IRFA: Iowa ‘Gas Tax’ to Boost Biodiesel

IowaRFAlogoThe Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) has joined the Iowa Biodiesel Board in welcoming a state gas tax that is awaiting the governor’s signature that will create a 3-cent per gallon differential tax rate for 11 percent biodiesel and higher blends. The IRFA says the measure would boost the availability and sales of cleaner-burning, locally-produced biodiesel.

Under the legislation, diesel fuel will be taxed at a rate of 32.5 cents per gallon. However, if diesel fuel is blended with 11 percent or more of biodiesel, the state excise tax is reduced to only 29.5 cents per gallon. The 3-cent per gallon differential for B11 and higher blends will go into effect on July 1, 2015.

“The biodiesel community thanks the Iowa Legislature for its commitment to increasing the use and availability of higher biodiesel blends,” stated Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Policy Director Grant Menke. “The 3-cent differential for blends containing at least 11 percent biodiesel will be a useful tool to build upon the progress we’ve made in cleaning up our air and supporting our economy through the use of homegrown Iowa biodiesel. The B11 differential further demonstrates Iowa’s policy leadership in expanding market access and consumer choice for renewable fuels.”

“With no end in sight on the federal policy uncertainty for biodiesel, I am grateful the Iowa Legislature took this opportunity to drive sales of higher biodiesel blends,” stated IRFA Vice President and Western Dubuque Biodiesel General Manager Tom Brooks. “This 3-cent differential for B11 and higher blends represents another step forward for the economic, environmental and energy security benefits that come along with a strong Iowa biodiesel community.”

Iowa produced 227 million gallons of biodiesel in 2014, about 16 percent of total U.S. biodiesel production for the year.

W. Virginia Gov – Don’t Put Solar in the Dark

Solar supporters from across the country are calling on West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to veto House Bill 2201 – a bill that could jeopardize the future of rooftop solar in the state by rewriting net metering policies.

Solar advocates from Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed (TUSK) claim that utilities, such as American Electomblinheadshottric Power (AEP) and FirstEnergy, are deceiving legislators about the language in HB 2201. Should the Gov sign the bill, TUSK said he would “saddle” hundreds of West Virginia families, churches and businesses, that have invested private funds in rooftop solar with new fees. This is happening, said TUSK, at the same time as two utilities – Mon Power and Potomac Edison – are raising rates.

“The utilities are fighting tooth and nail to eliminate competition while also raising rates for their customers,” said Barry Goldwater Jr., spokesperson for TUSK. “When will it be enough? These monopolies are hurting consumers and West Virginia’s economy by increasing rates and pushing new fees through HB 2201.”

TUSK logoThe net metering fight has been underway for some time and TUSK said that to date, hundreds of consumers have written to their legislators in support of rooftop solar.  TUSK said this particular “attack” uses deceptive language in HB 2201 to impose punitive fees – retroactively and going forward – on West Virginians. The organizations said thousands of West Virginia voters continue to stand strong for choice and competition in the energy market and continue to flood the Governor’s office with letters asking him to preserve net metering and energy choice..

“SEIA doesn’t object to investigating the costs and benefits of net energy metering, but we do object to the assumption that any potential cost shift from a net metering customer to other customers is unjustified,” adds Rhone Resch, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) president and CEO, who notes that the legislation needs to be revised before becoming law. Continue reading

Growth Tells Ethanol Producers to Talk to Congress

growth-energy-logoAs alternative energy producers have gathered in Washington, D.C. for the 2015 Energy Independence Summit, the leader of a group representing ethanol producers’ interests is encouraging them to take time to see lawmakers while they are in town. Growth Energy’s Tom Buis told attendees to let their representatives know how critical the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is in achieving energy independence.

“The RFS has been the most successful energy policy this nation has enacted in the last forty years,” Buis noted. “It has helped reduce our dependence on foreign oil by nearly 50 percent, it is cleaner and better for our environment, it creates American jobs that cannot be outsourced, supports a robust rural economy and in 2014 it contributed more than $50 billion dollars to our GDP. Furthermore, it provides the American consumer with a choice and savings when they go and fill up at the pump.”

Attendees of the Energy Independence Summit are scheduled to meet with members of Congress this week and Buis concluded by encouraging attendees to, “Educate members of Congress on how the RFS plays a critical role in achieving energy security and independence. Explain that is working, and succeeding in reaching the goals it was designed to meet. Now is the time to move forward, not backward on policies that promote renewable energy.”

The 2015 Energy Independence Summit concludes today and is sponsored by a number of ethanol, biodiesel and clean energy groups, as well as some of the companies using them, such as UPS and carmakers. It features the nation’s Clean Cities Coalitions and transportation energy leaders coming together to share best practices and educate federal policy makers about the need for incentives, tools and resources to overcome barriers to the widespread use of cleaner vehicles and fuels.

Iowa Biodiesel Board Welcomes State ‘Gas Tax’

iowabiodieselboardThe Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) is welcoming a proposal that would raise the state’s fuel tax. This news release from the group says the proposed state legislation would give a partial exemption to the new tax for diesel blended with at least 11 percent biodiesel (B11), encouraging use and growth of the green fuel.

The proposed tax increase (HF 351 and SF 257) is 10 cents a gallon for both diesel and gasoline as part of a plan to address Iowa’s infrastructure needs. A provision provides a 3 cent exemption for biodiesel blends of B11 and above for 5 years.

The IBB, whose membership includes biodiesel producers, soybean farmers and other stakeholders, called the biodiesel nod a bold leadership move.

“This is smart policy on the part of our state leaders that will benefit the entire state, and we thank them,” said Grant Kimberley, executive director of IBB. “Doing everything we can to encourage biodiesel production and usage generates significant economic activity for Iowa. Every gallon of biodiesel we use at home is one less equivalent gallon from the Middle East, and keeps money in our state.”

The bill has a 5-year sunset, but the IBB is hoping to see that extended to 10 years in the future.

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.

Bill Proposes to Up NYC’s Biodiesel Use for Heat

BioHeatSome New York City residents could be using more biodiesel for heating their workplaces. This article from the New York Daily News says a bill just introduced before the city council would up the biodiesel percentage in heating oil for city buildings to 5 percent next year and up to 20 percent by 2030.

“It’s the equivalent of taking 45,000 cars off the road,” [bill sponsor Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Queens)] said. “Buildings are a huge source of emissions, and we have to find a way of dealing with buildings.”

Current city law requires 2% of heating oil to come from biofuel.

The average household burns 600 gallons of heating oil a year.

The proposal would graduate in the increase – 10 percent blends in 2020, 15 percent by 2025 and 20 percent by 2030.

First Biodiesel Mandate Cited in Influence Award

nbc-15-schoenfeldThe mandate that inspired other states to put in their own biodiesel requirements and the man who helped start it all were recognized during the recent National Biodiesel Conference & Expo. Jerry Schoenfeld of Minneapolis-based Greater States Advisors picked up the Eye on Biodiesel Influence Award for his instrumental part in the development, passage, and defense of landmark biodiesel legislation in Minnesota after soybean growers came to him in 2000.

He admits he didn’t know much about biodiesel back then, as there was just 2 million gallons produced nationwide each year – a dramatic difference from today’s 1.8 BILLION gallons annually. Jerry said he had to work with a state legislature that was split between Republicans and Democrats and an Independent governor. The nation’s first 2 percent biodiesel standard for all diesel was finally made into law and served as a blueprint for other states’ mandates.

“In many ways, that measure worked, along with many others in your respective states,” Jerry told the group. He added that working with the split legislature and governor’s office taught him important lessons in legislative matters. “If you work hard and you keep at it, you will succeed. And secondly, you can’t always assume who your friends and who your enemies are, because on any given day, different politicians will be both!”

Listen to Jerry’s remarks here: Interview with Jerry Schoenfeld, biodiesel award winner

2015 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

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

2014 Energy Legislation in Review

As 2015 kicks off the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) has released an Advanced Energy Legislation 2014 Year in Review. During 2014, the report found that 430 advanced energy bills became law. While the total number of enacted bills decreased from 713 in 2013, CNEE found that percentages of energy legislation by policy category remained stable. This leads the company to predict that interest in energy policy should remain somewhat constant over the next year.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 9.44.48 PM

Figure 1. 2014 Enacted Legislation by Policy Category (430 bills)

There were several notable pieces of legislation passed last year including energy legislation in California, Hawaii, Nevada, Maine, Minnesota and Rhode Island. In 2014, South Carolina became the latest state to enact a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) focused on distributed generation while Ohio and Indiana suffered setbacks. Other key actions during the year included state responses to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan proposed rule, along with concerns over revenue shortfalls in the federal Highway Trust Fund due to increased fuel economy and new pipeline safety rules.

A few other key wins for renewable energy included Maine’s new solar standard that will grow the state’s use of solar energy from an estimated 40 MW in 2016 to 500 MW n 2030. Massachusetts added a renewable thermal energy storage standard.

The report was based on CNEE’s Advanced Energy Legislation Tracker, a tool for finding and tracking energy legislation by state (and federal). Click here to read.

Oregon Aims to Cut Biomass Tax Incentives

OregonFlagBiomass producers in Oregon could lose out on some production tax credits, if the state gets its way. This story from Oregon Public Broadcasting says the state’s Department of Energy proposed a change that reduces tax incentives for biomass facilities.

Matt Krumenauer, a senior policy analyst with the agency, said the tax program was intended to offset the costs of producing, collecting and transporting biomass.

“We’ve analyzed the program and found that those costs for animal manure are much less than similar production or collection costs for other types of biomass,” he said.

Krumenauer said the tax credit provides incentives that are sometimes 10-times higher for animal manure than for other types of biomass, such as wood.

The losses could total up to nearly $5 million a year, based on current credits being handed out. The change would have to be made by the state legislature and signed off by the governor.

Poll: Americans Want More Wind Power

A recent national poll commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) finds that the majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents want more American-produced wind power; they also back an extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC). The poll found 73 percent of registered voters support continuing the PTC, including 63 percent of registered Republicans, 74 percent of Independents, and over 71 percent overall in all regions of the country.

This poll supports similar results from a national survey conducted by USA Today, Standford University and Resources for the Future in December 2013 when the PTC was originally set to expire (it was extended one year). The renewable energy PTC and Investment Tax Credit have a history of bipartisan support, as they did last April when five Republicans joined Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee in an 18-6 vote to include them in this year’s tax extenders bill, the EXPIRE Act.

AWEA PTC chart“These poll results couldn’t be clearer. American voters support wind power and support continuing the incentive for investment in wind power,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the AWEA. “It’s time for Congress to do what the majority of Americans want – and that means extending the Production Tax Credit so we can keep scaling up this critically important American energy source.”

The latest poll also found 79 percent of registered voters, including 69 percent of Republicans, agree with the statement “incentives for investment in wind energy help American workers make more of our own energy right here in America.” The data finds that in nearly all regions, the PTC is essential if new wind installations and cost reductions are to continue and benefit more consumers. According to AWEA, failures to continue the PTC by Congress in the past has caused an up to 92 percent drop in new wind power installations over the previous year, causing the loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in private investment to the U.S. economy.

Stanford Releases State Clean Energy Cookbook

States are implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency program that could be adopted by their neighbors to improve their economies and reduce emissions cost-effectively according to a joint study by Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance and Hoover Institution’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy. These policies could be particularly valuable as states develop plans to meet pending U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations to cut power plant carbon emissions.

The State Clean Energy CookbookThe State Clean Energy Cookbook: A Dozen Recipes for State Action on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy,” was led by former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman and former Secretary of State and Treasury George Shultz. The report analyzes and makes specific recommendations regarding 12 policies that states are using today to encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy. It also analyzes the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) State Energy Program, which assists all 50 states.

The authors reach “an encouraging conclusion” in the report, writing, “Both red states and blue states are turning green – whether measured in dollar savings or environmental improvement.”

“We are impressed by the breadth of experience that states around the country already have in encouraging energy efficiency and renewable energy in ways that save money, reduce pollution and strengthen their energy security,” said Shultz, who co-chairs the Hoover Institution’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy. “The goal of the study is to provide a source for states to compare and contrast innovative policies, so that they can learn from each other.”

Recipes for policy success include:

  • A detailed policy description
  • Recommendation for implementation
  • Current state examples
  • Discussion of policy benefits
  • Specific policy design considerations
  • Additional policy resources

Bingaman, former chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee who co-authored the study, concluded “States truly are the ‘laboratories of democracy’ when it comes to renewable energy and energy efficiency, adopting groundbreaking programs and policies that could provide benefits around the country.”

Grassley Adds Biodiesel, Wind Amendments to Jobs Bill

grassley-headA U.S. senator has filed amendments to a jobs bill that would renew the expired wind energy and biodiesel tax incentives… although he admits it could be just political posturing. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants to add the renewals to the Bring Jobs Home Act, which he says really is just political messaging and not a serious jobs bill.

“I don’t expect to be allowed to offer my amendments because the Senate majority leader shuts out amendments from the Republican side,” Grassley said. “But I want to draw attention to the potential growth in a sector of the economy that’s right under our noses. This area could get a real boost if the majority in Congress chooses to act to restore these tax incentives.

“In fact, if the majority leader were really interested in jobs, he would devote floor time to debating and processing the pending bipartisan tax extenders legislation as it should be processed, in its entirety, to provide certainty to businesses and individuals alike. There’s no reason this tax relief legislation should be left to sit on the sidelines. Instead, it should be front and center in any effort to spur job-generating economic activity.”

Grassley had already secured renewal of the expired wind energy and biodiesel tax provisions, which expired at the beginning of this year, in a tax measure passed out of the Finance Committee back in April, but that bill is still awaiting action from the full Senate.

Geothermal Bill Makes Progress in California

The California Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee approved the proposed geothermal legislation S.B. 1139 with a 6-2 vote. Earlier in the week, the Utilities and Commerce Committee also passed the bill, by 8-5. The Senate approved it in May. This bill, should enacted, will strengthen the geothermal industry’s position in the state as it moves to lower carbon energy solutions.

California_Geothermal-3“The Geothermal Energy Association supports existing geothermal power facilities in California and efforts to expand geothermal power production in the state,” said Karl Gawell, GEA’s executive director said upon passage of the bill from the two committees.

The next step is for the bill to be heard in August by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If the bill is enacted, retail sellers would need to increased their geothermal-powered electricity use by a combined total of 500 MW by 2024.

GEA has noted that California has great potential for geothermal power development throughout the state. In other California geothermal news, a concurrent initiative by the Imperial Irrigation District in Imperial County would use geothermal energy in a plan to restore the Salton Sea habitat and shorelines.