Biodiesel Scholarship Honors Minnesota Farmer

An annual scholarship for Minnesota high school seniors has been launched under a new name to honor the memory of a soybean farmer.

This year’s scholarships are given in memory of the late father of Mike Youngerberg, senior director of field services for the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. Reuben Youngerberg owned a farm in Blue Earth County, where he held a number of board positions in local agriculture organizations.

The Reuben Youngerberg Memorial Biodiesel Scholarship is open to any Minnesota high school senior and offers a $1,600 1st place and $500 2nd place award to the winners of an essay contest about biodiesel, a cleaner-burning alternative fuel produced and used in Minnesota. Rules and an online entry form can be found at www.cleanairchoice.org. Deadline for entries is March 30, 2012.

The scholarship is administered by the American Lung Association in Minnesota, which recognizes biodiesel as a “clean air choice” fuel that reduces emissions, and sponsored by the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, with additional support from the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, National Biodiesel Board, MEG Corp, and Renewable Energy Group, Inc.

Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel Hosts Fall Webinar

The National Biodiesel Board is offering students and others interested in the future of advanced biofuels the opportunity to take their renewable fuels education up a notch with the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel (NGSB) Fall Webinar on Oct. 18.

The webinar will feature the very latest on biodiesel research from two university students who will present their biodiesel research, and USDA’s Dr. Michael Haas, who will provide an overview of his work with low value feedstocks and in new process development.

Meredith Dorneker, a graduate student in geography at the University of Missouri – Columbia will present her research entitled “Federal Laws, Regulations, and Programs: application to biofuel production and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) Principles.” Chemical engineering undergrad at the University of Rhode Island Daniel Mallin will present his study on “The Glycerol Prewash and its Effectiveness for Removing Moisture and Free Fatty Acids from Waste Vegetable Oil for Biodiesel Production.”

The webinar will be held on October 18 at 4:00 pm central time and registration is free.

NRC Report More Positive for Biodiesel

While traditional and next generation ethanol came out negative in the National Research Council report out this week, the biodiesel industry was pleased with the findings.

Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board, said the report reaffirms that biodiesel is an advanced biofuel that can meet the biomass-based diesel targets under the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). “We were happy that the authors recognized a wide variety of environmental and economic benefits from biodiesel,” said Steckel. “For example, they noted that soy biodiesel – about half of U.S. biodiesel production – has a positive impact on livestock feed prices, helping hold down costs. This is because only the oil – which accounts for about 18 percent of a soybean – can be used for fuel, and the highly nutritious soybean meal is used for feed. The report also reaffirmed that biodiesel significantly reduces particulate matter and other harmful tailpipe emissions when compared to petroleum diesel.”

Steckel added that the report noted that there are significant uncertainties surrounding the hypothetical modeling used to calculate indirect land-use change for biofuels. “We believe the evidence demonstrates that biodiesel compares very favorably when compared to petroleum, as the EPA found in its most recent analysis, which shows that biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 57 percent to 86 percent, depending on the feedstock used,” she said.

Biodiesel Tax Incentive Creates Jobs

The biodiesel tax incentive is helping to create jobs across the country, according to testimony submitted to the House Ways and Means Committee today by the National Biodiesel Board (NBB).

“While we understand the pressures facing Congress, this is the wrong time to pull support from a growing American industry that is a rare bright spot in this economy,” said Anne Steckel, NBB vice president of federal affairs. “Our industry is having a record year of production, and the tax incentive is a key ingredient in that success. Stripping the incentive away this year would put thousands of jobs in jeopardy.”

Steckel’s written testimony was submitted to the committee for a hearing on energy tax policy and tax reform held today that focused on whether energy policy should be conducted through the tax code, and specifically on proposed tax credits for natural gas under the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions (NAT GAS) Act of 2011.

While, the biodiesel industry was not called to testify at the hearing, Steckel’s submitted comments highlighted the biodiesel industry’s rebound this year after the biodiesel tax incentive was reinstated following a one-year lapse in 2010 which caused production to drop dramatically last year as dozens of plants shut down and thousands of people lost jobs.

Since its reinstatement this year, the industry had produced roughly 475 million gallons as of July compared with 315 million gallons in all of 2010. This year’s increased production of at least 800 million gallons will support more than 31,000 jobs while generating at least $3 billion in GDP and $628 million in federal, state and local tax revenues, according to a recent economic study conducted by Cardno-Entrix.

“We believe the U.S. biodiesel industry offers a clear and compelling case that strong domestic energy policy can boost this economy,” she said. “Our production turnaround this year is creating good-paying jobs in nearly every state in the country.”

That claim was highlighted with the re-opening of a southern Minnesota biodiesel plant this week. Minnesota soybean farmer Jim Willers said reinstating the biodiesel tax incentive is one of the best jobs creation programs the government has done lately. “This plant’s put almost 25-30 people back to work, there’s usually 50 trucks that go through here and the spin off effect from this plant creates almost 2,000 jobs,” he said. “Between state and local and federal taxes, it’s way more than the tax credit so your return on investment for the government is just terrific with biodiesel.”

Biodiesel Adds Value to Minnesota Soybeans

Fields of soybeans surround the newly re-opened Renewable Energy Group REG Albert Lea biodiesel plant in southern Minnesota, serving as a reminder of where the renewable fuel is rooted.

Chris Hill, a soybean farmer who serves on the board of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and the Minnesota Biodiesel Council, is pleased to see the plant re-open because it really adds value to the soybeans he grows. “The National Biodiesel Board did a study taking into account the benefit of biodiesel, it can add approximately $2 to every bushel from the farm,” said Hill. “On a 500 acre farm, that’s roughly $5000 added income.”

Hill, pictured here on the left with REG president Dan Oh, says the economic benefits of biodiesel production in a rural community have a multiplier effect. “From the farmer, to the elevator to the tire salesman, to the people buying the biodiesel to blend it, for trucks and everything else, it just helps everybody,” Hill said, adding that it helps all of agriculture, including livestock producers who benefit because it helps reduce the cost of soybean meal.

Listen to or download interview with Chris Hill here. Minnesota Farmer Chris Hill

REG Albert Lea biodiesel plant photo album

Minnesota Biodiesel Plant Will Celebrate Re-Opening

The Renewable Energy Group (REG) will be celebrating the grand re-opening Monday of a Minnesota biodiesel plant that was shut down for three years.

REG acquired the former SoyMor production facility earlier this year, which is now known as REG Albert Lea, LLC. The company will be celebrating the grand re-opening of the plant with members of the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, as well as state and local dignitaries, on Monday morning.

“With nationwide demand for biodiesel growing steadily through implementation of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) and Minnesota’s continued biodiesel consumption leadership, we expect to quickly ramp up production at REG Albert Lea, LLC,” said REG’s CEO Jeff Stroburg when the purchase of the plant was finalized. “With a foundation in agriculture and expertise in domestically-produced, renewable energy, REG is proud to bring green-collar jobs to this rural economy while supporting ag producers in Minnesota and across the Midwest.”

Minnesota is a leader in the biodiesel industry, being the first state to require that all diesel fuel contain a two percent blend in 2005, and has since increased to a five percent blend. “Increasing the amount of biodiesel in our fuel allows us to take advantage of a renewable fuel made right here in Minnesota,” said Ed Hegland, former National Biodiesel Board Chairman and Minnesota farmer. “I’m proud to live in a state that is leading energy innovations and taking part in valuable solutions like biodiesel.”

REG was already the largest biodiesel producer in the United States and the acquisition of REG Albert Lea brings the REG owned/operated total to more than 210 million gallons per year. REG was the general contractor and manager for the 30 mmgy refined vegetable oil feedstock biodiesel plant which originally began production in April 2005. Distribution of biodiesel at the facility started late last month. REG filed for filed an initial public offering in July.

President Mentions Advanced Biofuels in Jobs Speech

President Obama reaffirmed the importance of domestically produced fuels in his address to Congress on jobs Thursday night.

“If we provide the right incentives, the right support — and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules — we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that we sell all around the world,” the president said. “That’s how America can be number one again.”

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) was pleased to hear the president utter the words “advanced biofuels” in connection with jobs. “As the only commercial scale Advanced biofuel that’s produced nationwide today, biodiesel is proof that strong domestic energy policy and incentives can create good paying American Jobs,” said NBB VP of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “Even in this economy, our industry is experiencing a boom. We’re on pace to produce more biodiesel than ever before. We strongly encourage Congress to follow through with a green jobs package that includes the biodiesel tax incentive that gets people back to work.”

Obama outlined his $450 billion jobs plan including tax cuts, tax credits, infrastructure investments and other measures in his speech Thursday night to Congress, urging lawmakers to pass it immediately to put Americans back to work.

Biodiesel Board Announces New Capitol Hill VP

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) has announced a new vice president of federal affairs to serve the industry on Capitol Hill.

Anne Steckel, who will lead NBB’s Washington office, brings nearly 15 years of Washington experience to the job. Currently chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson of California, she has overseen legislative issues for several members of Congress, including U.S. Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois. Steckel has also served as director of government relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation and more recently with Growth Energy, a renewable fuels trade group.

“We feel very lucky and proud to have found someone of Anne’s caliber, background and expertise,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of NBB, the biodiesel industry trade association. “She is a real Washington pro and a leader in the renewable energy sector. I know that she will be an effective advocate for the biodiesel industry as we continue to grow and expand as America’s first Advanced Biofuel.”

Starting in late August, Steckel is arriving at a time when the biodiesel industry is on track for a record year of production. Her primary focus for the near-term will be urging Congress to pass a long-term extension of a tax incentive that is spurring new biodiesel production and sustaining thousands of good, American jobs.

“Biodiesel is boosting our economy, improving the environment and making the United States more energy secure,” said Steckel. “I am excited to help lead such a vibrant industry with so much potential for growth that improves the way we fuel our economy.”

Steckel takes over the position from Manning Feraci, who left NBB recently to lead government affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association.

NBB Offers Diesel Technicians Biodiesel Training

Diesel technicians are getting up-to-date, accurate information about biodiesel compliments of a National Biodiesel Board (NBB) training program. The program is a partnership between NBB and Universal Technical Institute, a provider of entry-level technicians to the transportation industry. So far, more than 300 instructors have been taught about biodiesel through the program.

“I’ve found that students are very curious about biodiesel, but they come in with misinformation,” said Jason Mosler, UTI instructor and technical team leader. “They think that it’s fryer grease, that you can make it in your backyard. When we can clear the air on those misconceptions and explain what commercial biodiesel really is, their eyes are opened.”

The success of the training program has spawned additional local level programs. Recently, the Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) received a grant to conduct similar training sessions. Both NBB and the Iowa Soybean Association have supported the IBB program.

“People listen to their automotive technicians, and if there is an information gap there, techs are not likely to recommend biodiesel to their customers,” said Rachel Burton, who leads NBB’s Biodiesel for Diesel Technicians program. “By increasing awareness at that level, we grow biodiesel acceptance in general and will ultimately help biodiesel reach its full potential, with all its benefits.”

For more information on training opportunities for OEMs and dealers, visit www.biodieselautomotive.org.

First Biodiesel School Bus Retires

What is believed to be the nation’s first school bus to run on a biodiesel blend was put out to pasture at the end of the 2010-11 school year, according to the National Biodiesel Board.

When Medford, New Jersey’s 1998 International school bus retired at the end of June, it reached a milestone in the process. The bus was the first in New Jersey, and possibly the country, to be filled with B20.

Over the course of its life, it consumed over 28,000 gallons of biodiesel and exposed hundred of young people to a cleaner-burning advanced biofuel that not only helped protect their health, but hopefully taught them something about the importance of alternative fuels.

“Similar to the biodiesel industry, the bus certainly bears the marks of a traveling a long and difficult path and weathering a number of storms,” said Joe Biluck, Director of Operations and Technology for the Medford Township Public School district. “The industry has made monumental strides over the past 13 years. Since then, thousands of public and private fleets have made the switch to biodiesel blends in an effort to lessen their environmental impact.”

“Without early support from people like Biluck, the industry wouldn’t be where it is today,” said NBB Chairman Gary Haer. “As America’s only commercially available advanced biofuel, biodiesel stands ready to help meet our energy challenges for years to come.”

The National Biodiesel Board awarded Biluck its annual Inspiration award in 2005.

NBB Testifies During EPA Hearing

Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency held a hearing to discuss the latest renewable fuels proposal. One goal of the hearing was to determine if current 2011 mandates will be met by the obligated parties and to ensure the industry can produce enough fuel. Also under debate is whether the 2012 mandates are too high. Joe Jobe, the CEO of the National Biodiesel Board, was one of several industry leaders who testified during the hearing.

Jobe testified the EPA’s proposal represents a modest and sustainable level of growth in the biomass-based diesel program that is consistent with the availability of the diverse feedstocks used to produce biodiesel including used cooking oil, used waste grease and vegetable oil. Jobe also noted that biodiesel is the only EPA-designated advanced biofuel being produced on a commercial scale across the country.

“While we believe these are conservative targets for the U.S. biodiesel industry, we applaud the EPA for proposing a reasonable increase,” Jobe said in a statement after the hearing. “As America’s only EPA-designated advanced biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide, we are ready to meet the challenge.”

The biodiesel industry currently has more than 1 billion gallons approved with the EPA and is on track to achieve the EPA’s 2011 standard of 800 million gallons. This year, average production is nearly 75 million gallons per month with a high of 82 million gallons during May.

The proposed biomass-based diesel requirements for next year are set at 1 billion gallons and nearly 1.3 billion gallons for 2013. It should be noted that biodiesel not only qualifies, and makes up almost the entirety of the biomass-based diesel category, but it is also approved as an advanced biofuel. In fact, biodiesel made from corn oil has the lowest carbon intensity score of all commercial scale biofuels.

“We’re confident that we can meet these production goals. In doing so, we’ll help cure America’s oil addiction with a clean-burning renewable fuel while creating good-paying American jobs,” said Jobe. “This program was developed to wean the country off foreign oil with cleaner homegrown fuels, and we believe it’s working as intended.”

ExxonMobil to Offer Biodiesel at Four Texas Terminals

ExxonMobil will soon offer ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) blended with biodiesel for the first time at four rack terminals in Texas. ExxonMobil will offer ULSD with up to a 5 percent biodiesel blend in Irving, Texas and North Houston beginning this summer. They will also also the fuel via third party terminals located in Tyler, Texas and Pasadena, Texas.

According to an article by OPIS, exact details on when the fuel will be sold is not available. However, the company has plans to offer a similar product in other regional markets. Also not confirmed, but the industry believes the move was spurred by the renewable diesel mandates as set by the Renewable Fuel Standard. As use of biodiesel is increasing, investments have also increased to improve biodiesel infrastructure.

“As America’s first fully commercialized Advanced Biofuel, the biodiesel industry looks forward to working with ExxonMobil and other petroleum partners to continue to seamlessly improve the infrastructure and grow the domestic diesel fuel pool,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board.

Isuzu Commercial Trucks Support Biodiesel Blends

Isuzu Commercial Truck of America has become the latest Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to support the use of B20 biodiesel blends.

According to the National Biodiesel Board, Isuzu confirmed that all of its new 2011 and forward model year diesel engines, including its four popular N-Series truck models as well as the new Isuzu Reach commercial van, are compatible with use of up to 20 percent biodiesel blends (B20). This is especially significant as Isuzu Commercial Truck is the first Asian manufacturer to approve B20 for U.S. market spec engines.

According to Isuzu Commercial Truck’s Retail Marketing Manager Brian Tabel, Isuzu’s announcement of B20 support is the result of three key factors: growing consumer demand for the fuel, an extensive and cooperative research project on B20 biodiesel blends by Isuzu engineers in the U.S. and Japan, and improved biodiesel fuel quality and industry support in the U.S. under the assurances of ASTM D7467, the American Society of Testing and Materials specifications for B6-B20 biodiesel blends.

“Our customers at Isuzu Commercial Truck of America have been asking for approval to use B20 in our products in the U.S. for many years,” Tabel said. “We are really happy to now turn that request into a reality and bring B20 biodiesel capability to the U.S. market.”

Isuzu Commercial Truck commands an impressive 73 -75 percent market share of the low cab-forward medium-duty truck market in the U.S. Through its network of 293 dealers in the U.S., Isuzu expects to sell 10,000 – 11,000 diesel units in 2011, all of which are capable to use with B20 biodiesel blends.

Biodiesel Tax Incentive Extension Introduced

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the House and Senate this week introduced legislation to extend the biodiesel tax incentive for three years.

The Biodiesel Tax Incentive Reform and Extension Act would extend the $1 per gallon tax credit from 2012 through 2014 and would reform the biodiesel tax incentive from a blenders excise tax credit to a production excise tax credit. “Biodiesel development and production is an important job creator for this country,” said House co-sponsor Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL), who notes that biodiesel is an important industry for soybean producers and the rural economy of his home state.

“Illinois soybean farmers have a great interest in the development and expansion of the U.S. biodiesel industry. Biodiesel has provided a significant market opportunity for soybean farmers, and jobs and economic development for rural communities,” said American Soybean Association Vice President Ron Kindred of Atlanta, Ill.

Schock says that extending the credit will also help develop other crops for the production of biodiesel, such as Pennycress, which has an exceptionally high oil content. Initial research indicates that an acre of pennycress can yield up to 110 gallons of biodiesel, twice what can be produced from an equal amount of soybeans.

The National Biodiesel Board
(NBB) is pleased that extension legislation has been introduced, now that the industry is getting back up to speed after losing the tax incentive for an entire year. “Unfortunately, we don’t have to speculate about what would happen to our industry if this tax incentive goes away. We saw the fallout last year when the incentive temporarily expired. Plants closed and thousands of people were laid off. It would be a terrible mistake if Congress allowed that to happen again,” said NBB Chairman Gary Haer. “We are poised for a record year of production this year, and this bill would provide the market and investor certainty that the industry needs to continue building on that progress.”

EPA Proposes 2012 Renewable Fuel Standards

Cellulosic ethanol targets were reduced while biodiesel was increased under the latest standards proposed by the federal government for the Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS2).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed the 2012 percentage standards for four fuel categories under the RFS2 based on the annual renewable fuel volume targets. EPA once again lowered the target for cellulosic ethanol, which was set at 500 million gallons in 2012, to somewhere between 3.45 and 12.9 million gallons. The agency “remains optimistic that the commercial availability of cellulosic biofuel will continue to grow in the years ahead” and so does the Advanced Ethanol Council, provided there is stable policy to allow the industry to invest in technology to make it possible.

“The most immediate term solution to this problem is to enact meaningful and long-term tax incentives to spur construction of the first-commercial advanced biofuel plants, in much the same way that Congress has stood behind oil and gas production for nearly 100 years,” said AEC Executive Director Brooke Coleman. “The cellulosic and advanced ethanol industry will hit the mark and achieve the goals of the RFS if Congress aligns our tax code with the RFS and sends a clear message to the marketplace that advanced biofuels will be a cornerstone of a broader strategy to create jobs and reduce oil dependence.”

EPA is also proposing to increase the volume requirement for biomass-based diesel from 800 million gallons this year to 1 billion gallons in 2012 and almost 1.3 billion gallons in 2013. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) notes that since biodiesel qualifies as an advanced biofuel it is also eligible to exceed the biomass-based diesel targets and help meet general advanced biofuels requirements under the program. “As America’s first advanced biofuel being produced on a commercial scale nationwide, we have done extensive research to assess the various feedstocks that are used to make biodiesel, including agricultural oils, recycled cooking oil, animal fats, algae and camelina,” said NBB CEO Joe Jobe said. “We are confident we can meet these targets and we anticipate that we will likely exceed them.”

The EPA proposes to maintain the 2012 advanced biofuel requirements under the RFS at 2 billion gallons as federal law requires. The mandate for convention renewable biofuel also remained consistent with the statute at 13.2 billion gallons.