth-energy-logo“With over 61 percent of all ethanol delivered by rail, it is imperative that these issues be directly addressed and given the same priority as grain shipments,” said Buis in the letter. “Earlier this year, we saw ethanol supply dwindle and prices skyrocket solely because of the inability to get rail cars to ship product – even to the point of having many plants reduce production. Ultimately, these service failures hurt the American consumer as these costs are borne in the form of higher gasoline prices, which impact every segment of the American economy.”

BNSF reported recently that they have been moving increasing volumes of grain and ethanol over the last several months and as of last month was “moving more year–to–date in 2014 than the same period in 2013.” In a statement, BNSF said they “have exceeded last year’s totals in ethanol…by 9% in latest year-to-date totals.”

The first report from the railroad companies was due to STB on June 27.

Supreme Court Turns Down California LCFS Case

supreme-courtIn the flurry of decisions by the Supreme Court released the morning, justices declined to review California’s low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) decision.

A federal trial judge ruled against the LCFS in 2011 but the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling last year and denied rehearing the case in January.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy issued a joint statement regarding the decision.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court has declined to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision, despite the broad support for the petition – including 21 states. We will continue our efforts to protect the American biofuel industry and the national interest and will continue to ensure that all consumers have access to low-priced, American-made biofuels.”

The ethanol industry was joined in challenging the California law by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM). “The Supreme Court’s decision not to review this case is disappointing and leaves in place a state regulation that discriminates against fuels and other products produced outside of California,” said AFPM General Counsel Richard Moskowitz. “California’s efforts to dictate how fuel is produced outside of its borders ignores Constitutional safeguards that have long protected against one state controlling the conduct of private parties beyond their borders.”

Industry Highlights Flaws in CBO Report

In an update to a story posted last week regarding the new CBO report, “Renewable Fuel Standard: Issues for 2014 and Beyond,” more renewable energy industry representatives are speaking out regarding what they say are flaws in the report.

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy said of the report, “This report looks at unrealistic scenarios and completely ignores the very goals of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which are to decrease our nation’s dangerous dependence on foreign oil, create jobs and spur economic growth and investment, and improve our environment, all while offering consumers a choice and savings at the pump. The CBO report simply shrugs off these critical policy goals contained in the RFS by noting that, ‘CBO did not account for that effect in this analysis.’

CBO 2014 RFS reportBuis also pointed out the ethanol is currently trading a dollar less than gasoline on the Chicago Board of Trade, which the CBO fails to acknowledge. The report also fails to consider, said Buis, the 40 year history of volatile gas prices and also ignores the effect the current turmoil in Iraq. However, Buis points out, increased domestic fuel production of fuels such as ethanol and a decrease on dependence of foreign oil would help provide stability and reduce the price hikes in gas prices at the pump.

“Clearly, this report is agenda driven and ignores the facts. Wild and statically unrealistic conclusions such as these show just how flawed the majority of this report is, and why it should not be taken with any level of seriousness,” added Buis. “It seems to me that the CBO got only one thing right in this assessment, and that is with regards to the production of ethanol from corn and how it has virtually no impact on the price of food. Yet, again it is flawed as it fails to highlight that the true driver of food costs is the price of oil.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) was also unhappy with the report and said that CBO’s claim that repealing the RFS would reduce gasoline prices is “simply false”. “The RFS has reduced consumer demand for oil, and the study fails to take that into account. It is unfortunate that CBO, which is supposed to be objective, released such a flawed study that does not take into account the reality of fuel markets,” said NFU Senior Vice President of Programs Chandler Goule.

“Study after study show that the RFS is saving consumers money. E85prices.com recently released data showing that consumers filling up with E85 can save an average of $0.61 less per gallon,” Goule continued. “The RFS is a successful policy tool that decreases our nation’s reliance on foreign oil, creates economic opportunities in rural America, and effectively decreases the greenhouse gas footprint of the transportation sector. CBO should have taken all of these benefits to consumers into consideration when performing the study.”

DF Cast: Finding Ways to Increase Ethanol Blends

While the ethanol industry awaits the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision on the amount of ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply, ethanol producers are looking at other ways to make sure the green fuel increases its blend amounts.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, Dean Drake with the consulting company the Defour Group, Scott Zaremba, president of Zarco Incorporated, and Ken Parrent, the ethanol director for the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, as they give their thoughts on how consumer demand will be a bigger driver for higher ethanol blends after attending an Indiana Corn Growers Association ethanol forum that focused on marketing mid-level ethanol blends and ran following the recent 2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Indianapolis.

Domestic Fuel Cast - Increasing Ethanol Blends

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

Higher Ethanol Blends Campaign Expands

The 4th annual Alternative Fuel Road Show is kicking off in Georgia to educate consumers about the benefits of higher blends of ethanol. The FlexFuel Awareness Campaign is sponsored in part by Growth Energy, the Kansas and Nebraska Corn and Ethanol Boards along with several others. The roadshow is the largest clean fuel vehicle educational tour and is designed to reach fleet managers, civic leaders and state legislators to help them make informed decisions about transitioning to clean, alternative fuels.

Alternative Fuel Road ShowFlex Fuel Vehicles and ethanol blends are an option for fleet managers that we want to make sure they understand,” said Doug Durante, executive director of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition and manager of the Awareness Campaign. “On a cost per mile basis various ethanol blends can be very competitive and offer fleet managers true flexibility.”

The eight city tour kicks off in Georgia June 17, 2014 with the 2014 Georgia Alternative Fuel Road Show at the Georgia International Convention Center. Each event will include workshop events.

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy noted that along with increasing the E15 market, high level ethanol blends are key to expanding the domestic ethanol market and breaking through the blend wall. “Flex fuel use in fleets can be an important piece of the puzzle as we continue to back out imported oil, create jobs, and improve air quality,” said Buis.

Durante added, “As part of an ‘all of the above’ approach, this Road Show showcases all the alternative fuels, and they all have their strengths and advantages in a given situation. We are pleased to be part of this successful effort and make sure biofuels like ethanol are in the mix.”

Following the Georgia road show the program will move to the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC Metropolitan area with numerous events planned throughout the region. In addition to the FlexFuel Awareness Campaign, other sponsors and contributing organizations include the Atlanta Clean Cities Program, the Georgia Public Service Commission, Nissan Motors, and many others.

Tom Buis Discusses Ethanol Challenges at FEW

The 30th Annual Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) kicked off this week with an annual ethanol industry update from Growth Energy’s CEO Tom Buis. Leah Guffey was able to catch up with Buis after his presentation and asked him what some of the biggest challenges facing the ethanol industry are right now.

growth energy Tom Buis 2014 FEW“The most immediate challenge confronting us is what the EPA and the administration is going to with the 2014 renewable fuel volume obligations (RVOs),” answered Buis. This is in essence what the industry calls the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard.

The rule, noted Buis, should have been finalized by January 1, 2014. He said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is late and the proposed rule is a very controversial rule. “The proposed rule really missed the mark in our opinion,” said Buis. “We don’t think they based it upon the facts. We’ve spent the last six months trying to convince them they got it wrong and they’ve got to move it forward not backwards.”

When asked when he thought the final rule would come out Buis answered, “Pick your rumor.” He said there were over 300,000 comments about the proposed rule and he believes EPA is working as fast as they can.

While there are many steps that have to be taken before the rule can be finalized, Buis said, “Hopefully they get it right. I’ll take it late if it’s right as opposed to early and wrong.”

Learn more about some of the challenges facing the ethanol industry in Leah’s interview with Tom Buis:Interview with Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis

Check out the 2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop photo album.