NFU Disturbed by Renewable Energy Funding Cuts

nfu_logo1The National Farmers Union (NFU) is expressing its disappointment in proposed cuts to federal spending on renewable energy. NFU President Roger Johnson released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Water spending subcommittee’s voted to reduce funds for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“Renewable energy and energy efficiency are key to building climate resilience, and many of our rural communities experience much-needed reinvestment from renewable energy development.” Johnson said. “Congress should increase, not cut, funds for renewable energy.”

Johnson noted that America’s family farmers and ranchers are already impacted by increased weather volatility related to the changing climate, including fewer workable days, increased potential for soil erosion, and increased crop insurance claims, and without support for renewables, they may have to brace for additional negative consequences.

“Other consequences, including fluctuating access to water resources and increased pest and weed pressure, will impact our efforts to produce sufficient food, fuel and fiber,” Johnson noted. “Renewable energy will also, in the long term, offer protection against volatile rates and contribute to our nation’s energy independence.”

Iowa Lawmakers Ride-and-Drive on Biodiesel

ia-biodiesel-branstadLawmakers in Iowa got the chance to experience the power of biodiesel for themselves. The Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) held its its first ever Ride-and-Drive event at the capitol in Des Moines as part of the group’s annual “Biodiesel Day on the Hill” event, whose riders included Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.

“As a nation, we should continue to prioritize both a diverse fuel supply and clean, fuel efficient vehicles,” said Grant Kimberley, IBB executive director. “With diesel vehicles running on biodiesel blends, you get both.”

Biodiesel is an advanced biofuel made from agricultural byproducts and co-products, such as soybean oil.

Vehicles on hand included a diesel Chevy Cruze, the only small domestic diesel car; a Ford F-250 Superduty pickup; a Ram 3.0L EcoDiesel pickup; and a diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee. All ran on biodiesel blends during the event. The new 2015 models are approved for 20 percent biodiesel (B20).

Iowa biodiesel producers and supporters were also able to thank Iowa legislators for their support. Earlier this year, the state raised the fuel tax while providing a partial exemption for diesel blended with at least 11 percent biodiesel (B11).

Growth Energy Applauds E15 Bill

growth-energy-logoGrowth Energy is applauding new legislation seen as favorable for E15 ethanol. This news release from the group says the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act sponsored by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) contains a provision to extend the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) volatility waiver to E15, a moved welcomed by Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy:

“We certainly support efforts by Senator Paul and Senator Grassley to remove a major hurdle preventing consumers the opportunity to purchase higher blends such as E15. This has been a major obstacle ever since Growth Energy led the successful effort to get E15 approved for commercial use.

“We are hopeful that Senators Paul and Grassley’s legislative efforts are successful in granting this much needed waiver to overcome the single largest regulatory hurdle to ensuring consumers have access to higher blends such as E15.”

TUSK: NC Solar Bill Laced with Poison Pill

This may prove to be the ‘Spring of Discontent’ for the solar industry as it fights for the right to keep solar affordable for consumers across the USA. Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK) has been amid the solar brawls in several states including North Carolina. The advocacy group cites that North Carolina utilities including Duke Energy Carolinas and Dominion North Carolina Power have “laced” a well-intentioned North Carolina solar bill with a “poison pill” that would “unravel” solar net metering programs.

The utilities are publicly opposing the bill that would prevent third-party owned solar business model from taflying solar panelsking flight. Simultaneously, the utilities are privately attempting to slip in language that would open the doors and slam the solar market into the wall should the bill pass.

Net metering is a policy that gives solar customers full, fair credit for their excess solar energy. If a consumer produces more electricity than his house needs, he can sell the excess power back to the utility for a competitive price. This type of policy has helped to keep the solar market competitive. However, TUSK says if passed, the “Energy Freedom Act” HB 245 would give the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) the authority to approve a separate, discriminatory tariff for net metering customers. A separate tariff paves the way for stripping Tar Heels of the credit they deserve for investing in solar for their own roofs, says TUSK. The bill would also allow utilities to create a separate rate class for rooftop solar customers, a vehicle for solar taxes.

“This bill has a hidden poison pill that would undermine the solar industry,” said TUSK Chairman Barry Goldwater Jr. “The state Legislature should recognize this utility deception and strike the anti-solar language.”

Solar choice and competition are the conservative way, and should remain the North Carolina way, stressed Goldwater.

Monopoly Utilities Expose Solarcism

State-sponsored monopoly utilities, as coined by the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industry Association (GSREIA) have exposed their ‘solarcism’ in recent weeks. GSREIA has accused them of being “ignorant” and “misleading” when it comes to solar energy. The nonprofit wants to keep the utilities honest and is publicly clarifying some misconceptions. At issue is the frequency that monopoly utility supporters confuse Louisiana’s low electricity rates with customer electricity bills.

“It’s embarrassing that groups funded by large utilities could be so confused on the basic facts on electricity,” said Jeff Cantin, president of GSREIA. “If low rates meant low bills, Louisiana’s utilities would never have to explain to the media and regulators why customers suffer from high bills every summer and every winter.”

Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association LogoA good example, says Cantin, that explains how monopoly mouthpieces get it so wrong is to compare the automobile gasoline price-per-gallon vs. a driver’s total bill at the pump.

Cantin offers an example. Assume gasoline costs $2 a gallon. If a Prius owner fills up that car’s 11-gallon gasoline tank, the gasoline bill will be $22. If a Suburban owner fills up that SUV’s 31-gallon gasoline tank, the gasoline bill will be $62. Obviously the Suburban owner’s bill is going to be much higher. And clearly, the low price of gas per gallon doesn’t mean the bill will be cheap. The same principle applies to electric bills.

While Louisiana’s residential rates are relatively cheap at about 9.4 cents per kWh, actual bills depend on how many kWh customers actually use. According to the latest information from the Energy Information Administration, Louisiana’s average residential electric bill was $119.98 in 2013. Residents in 36 states paid lower average bills, meaning Louisiana had the 14th most expensive average utility bills in the nation.

Although every Louisiana utility customer’s bill clearly explains that the number of kWh used defines the size of the monthly bill, GSREIA hopes the state-sponsored monopoly mouthpieces are making honest mistakes instead of purposefully misleading the public.

SEIA Supports Florida Solar Bill

Floridians have a chance to vote in support of solar by supporting the Solar Choice 2016 ballot initiative. This grassroots community effort was launched as a means to allow more homes and businesses to generate electricity from solar. Florida is one of only five states in the nation that prohibits its citizens from buying electricity from companies that install solar panels on homes and businesses. Calling it vitally important to the development of clean energy resources in Florida, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has announced its “strong support” of the bill.

“This fight is about consumer choice and private property rights – cherished, long-standing American principals that we strongly support as an organization and an industry,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “Despite its sun-rich resources, Florida ranked only 20th in the nation last year in new installed solar capacity. For a state that touts itself as the ‘sunshine state,’ that’s a huge disappointment. Clearly, the legal prohibition against certain solar installations solar panels in agrepresents a serious roadblock to the development of clean, reliable solar energy statewide. We urge Floridians to sign this critically important, freedom-of-choice petition, allowing it to be placed on next year’s ballot.”

According to Florida law, 683,149 signatures are needed by February 1, 2016 to be included on the ballot. If ultimately successful, Resch said the ballot initiative could dramatically spur new solar development in Florida, providing the state with a big economic boost.

“Today, the U.S. solar industry employs 174,000 Americans nationwide – more than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter combined – and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into our economy,” Resch added. “This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for both the U.S. economy and our environment. It’s time for Florida to share in this growth, too.”

Growth Energy Points to Cruz Record on Biofuels

growth-energy-logoAs Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announces his candidacy for president, Growth Energy is reminding voters of what the ethanol group calls his “pro-fossil fuel, pro-drilling legislation attempts to kill the homegrown renewable fuels industry.” This news release points to Cruz’s American Energy Renaissance Act, which Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, says will promotes Big Oil and deny consumer choice.

“The recent legislation introduced by Senator Cruz is not only shortsighted in terms of a comprehensive energy policy, but it seeks to stifle all production and growth of homegrown, sustainable biofuels that help create American jobs and reduce our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels. This legislation fails to factor in the important role biofuels play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while also providing consumers with a choice and savings at the pump.

“Senator Cruz seems to believe that he is exercising leadership by attacking the only energy policy that has contributed to our economic, energy and national security. Yet Senator Cruz fails to challenge or acknowledge the excessive subsidies oil companies have received for 102 years and counting at the expense of the American taxpayer. Let’s be clear – this is not ‘profiles in courage,’ this is pandering to Big Oil.

“He says there are no benefits from renewable fuels; however, the Renewable Fuel Standard has helped reduce our dependence on foreign oil by nearly 50 percent, from 60 to 33 percent, saved consumers at the pump, cleaned our air and revitalized our rural economy. Furthermore, his legislation is a direct attack on America’s farmers, the backbone of this nation, who are working overtime to feed the world and fuel America.”

Growth concludes that Cruz’s legislation would take away the freedom of choice for consumers to choose higher performing, less expensive fuel for which there is a demand.

Sens Wyden, Risch Intro Geothermal Energy Bill

Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, have introduced legislation to encourage geothermal energy production on public lands. Coined the Geothermal Production Expansion Act, the bill would prevent speculative bidders from driving up the price of leases for developers seeking to use the land for geothermal projects. The bill streamlines the federal geothermal leasing program by allowing for the non-competitive leasing of a limited amount of federal land at fair market value to spur the expansion of geothermal energy on already identified “hot spots”. The bill passed the Senate last year. Senators Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, also cosponsored the legislation.

Sens Risch and WydenGeothermal projects are managed on Federal lands by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and it is estimated that 250 million acres contain geothermal power potential. Currently, geothermal energy projects that are producing geothermal power under the BLM’s management make up about half of the total geothermal generating capacity in the U.S.

“Geysers, volcanoes and hot springs – like Oregon’s own Neal Hot Springs – are reservoirs of the Earth’s enormous clean energy potential,” Wyden said. “By making these “hot spots” available to only serious developers, this bill protects taxpayer dollars and prevents speculators from holding hostage the enormous possibilities of geothermal energy.”

Risch added, “Reliable and lower-cost energy is the backbone of any successful economy and must be expanded to meet future needs. In Idaho and much of the west, geothermal energy is a largely untapped source of clean energy. This bill encourages its development and expansion by removing a layer of red tape that holds up production at geothermal facilities.”

Oregon and Idaho have the combined potential to produce at least 1,400 MW from geothermal resources – enough energy to power more than a million homes. U.S. Geothermal, Inc. operates geothermal power projects in both states.

“We thank Senators Wyden and Risch for their continued strong support of the geothermal industry with their introduction of the Geothermal Production Expansion Act,” said Doug Glaspey, President and COO of U.S. Geothermal, Inc. “This is an important piece that improves the federal leasing system and will help geothermal developers move projects toward production.”

NY Considers State Biodiesel Heating Oil Mandate

englebrightA measure before the New York state legislature would require biodiesel to be mixed into every gallon of heating oil sold in the state. This article from The Legislative Gazette says the bill would set a 2 percent mandate and start no later than July 1, 2016 if it is passed.

Bill A.6070 is sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Englebright, D- Setauket, in the Assembly and has the support of environmental groups, consumer groups, labor unions and farmers.

“Clean air is really a birthright for New Yorkers and this will help underwrite that premise,” Englebright said. “We think it is part of a whole series of measures that we’re going to have to take to clean up our environment in the state.”

Kevin Rooney, CEO of the Oil Heating Institute of Long Island, supports the use of biodiesel because it provides many benefits.

“The use of biofuels blended with ultra-low sulfur heating oil provides unquestioned energy efficiency, it provides environmental benefits, it increases or enhances public health benefits at no cost whatsoever to the end-use consumer, the home owner,” Rooney said.

The Ways and Means Committee is currently considering the bill.

Moms Fight Colorado Roll Back of Renewable Energy

CO_MomsKnowsBest1A group of moms in Colorado are fighting proposed changes in that state’s legislature to Colorado’s renewable energy standards. The group, Colorado Moms Know Best, say they oppose the changes that would rollback from 30 percent down to 15 percent of the energy produced and consumed in the state.

“Moms believe we have a moral obligation to protect children’s health and future, ensuring they have clean air is one of the very basics,” said Data Gutwein with Colorado Moms Know Best. “The reality is that chopping the state’s renewable energy standard in half would mean relying more on coal-fired plants and more kids dealing with asthma and other respiratory problems.”

Colorado has been a leader in renewable energy. In 2004, Coloradans passed the first state ballot initiative to establish a renewable energy standards; 29 states and the District of Columbia have since adopted similar standards. In the years since, Colorado has added tens of thousands of clean tech jobs with an average salary of $78,000, according to the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Energy Cluster report.

“Renewable energy is not only good for kids’ health, it’s also great for their future career options,” said Colorado Moms Know Best’s Dana Gutwein. “If Colorado can remain on the cutting edge of the renewable energy industry, our children will be able to prepare for plentiful high-paying, clean tech job opportunities.”

The group has previously helped influence Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission to adopt stricter air quality standards for oil and gas operations in the state of Colorado.

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.