White House Gathers Senate Dems on RFS Proposal

nbb-senatorsIn what could be seen as a sign that an unpopular decision is about to be rendered by the Obama Administration on ethanol and biodiesel, a select group of Senate Democrats have met with the White House. The Hill reports White House adviser John Podesta met with the group on Thursday to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The senators said they wanted to discuss “urgent concerns” with the RFS, which requires that diesel and gasoline refiners mix a certain amount of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol into their traditional fuels each year. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed last year to keep the biodiesel volume in 2014 at least year’s level, despite an increase in biodiesel production, and reduce the ethanol volume.

The EPA has not yet finalized its 2014 volumes for renewables.

[Minnesota Senator Al] Franken and his colleagues took particular issue with the biodiesel mandate.

“Such a decision would not only harm the economic growth surrounding biodiesel production in our states, but would be a setback in our national efforts to continue boosting U.S. energy security while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” they wrote.

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) seems concerned about the meeting as well and issued a statement from from Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel:

“While we are encouraged by these discussions, the biodiesel industry remains concerned that the Administration still appears to be considering a proposal that would backtrack from last year’s proven production and that threatens biodiesel plants around the country. The fact is that biodiesel is the most successful Advanced Biofuel under the RFS, yet it could see its production cut significantly. This meeting, which was originally requested by a diverse group of 14 Democratic senators from across the country, makes clear that there are serious concerns about the impact that the proposal would have on jobs and economic growth nationwide, in states from Rhode Island to Minnesota to Washington state. This is a critical decision, not just for the biodiesel industry but for the future development of clean, American-made renewable fuels that will help us reduce our dangerous dependence on petroleum.”

Many of those senators participating in this week’s meeting were also critical back in May on the Obama Administration’s proposal to cut the amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, with some of the President’s staunchest backers calling it “disastrous” and a miserable failure of policy.

NBB Touts Minnesota’s New 10% Biodiesel Mandate

mnAs Minnesota becomes the first in the nation to require all diesel this summer have at least a 10 percent biodiesel blend, the National Biodiesel Board is touting the move… and the green fuel’s benefits.

“Minnesota has been a pioneer, first demonstrating success with a five percent biodiesel blend. Moving to B10 continues the state’s role as a leader for our energy future, a future that includes diverse options like America’s Advanced Biofuel, biodiesel” said Steven Levy, Chairman for the National Biodiesel Board.

According to the American Lung Association of Minnesota, the state’s current B5 standard reduces emissions equal to removing nearly 35,000 vehicles from the road, which equates to 644 million pounds of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Increasing the blend from B5 to B10 will mean an additional demand of 20 million gallons of biodiesel each year on top of the current usage of 40 million gallons. Minnesota’s current operating production capacity is over 60 million gallons per year. Plants are currently operating in Isanti, Brewster and Albert Lea.

“It is encouraging to see leaders implement consistently strong biofuels policy; this is obviously in sharp contrast to the mixed messages sent from Washington, DC,” said Levy. “Minnesota’s move to B10 shows the impressive potential for renewable energy when policy and entrepreneurship work hand in hand to support real benefits that impact us all. Hopefully those at the national level will see the success in Minnesota and follow up with a strong federal energy policy and strong renewable fuel standard.”

Minnesota was supposed to move to B10 two years ago, but delays to make sure adequate blending infrastructure was in place put it off until now. Starting next year, B10 will be sold from April through September. The rest of the time, a 5 percent blend requirement is in place.

New Fund in Biodiesel Booster Dallas Hanks’ Memory

Dallas Hanks1A new fund has been set up in memory of biodiesel booster Dallas Hanks, who recently died from cancer. The National Biodiesel Foundation set up a new foundation in Dallas’ memory. For those who might not have known this great champion of the green fuel, this Utah State University professor and founder of USU’s Center for Agronomic and Woody Biofuels was described as a visionary who had a knack for bringing stakeholders together to pursue a bigger picture. The Next Generation of Scientists Dallas Hanks Memorial Fund will honor his legacy and pass the research reins to a new generation of scientists eager to chase his dream.

Dallas was a huge supporter and contributor to [the National Biodiesel Board’s] Next Generation Scientists program, where student scientists could be offered scholarships to attend industry events and other scientific mentoring activities. It was the consensus of the group [who gathered shortly after his death] that the National Biodiesel Foundation would create the Next Generation Scientists Dallas Hanks Memorial Fund. The proceeds of this fund will advance the original objectives of the program and assist in carrying out the visionary work that Dallas started. On behalf of the National Biodiesel Board and Foundation, the biodiesel industry, Dallas’s family and many friends, we encourage you to support this important fund in order to honor Dallas and further his legacy. Thank you.

Click here to contribute to the Next Generation of Scientists Dallas Hanks Memorial Fund.

I-75 Corridor Creates Biodiesel, Ethanol Roadtrip

I-75-Corridor-Map[1]The summer travel season is here, and if you’re looking for a way to see the U.S.A. while driving on clean-burning biodiesel and ethanol, a roadtrip down Interstate 75 might be just the ticket. The latest edition of the National Biodiesel Board’s Biodiesel Bulletin talks about the I-75 Green Corridor, the planet’s longest biofuels corridor, that runs from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. to Miami, Fla. where they’ve just upped the availability of B20 and E85.

The project’s goal was to install biofuel pumps at least every 200 miles or to fill in gaps between existing biofuel stations along the interstate.

To date, over 2.8 million gallons of biofuels have been sold from project stations, and 2.2 million gallons of petroleum have been displaced. This equates to 6,735 tons of CO2 emissions avoided compared to conventional petroleum-based fuels. Thus far, nearly 30 new biofuel pumps have been installed, resulting in the 1,786-mile interstate becoming what is believed to be the planet’s longest biofuels corridor.

Time to hit the road, you eco-Road Warriors!

Biodiesel Industry Wants Obama to Stick with Support

nbb-advancedNearly 120 biodiesel companies and affiliated businesses are calling on President Obama to stand behind his past support of their industry. This news release from the National Biodiesel Board says the group sent the White House a letter outlining the extensive damage that would result from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) proposal, which would set a biodiesel standard of 1.28 billion gallons – far below actual 2013 production of nearly 1.8 billion gallons.

“As entrepreneurs and business leaders representing thousands of employees, we have followed signals from this Administration and invested billions of dollars in developing a U.S. biodiesel industry that has successfully delivered more than 5 billion gallons of EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel under the RFS since you took office,” the letter states. “We are extremely concerned that you could be retreating on your previously unwavering support for biodiesel in a way that would have severe consequences for the industry’s future.”

The companies and other organizations signing the letter represent thousands of employees in states across the country, from California to Minnesota to Rhode Island. They specifically referenced legislation introduced by then-Sen. Obama in 2006 (“The American Fuels Act”) that called for an ambitious standard of 2 billion gallons of alternative diesel fuels by 2015.

“Thanks to American innovation, the hard work of our employees, and strong, consistent federal policy under the RFS, the biodiesel industry almost reached that goal last year by producing nearly 1.8 billion gallons under the RFS. With stable policy, it is very likely that the industry will – a mere decade later – indeed reach your stated goal of 2 billion gallons by 2015,” the letter states. “This is a success story of which you and your Administration should be proud: A clean, renewable energy industry meeting a challenging goal that you envisioned 10 years ago. Yet with this EPA proposal, this Administration is retreating. We urge you not to.”

This latest letter adds to the growing chorus of dissatisfaction with the Administration’s stance of lowering RFS amounts, as shown by a group of Democratic senators, who are normally big proponents of Obama, recently blasting him for the EPA’s proposal.

Biodiesel Grant Looks to Improve GHG Science

NBF1A new grant looks to improve the science and understanding behind greenhouse gas (GHG) modeling to show how biodiesel helps the economy while adding security benefits. This piece from Biodiesel Magazine says the National Biodiesel Foundation (NBF) grant to the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) to study the science behind GHG modeling will help quantifying the environmental benefits biodiesel is able to offer to state and federal energy policies that aren’t even in the realm of possibilities for for fossil fuels.

“The greatest potential for improving the accuracy of biodiesel’s GHG score is to improve the quantification of indirect land use change associated with feedstock production,” said Don Scott, director of sustainability at NBB. Under the NBF grant, NBB expects to improve the accuracy of data used in economic and life-cycle models. The biodiesel industry has set responsible goals based on the availability of feedstocks without increasing prices or acres.

Scott further explains, “The current theory of indirect land use change relies on the assumption that feedstock prices will increase, so the models are predicting outcomes nearly the opposite of what is actually happening.” In 2013, record biodiesel production demonstrated that feedstocks could remain in abundant supply. Biodiesel production increased 35 percent while soybean oil prices dropped 25 percent. “If the scientific community continues to improve the modeling, it is likely that model results will converge with reality and show zero indirect land use change emissions attributable to U.S. biodiesel,” Scott said.

NBF works closely with NBB to address national issues regarding biodiesel and hopes this improved understanding of sustainability will improve data inputs to GHG models.

How to be a Biodiesel Lobbyist: Be Honest

nealLobbyist in government often times get a bad rap. The picture conjured up is a cigar-smoking, fat-cat with slick-backed hair, trying to grease the palms of lawmakers, lying at every opportunity possible. But in this very interesting piece from Biodiesel Magazine, the National Biodiesel Board’s (NBB) Director of State Governmental Affairs, Shelby Neal, makes the case that his job is to educate lawmakers. And with a product as good as biodiesel, he just needs to tell the truth.

I am occasionally asked, “What is the secret to being a good lobbyist?” It is a good and interesting question. The short answer is to simply “be honest and be yourself.” While I’d love to make it more complicated than that (for purposes of job security), the reality is that adherence to these five little words will get you most of the way there.

Before I delve into a longer and perhaps more satisfying answer, I would like to make an essential point, which is that the vast majority of “lobbying” is merely education by another name. We help influencers understand technical information related to biodiesel, its feedstocks, and whatever else might keep them from making informed decisions. The thrilling, vicious, high-stakes world of lobbying pretty much only exists on television. Disappointing, I know.

Real success in the field of government affairs relies on good, old-fashioned relationship-building. And just to be clear, I am not advocating for more toothy-grinned, alpha-networking. Everybody hates that. Or at least I do. No, what I am talking about is developing genuine working relationships based on trust and mutual respect. And maybe even friendships, if you’re lucky. Once someone knows you, likes you, and trusts you, they’ll lend you their time and an open mind. And this, my friends, is fertile ground for biodiesel education. Or lobbying. Whatever you want to call it.

Shelby adds that another “secret” to lobbying success is to be around a lot, be knowledgeable, be persistent but polite, and try to be a good person. In fact, you don’t have to be some kind of registered lobbyist to do that. When you get the opportunity to educate or at least set the record straight on biodiesel, do it. Tell people about how it’s good for the environment, their vehicles, and American jobs. Gee, maybe he’s right. Maybe this lobbying thing isn’t so tough… as long as we’re talking biodiesel.

Biodiesel Producers Cutting Back Due to Uncertainty

nbb-advancedNearly 80 percent of biodiesel producers nationwide have cut back or idled production this year, due to uncertainty in policy coming out of Washington, D.C. A new survey from the National Biodiesel Board shows that a weak Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Congress’ failure to extend the biodiesel tax incentive is also behind the drive by two-thirds of the producers to cut their workforces as well.

“Inconsistency in Washington is wreaking havoc on the U.S. biodiesel industry,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “It’s not just hurting these producers. It is a setback for local economies where these plants operate, for our environment, for our national energy security, and for drivers who are tired of ever-increasing fuel prices that result from the petroleum industry’s monopoly at the pump.”

Among the other survey findings:

78 percent have reduced production versus 2013
57 percent have idled production altogether or shut down a plant this year
66 percent have reduced workforce or anticipate reducing workforce
85 percent have delayed or canceled expansion plans

The producers nearly universally attributed the industry decline to the weak RFS proposal and loss of the tax incentive.

NBB also attended a news conference in Washington today, where six U.S. Democratic Party senators, along with some biodiesel producers from across the country, blasted the Obama Administration for the EPA proposal, as well as the congressional inaction (we’ll have more on what they had to say tomorrow).

asteckelAfter the senators’ and producers’ remarks, Anne told me while the policy has been uneven and caused the uncertainty for producers, she is appreciative of the steadfast support from the lawmakers at today’s event.

“It’s a strong support of biodiesel, and I think that bodes well for us, as we look for EPA to make this final decision on raising the RFS volumes for biodiesel. We’re very hopeful that this strong support will resonate with the Administration,” she said.

Listen to what Anne had to say after the news conference: Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs

Biodiesel By-Product Innovation Award Announced

Glycerine Innovation Award2Research that looks to overcome roadblocks to innovative uses for the biodiesel by-product, glycerin, has been honored. The National Biodiesel Board and the American Cleaning Institute presented their 2014 Glycerine Innovation Award at the American Oil Chemists’ Society’s annual meeting.

The 2014 honoree is Dr. Xiaofei “Philip” Ye, Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee’s Department of Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science. The ACI/NBB Glycerine Innovation Award recognizes outstanding achievement for research into new applications for glycerine, with particular emphasis on commercial viability.

Dr. Ye undertook his research in response to the rapid growth of the biodiesel industry worldwide resulting in the production of large amounts of glycerine, creating an urgent need to quickly and effectively convert crude glycerine into value-added chemical products.

While three major commodity chemicals can be derived from glycerine – acrylic acid, lactic acid, and propylene glycol, which serve as building blocks for environmentally friendly plastics and polymers, there have been “bottleneck problems” hindering the industrial production of these chemicals from glycerine. Dr. Ye’s research focuses on innovative technology development to overcome these problems, while his modeling showed economic promise for the commercial production of value-added chemicals from glycerine.

Biodiesel Board Praises Denial of RFS Challenge

nbb-logoThe National Biodiesel Board (NBB) joined the chorus of biofuel groups happy with the decision handed down by the District of Columbia Circuit Court rejecting a petition filed by Monroe Energy, LLC that challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2013 Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS).

“The court’s decision today is only the latest in a long series of cases in which the courts have found that the RFS is a fair and reasonable program for achieving our national energy objectives, including promoting more Advanced Biofuel such as biodiesel. The bottom line is that there was more than enough EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel available last year to meet the standards.

The RFS is working, and we strongly encourage the petroleum industry to get on board. There is plenty of room for fossil fuels and renewable fuels in the United States, and consumers will be better off with a choice.” – Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board.

The court rejected Monroe’s arguments that the 2013 standards were invalid because the EPA was late in finalizing the volumes, and that the EPA should have reduced overall and Advanced Biofuel volume requirements when it reduced cellulosic ethanol volumes last year.

Biodiesel Board Fights Back On Corn Waste Article

jobe1The National Biodiesel Board is jumping on an article that seems to be more in the ballpark of its cellulosic ethanol cousins. In a letter to the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, NBB Chief Executive Officer Joe Jobe takes issue with what he calls are “some dubious conclusions” of the Associated Press’ “Fuels from corn waste not better than gas” article that slams cellulosic ethanol made from corn stover. But Jobe says a bigger point is missed in the article: how biodiesel is America’s first nationally distributed advanced biofuel and is working right now.

Last year, the domestic biodiesel industry produced 1.7 billion gallons of renewable fuel, filling the vast majority of the EPA’s advanced biofuel volume requirements under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.

The RFS was created by a bipartisan coalition in Congress. They recognized moving away from a singular reliance on petroleum for transportation fuel needs is paramount to America’s national security, economic and environmental interests. It has helped biodiesel — made in communities across the country from recycled cooking oil, animal fats and abundant vegetable oils — become an American success story.

Jobe goes on to point out that this country is importing less oil than at any time since 1991, and biodiesel is a big reason why that is happening. He also makes the case how biodiesel is “diversifying our transportation fuel portfolio and creating options,” while reducing carbon pollution by as much as 86 percent compared to petroleum diesel.

Biodiesel Board Joins EPA, DOJ Against Big Oil

scalesofjustice1While the basketball national championship might have been decided on the court, it could be the courts that decide the future of advanced biofuels in this country. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) joined forces with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice to fight an attempt to dismantle the Renewable Fuel Standard (NBB).

In the current case, Monroe Energy, joined by the American Petroleum Institute and other groups, is challenging the EPA’s handling of the 2013 volume requirements. Among the arguments supporting the EPA’s position, NBB points out that that the petroleum industry’s challenge makes no argument that insufficient volumes of renewable fuels were available in 2013 and fundamentally misinterprets the EPA’s authority to waive volume requirements under the law. NBB maintains that the EPA’s 2013 standards achieved the directives of Congress.

“The renewable fuels industry is united in supporting the RFS to promote production of clean, alternative fuels,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “As the leading producer of Advanced Biofuels in the nation, the biodiesel industry has demonstrated that the Advanced Biofuel standard is working. The simple fact is that we have met or exceeded the Advanced standard in each year of the program, including in 2013 when the RFS delivered more than 3.3 billion RIN-equivalent gallons of Advanced fuels, made up mostly of biodiesel and renewable diesel.”

“Big Oil likes to say the RFS isn’t working, but what’s really broken is the decades-long stranglehold the petroleum industry has on our fuel supplies,” Steckel added.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is hearing the case, and NBB says the decision will have tremendous implications for the future of advanced biofuels and affirm the EPA’s obligation to maintain the statutory volumes.

Biodiesel Tax Incentive Moves Out of Committee

cap pic1A measure that would renew the federal $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive has cleared a congressional committee. The credit, which expired at the end of 2013, passed the Senate Finance Committee as part of a package of tax provisions. The news was welcomed by the National Biodiesel Board, which still appeared miffed it expired in the first place, as Congress let happen in 2010 and 2012.

“This is the third time in five years that the biodiesel incentive has lapsed, making it incredibly difficult for biodiesel businesses to plan for expansion or build infrastructure,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, the industry trade association. “We applaud the Senate Finance Committee for taking the first step toward extending it and urge the House and Senate to continue the committee’s bipartisan work by acting quickly to extend this credit so the biodiesel industry can get back to work.”

“The U.S. biodiesel industry has plants in almost every state in the country, and this tax incentive is something Congress can pass today to stimulate growth and economic activity at all of them,” Steckel added. “This incentive is a job creator, and it also pays tremendous dividends in terms of reducing harmful emissions and strengthening our energy security.”

The measure calls for the incentive to be restored retroactively back to Jan. 1, 2014, and extended through the end of 2015.

Biofuel Organizations Call for Tax Credits Extensions

US Capitol at dusk photo Joanna SchroederLeaders from several biofuel trade organizations are calling for the extension of some federal advanced biofuel tax credits. The Advanced Ethanol Council, Advanced Biofuels Association, Algae Biomass Organization, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, and Renewable Fuels Association have sent a letter to the Senate calling for the restoration of the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit.

The letter reads, in part, “The advanced biofuels industry is at a critical stage of development. Despite a difficult financial market, we are now operating commercial plants across the country and continue to make progress on dozens of additional projects in the final stages of development. Advanced biofuel tax credits have allowed the biofuels industry to make great strides in reducing the cost of production and developing first-of-kind technologies to deploy the most innovative fuel in the world.

“As leaders in a critical innovation sector in the United States, we are well aware of the financial constraints facing this country. However, the United States’ global competitors are offering tax incentives for advanced biofuels and in fact are attracting construction of new facilities – and associated high skilled jobs. If Congress wants American companies to continue developing these homegrown technologies in the United States, it must extend these credits. Biofuel producers are also competing with incumbent fossil energy industries who continue to enjoy tax incentives on a permanent basis.”

The letter marks the latest effort by biodiesel and ethanol producers and their backers to get better federal government support for their green fuels. Late last year, the Environmental Protection Agency undercut the industries when it proposed drastic reductions in the amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be mixed into the Nation’s fuel supply. In addition, Washington also let these vital federal tax credits expire at the end of the year.

Celebrating Biodiesel Day Advocating for Green Fuel

biodieselday1While yesterday was National Biodiesel Day, our friends at the National Biodiesel Board were not just cutting birthday cake. They were advocating on Capitol Hill for the green fuel. March 18th marks the 156th birthday of Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the engine that bears his name and a man who wanted it to run on peanut oil, not petroleum. The NBB’s governing board spent the day talking to lawmakers and taking part in meetings in Washington, D.C.

While hearing more about the NBB’s communications efforts, NBB Governing Board Member Tim Keaveney, HERO BX (shown to the right), reviews a selection of the several dozen letters to the editor published to date regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to cut drastically the amount of biodiesel required to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply.

biodieselday2Meanwhile, in this picture on the left, NBB Governing Board members listen to representatives of Bingham McCutchen as they provide an update on litigation related to the RFS.

In a separate news release, while pointing out that the EPA is proposing 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel to be blended – a sharp drop from last year’s record production in the biomass-based diesel of 1.8 billion gallons – NBB officials made another push for biodiesel.

“Nearly every product that ends up on a store shelf is dependent on diesel fuel to get it there. That heavy reliance on one fuel means our economy is directly linked to petroleum price swings. It’s in everyone’s best interest to have a choice in transportation fuel, and that’s where biodiesel – America’s first Advanced Biofuel – comes in,” said Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board CEO.