Iowa GOP Makes Biodiesel Campaign Stop

branstad-ernstIowa biodiesel producers and soybean farmers hosted Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst at the REG Newton biodiesel plant last week.

Industry representatives also had a private meeting with Ernst where Iowa Biodiesel Board executive director Grant Kimberley said they discussed the pending federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) decision from EPA. “Our industry needs smart, consistent federal energy policy,” Kimberley said. “The economic and energy security benefits biodiesel provides are remarkable, making the RFS one of the finest policies we have.”

In remarks at the plant, Ernst said she favors renewable fuels because of her agricultural background and her service in Iraq as member of the Iowa National Guard. “Anything that we can do to make our nation more energy secure, more energy independent I certainly am going to support those efforts,” Ernst said.

Calling Iowa the “renewable fuels capital of the United States” Branstad said the entire industry is important to the economy, farm income, quality jobs, and reducing dependency on foreign oil. “So that’s why I’m so passionate and why I’ve fought so hard for the renewable fuel standard,” he said.

Under EPA’s current proposal, volume obligations for both biodiesel and ethanol would decline. A final decision on the proposal has yet to be announced.

Enviro Groups React to Prez Obama’s Climate Speech

“Yes this is hard, but there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part,” said U.S. President Barack Obama during the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit that is taking place this week in New York.

During his speech he pledged to put forth a proposal to continue combating climate change beyond 2020 as well as committed to addressing the serious and growing impacts of climate change that the poorest and most vulnerable around the world are already facing. In addition, he took responsibility for America’s role in climate change.

“As I sat in the audience today, I heard President Obama demonstrate the kind of climate leadership the world needs. He made it clear the U.S. is serious about fighting climate change through major cuts to our carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRCD) after the speech. “He promised to help communities around the world become more resilient and speed their development of clean energy. And he challenged other nations to step up their climate actions by promising a commitment to our own. This was a message of hope — hope that together we can head off the worst damages from climate change and leave our children a healthier world.”

Jennifer Morgan, director, Climate and Energy Programs for the World Resources Institute welcomed the President Obama’s clear focus and personal commitment. “I am encouraged by President Obama’s promise to put forth an ambitious post-2020 climate commitment early next year. Strong signals that the United States is decarbonizing its economy will set the stage for a successful outcome at the climate negotiations next year. As growing evidence shows, investing in a low-carbon economy creates jobs, reduces air pollution and improves people’s lives. The United States now must build on the importance progress made in recent years.”

It has been five years since the last climate summit in Copenhagen and the next summit will take place next year in Paris. Obama noted that scientists have learned a great deal more about climate change in the past few years and that they will continue to learn more. He also stressed that climate change is happening and action will mean survival.

“As the President made clear, we don’t have the luxury to act as though climate change isn’t happening,” continued Morgan. “For the most vulnerable communities, taking action now is a matter of survival. The good news is that we have the technology and techniques in hand to both shift to the low carbon economy and build resilience to climate impacts. President Obama’s announcement today is a key step in putting those tools to use. Better and more information about climate impacts is one of our most powerful tools to combat climate change. The President has signaled his commitment to ensure everyone around the world has access to the data they need to anticipate and protect themselves from the consequences of global warming.”
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Bridge to Clean Energy Future Act Unveiled

Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02), along with 16 other members of Congress, have introduced HR 5559, the Bridge to a Clean Energy Future Act of 2014. If passed, the bill would extend incentives to provide market certainty and to strengthen investment in clean energy such as extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy through 2016, offering parity with the Investment Tax Credit enjoyed by solar energy investments, and granting the solar industry the same access to credits at the start of a project’s construction that the wind industry has.

Iowa Wind Farm Photo Credit Joanna Schroeder“I’m eager to push this across the finish line this Congress,” said Blumenauer. “My state of Oregon is a leader in renewable energy technologies, and Dave’s state of Iowa is the second largest wind energy producer in the nation, so we understand the importance of stability and security in the clean energy sector. His help will be important in advancing this legislation. Making sure these energy sources are on an even playing field with the fossil fuel industry is essential to lowering carbon emissions, creating a cleaner environment, and creating good, non-exportable American jobs.”

According to the representatives, creating a tax landscape for renewables that allows them to compete fairly in the market with other energy sources benefits the country by creating a healthier environment and thousands of jobs. It also puts renewable energy on an equal footing with traditional fossil fuels, giving consumers choice about how they want to power their homes and their lives.

“The Production Tax Credit has helped the still-growing U.S. wind energy industry employ 80,000 Americans, including thousands of Iowans,” added Loebsack. “Like all businesses, the wind energy sector needs stability and predictability so long term investments and business decisions can be made. The continued expiration of the PTC causes slow-downs at manufacturing facilities and could lead to additional lay-offs. For our nation to move towards energy independence and continued job growth, we need to prioritize clean energy like wind and act immediately to pass this extension of the PTC.”

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.”

Iowans Want More Biodiesel and Candidates’ Support for It

IowaBiodieselBoardLogoAs one of the nation’s leaders in biodiesel production, it comes as no surprise that Iowans are supportive of the green fuel. But a new survey shows that support is practically through the roof! The Iowa Biodiesel Board says a new survey of registered voters shows that more than three-fourths of those asked not only support biodiesel, but they want the federal requirement for the fuel to increase. And nearly the same amount say a Congressional candidate’s support for the Renewable Fuel Standard was an important factor in their voting decisions.

The 77 percent figure came in response to the question, “Do you support or oppose expanding the national Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires blending some renewable fuels into the nation’s fuel supply, to increase biodiesel use in the United States?”

What’s more, 69 percent said a Congressional candidate’s position on the RFS was “very” or “somewhat” important.

There are four U.S. House seats and one U.S. Senate seat up for election in Iowa.

The survey comes as biodiesel producers are feeling a lot of market pressure because of the Obama Administration’s proposal to slash the RFS biodiesel target far below last year’s production of nearly 1.8 billion gallons. It also comes as candidates are making a big push for that November vote.

MN Gubernatorial Candidates Differ on Biofuels

mn-flagAll politics is local, and how some local and regional elections this year could help determine the fate of biodiesel and ethanol for a much larger area. Case in point, this article from the St. Cloud (MN) Times looks at how the four Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to take on current Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in November have differing views on biofuels as they go into the August 12 Republican primary in that state.

A Marshall resident and former state representative, [Marty] Siefert said the state has created thousands of jobs, and the state should not change the requirement that gasoline include 10 percent ethanol.

“I see this as the status quo for now,” he said, not jumping on a bandwagon to increase ethanol percentages.

For diesel, Seifert said, he can understand concerns about biodiesel gumming up fuel filters in cold weather. “Biodiesel mandates are not going to go up if I’m governor.”

Raised on a North Dakota farm and now a Maple Grove resident, [Kurt] Zellers said he wants to look into increasing the ethanol mandate to 15 percent but needs more information before fully supporting it.

At minimum, he said, he wants to keep existing mandates in place.

[Jeff] Johnson, who grew up in Detroit Lakes and lives in Plymouth, said he favors eliminating mandates from state law, including those affecting biofuels.

However, he added, he has been around government enough to know that the mandates cannot be eliminated right away.

“Government has created somewhat of a dependency,” Johnson said, adding that eliminating biofuel mandates is not a priority and that he would like to phase them out.

There is none of that waiting for [Orono businessman Scott] Honour.

“I would try to push away from mandates as quickly as possible,” Honour said. “My view is that the less government is trying to influence a free market, the better.”

So there you have it Minnesotans. Choose wisely when you go to the polls on August 12.

Where do Iowa Candidates Stand on the RFS?

Americans United For Change want Iowans to know where their candidates for U.S. Senate stand: with Iowa farmers or Big Oil. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), legislation that mandates the U.S. transportation sector blend 36 billion gallons of alternative fuels into our fuel by 2022. With more than 30,000 comments sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on their proposed 2014 required volume obligations, aka, how many gallons of biofuels will be blended into fuel in 2014, there has still been no word on the final 2014 rule out of D.C.

In Iowa, primary elections took place last week and newly nominated Republican Joni Ernst, who currently serves as an Iowa Legislator, has not taken a firm stand on the RFS. According to Americans United for Change, she claims to be pro-RFS but often in the same breath admits she is “philosophically opposed” to all subsidies and that she “want[s] people to choose products that work for them and not have them mandated by the United States government.”

Americans United for Change Des Moines Register pro-RFS adToday, Americans Unite for Change, in an effort to get a straight answer, has taken out a full page ad in the Des Moines Register and Cedar Rapids Gazette that asks the questions whether the tens of thousands of dollars Ernst’s campaign has already taken from the billionaire oilmen Koch Brothers is the reason why she is so hesitant to go to the mat for renewable fuels. The biofuels industry accounts for $5.5 billion of Iowa Gross Domestic Product (GDP, generates $4 billion of income for Iowa households, and supports 60,000 jobs throughout the state.

Jeremy Funk, Comm. Dir., Americans United for Change, said of the ad, “As the candidates from opposing parties interview to be the next Senator from Iowa, there are many issues like raising the minimum wage that will present a clear contrast for voters. The Renewable Fuel Standard should not be one of those issues in the state that leads the nation in renewable fuel production with 41 ethanol plants and 18 biodiesel plants.”

“And yet,” continued Funk, “Tea Party-favorite Joni Ernst is going out of her way to complicate the simple and flip-flopping all around the issue. Talking out both sides of the mouth is something we’ve come to expect from politicians, just not politicians from Iowa on the issue of supporting renewable fuels. A strong and clear voice of support for ethanol and biodiesel is needed now more than ever in Washington with Big Oil spending millions of dollars to try to put out of business their cheaper, cleaner competition so they can gouge consumers at the pump with impunity.”

But it seems the more money Joni Ernst’s campaign rakes in from big oil interests like the billionaire Koch Brothers, the weaker and murkier her position becomes.” Funk concluded, “You can tell a lot about how a politician would actually govern by the friends they keep.”

Iowa U.S. Senate Candidates Support Biofuels

ia-rfaConsidering the state’s significant role in biofuels and renewable energy, there’s little surprise that primary candidates for the Iowa U.S. Senate seat are expressing their support of the green fuels. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says its 2014 Iowa U.S. Senate Primary Candidate Renewable Fuels Survey shows there’s strong, bipartisan support for renewable fuels among the state’s top candidates.

The full results and responses from candidates U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, Sam Clovis, state Sen. Joni Ernst, and Mark Jacobs can be found here: http://www.iowarfa.org/2014IRFACandidateSurveys.php. Matt Whitaker informed IRFA he would not be returning the survey.

“Literally tens of thousands of Iowans are invested in or directly employed by the renewable fuels industry, and they deserve to know where the candidates stand on these important issues,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “It’s great to see every candidate who responded showed strong support for ethanol and biodiesel, demonstrating renewable fuels issues are important to Iowa’s future.”

In December, the IRFA held an Iowa GOP U.S. Senate Primary Candidate Renewable Fuels Forum where candidates Sam Clovis and Mark Jacobs answered questions on specific renewable fuels issues. Video of that forum is available here.

Obama’s Proposed Biodiesel Cuts Could Cost Dems

showsDemocrats looking to make gains on the Republican majority in the U.S. House and hold back any possible GOP takeover in the Senate in the 2014 elections could be hurt by the Obama Administration’s proposal to cut the amount of biodiesel in the Nation’s fuel supply. And that criticism is coming from one of the Democratic Party’s own. This opinion piece in Roll Call from former Mississippi Democratic congressman Ronnie Shows, says the proposal is likely to hurt fellow Democrats in some important states.

The biodiesel announcement was puzzling because the president has stated for years that advanced biofuels, such as biodiesel, are a critical component of this nation’s fuel supply. Throughout his presidency and even on the campaign trail, Obama has made his support of advanced biofuels a hallmark of his administration’s efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil…

But despite the president’s recent support of biodiesel, as you read this, the EPA, which determines the number of gallons of biofuels federally required in the nation’s fuel supply, is soliciting comments on a proposal to reduce the amount of biodiesel sold every year in the United States by hundreds of millions of gallons.

Why the Obama administration is doing this to biodiesel is unclear, but I suspect the White House is planning to deny the Keystone XL pipeline — and offer Big Oil a consolation prize by cutting competition from renewable fuels, even advanced renewables such as biodiesel.

Shows goes on to say that the biodiesel proposal really hurts Democrats in key battleground states, such as North Carolina and Iowa. He concludes that the Administration’s lack of decisiveness on biodiesel could play into the hands of Republicans who accuse the White House of being “rudderless.”

Election Insight 2012

An “Election Insight 2012” report was issued shortly following the elections on November 7, 2012 by SNR Denton, and provides interesting insights into what political issues will take the forefront in the next four years. The report highlights winners and losers both at the federal and local levels as well as provides a short list of who could take over several key appointed positions. It also gives a top level discussion of what key issues will be addressed during the upcoming lame duck session, as well as over the next four years.

Of interest to our readers is the overview of several areas: renewable energy, environment and the tax extenders package. Here is a samling of the highlights:

  • The 112th Congress returns for a lame duck session beginning next week and the major topic of discussion will be the combination of expiring tax provisions and across-the-board spending cuts (sequestration) including discussion of retroactive extension of expired provisions including research and development tax credit, the production tax credit for wind energy, and other “tax extenders”.
  • Several major policy areas that will be on the agenda for the next Congress: debate on the future of American energy; and job creation and economic growth. The issues above are forecast to become part of the broader debate over the economy.
  • The energy sector also will draw attention in the context of tax reform, with debate continuing on tax policy affecting both oil and gas companies and renewable generators.
  • President Obama’s corporate tax reform plan calls for a lowering of the corporate tax rate from 35%to 28%, and reducing the manufacturing income rate to 25%. To pay for these proposals, the president would eliminate several business tax breaks, most notably subsidies for oil companies.
  • Obama’s plan would make the Research and Development (R&D) tax credit permanent and the tax credit for renewable electricity production permanent.
  • Obama’s plan would require companies to pay minimum tax on overseas profits and remove tax deductions for moving production overseas, while giving a 20% income tax credit for the expenses of moving back to the U.S.
  • The next terms will bring continued debate on the future development of American energy resources,  Continue reading

Agri-Pulse Poll Favors Romney and RFS

A new poll of farmers and ranchers out today finds that a vast majority say they will vote Romney for president and believe continuation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is important.

According to the Agri-Pulse Farm and Rural Poll, 78 percent of farmers polled are voting for Mitt Romney in the presidential election, and 76% said continuation of the RFS is very or somewhat important to the future profitability of agriculture in the U.S. Only 12 percent indicated the RFS was “not very important” or “not at all important,” while 12 percent said they are “not sure.” Significantly, half of those surveyed who raise only livestock answered that continuing the RFS is “very important.”

On November 1, 2012, Pulse Opinion Research conducted a telephone survey of 319 farmers and ranchers who are likely voters. Questions covered the presidential election, farm bill priorities, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s job performance rating, the Renewable Fuels Standard, and other topics.

The telephone survey found that 71 percent of respondents strongly disapprove of President Obama’s job performance while 12 percent strongly approve. Of all farmers polled, 51 percent labeled themselves Republican, 26 percent Democrat.

Poll results available here.

Soybean Association Asks Candidates About Biodiesel

As I noted in the most recent Domestic Fuel Cast, neither President Barack Obama or former Governor Mitt Romney get too specific when talking about renewable energy (ethanol was mentioned just once by name during their three debates in October, and biodiesel seemed to be just about as absent). But that doesn’t mean they won’t mention these things when directly asked. So, the American Soybean Association decided to pose the question directly to them about the renewable energy source most near and dear to its heart, biodiesel.

Pointing out the rising cost of foreign oil, monetarily and national security-wise, and the fact that biodiesel, made from soybeans reduces the need for oil while also producing animal feedstock and putting more Americans back to work in biodiesel refineries, the ASA asked each candidate: How would your administration protect the ability of the biodiesel industry to remain viable?

President Obama: We must invest in a clean energy economy that will lead to new jobs, new businesses, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I recently announced a new goal of cutting oil imports in half by the end of the decade. Developing the next generation of biofuels will help us achieve this goal, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil will help create millions of new jobs that can’t be outsourced. We are already making progress. U.S. biofuel production is at its highest level in history. Last year, rural America produced enough renewable fuels to meet roughly 8 percent of our needs, helping us increase our energy independence to its highest level in 20 years. And a higher renewable fuel standard is boosting an industry that supports 39,000 jobs and ensuring its continued growth.

Governor Romney: I have a plan to achieve North American energy independence by 2020, and biofuels will play a role in enabling us to achieve that goal. I believe that all of our energy resources are and should continue to be a source of long-term competitive advantage for ournation. My policies broadly aim to ensure that all of our energy industries can sustainably become competitive, innovative and efficient. I support biofuels, as well as the RFS and would seek to eliminate the regulatory barriers to a diversification of our fuel system.

Read the rest of their responses to other questions ASA posed here.

Farm Foundation to Discuss Farm Policy Post-Election

While all elections are important, this year’s promises to have some real implications for rural America. That’s why Farm Foundation is holding a forum about a week after the polls close, and we know WHO is in office to explain WHAT they might do as as far as agriculture, food and rural policy, including renewable energy, is concerned. The forum will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. EST at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, Washington D.C.

And for the first time a free live, webcast of the forum will be offered. You can see the webcast by registering here. Email julie@farmfoundation.org by Nov. 12th if you plan to attend in person.

“By their votes on Nov. 6, citizens will set the stage for the next four years of the nation’s policy development at both the state and federal level,” says Foundation President Neil Conklin. “This Forum is an opportunity to examine how those elections may specifically impact agriculture, food and rural policies in the months ahead.”

DF Cast: Candidates Debate Domestic Fuels

It’s less than a week before election day, and President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney are vying for every vote they can, including those people interested in energy issues in this country.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from Obama and Romney as they made their pitches about their domestic energy policies during the debates they held in October. A little talk about wind… a little talk about biofuels (with just one small utterance of the word ethanol)… and a LOT to say about petroleum and coal. It’s for you to hear and make your decision… and for all of us to see what talk actually becomes action once the shouting is all over.

You can listen to the Domestic Fuel Cast here: Domestic Fuel Cast - Candidates on Energy

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

Obama Campaign “Energy Tour” at Juhl Wind Today

The Obama Campaign “Energy Tour” will be blowing into Woodstock, Minnesota today for a press conference at the headquarters of Juhl Wind, Inc.

Former Minnesota state representative Matthew Entenza will join company representatives to discuss the importance of the extension of the Renewable Energy Federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) and President Obama’s support of the clean energy sector.

“In my over 25 years in the energy business, I have never seen a more balanced approach to our nation’s energy strategy than the Obama administration’s,” said John Mitola, President of Juhl Wind. “We are very pleased to welcome Mr. Entenza to the Juhl Wind headquarters to further underscore the need for continued support of Renewable Energy, a critical component of our domestic renewable energy policy and a creator of new domestic job opportunities. We are proud of President Obama’s strong ongoing support of the Renewable Energy industry and the need to continue to invest in our clean energy future. For anyone to solely attack the Renewable Energy PTC as a subsidy, they are simply ignoring the hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies that have been provided to the nuclear, coal, gas and oil industries for decades and continue to this today – and, seemingly are never questioned.”

Mitola referenced the most recent American Wind Energy Association report that says 2012 has been a record year for the development of wind power within the United States, surpassing 50,000 megawatts of electrical power generation capacity, with a total of 4,728 megawatts added this year alone and another 8,430 megawatts in active development throughout 29 states and Puerto Rico.