Biofuel Groups Oppose RFS Delay Request

Leading biofuel industry groups are opposing a delay requested by petroleum industry in a 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard case.

Dont Mess with RFSThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and Growth Energy together filed a joint response yesterday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in opposition to the American Petroleum Institute’s and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers’ motion to “sever and hold in abeyance their challenge to the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard” that was filed on Friday. The case is Monroe Energy, LLC v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, which was argued before the Court on April 7.

As the groups explained in their response to the motion, “Respondent-Intervenors Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy, and Renewable Fuels Association oppose the motion to sever API and AFPM’s petitions and place them in abeyance. The petitions have been fully briefed, responded to, and argued. No purpose is served by pulling API and AFPM’s petitions back a week after argument, to hold them indefinitely and consolidate them with hypothetical later-filed petitions.”

RFA: CARB’s ILUC Analysis Out of Date, Out of Step

rfa-logo-09A biofuels advocate is taking exception with one state’s evaluation of indirect land use change associated with the green fuels. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) says the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) draft indirect land use change (ILUC) analysis is not in step with current ILUC science.

Geoff Cooper, RFA’s senior vice president, notes in his submission that RFA is greatly concerned by many aspects of the draft.

Cooper writes, “….several of the assumptions and methodological approaches chosen for CARB’s draft analysis run counter to the recommendations of the Expert Work Group (EWG). In particular, the values selected by CARB for key GTAP elasticities are in conflict with values recommended by EWG and well-known agricultural economists. More generally, CARB’s draft analysis lacks sufficient justification for certain judgment calls made by staff with regard to important model parameters.

“… the results of CARB’s draft analysis are in conflict with the results of recent independent ILUC studies. As described in a recent letter to CARB Chair Mary Nichols from 14 scientists and researchers (including CARB-appointed Expert Work Group members), the corn ethanol ILUC results from CARB’s draft analysis are significantly higher than estimates from recent peer-reviewed scientific analyses…. We believe CARB should explain and justify the divergence of its draft results with estimates from other recent studies.”

RFA addresses key modeling parameters in CARB’s analysis, such as crop yield elasticities and emissions factors, which RFA believes are not in line with what current ILUC science says. In addition, the group says CARB needs to correct in its draft price yield elasticity, what RFA considers to be the single more important factor in the analysis. You can read RFA’s full comment letter here.

Ethanol Industry Testifies About Railroad Issues

The ethanol industry testified during the Surface Transportation Board hearing to discuss issues related to insufficient rail service that the ethanol industry says has resulted in ethanol prices spikes and ethanol plants having to halt production.

ethanol rail car at Patriot EthanolChris Bliley, director of regulatory affairs for Growth Energy said in his testimony, “Make no mistake, these price spikes have not been caused by a lack of ethanol production or supply, but purely because of an inability to get timely rail transportation. In fact, many plants have reduced or even halted production because their storage capacity is fully utilized. There have been numerous examples of our producers having to wait and wait on trains to deliver their product.”

He continued, “On top of the poor and declining rail service, our industry has seen increased tariff rates on certain routes effective April 1. Not only did one railroad give our producers very little notice of the increases, but I dare say, few, if any industries would have the audacity or ability to increase shipping rates while their service has been so poor.

“The bottom line is that the railroad industry has failed in its sole responsibility to transport goods in a timely and effective manner. This failure in service has had a ripple effect on American consumers by increasing the cost of goods and services, and has directly impacted our industry by causing a de facto shut down in production as there is simply no more space to store product,” Bliley added.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) general counsel Ed Hubbard, in his testimony said, “Due to an uncharacteristic winter, rail shipments of all commodities have been significantly delayed across the country. For ethanol, the congestion has led to a dramatic delay in ethanol shipments to fuel terminals, and caused shutdowns of operations at ethanol plants because they can’t continue to store product while awaiting rail carriers to move their product.” Continue reading

Americans Vote for Biofuels

According to a new national poll conducted by American Viewpoint on behalf of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Americans support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and other key federal initiatives that support the expanded use of biofuels such as ethanol. Sixty-five percent of adults support the RFS, up from 61 percent in 2012.

E85 pump in Ottumwa Iowa

Photo: Joanna Schroeder

Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO said of the poll results, “It is telling that support for the RFS continues to grow in spite of the relentless attacks on ethanol and the RFS financed by Big Oil’s deep pockets. Repeatedly Americans have decisively said they place a premium on energy independence, job creation, and a cleaner environment.”

For these reasons and more, Americans overwhelmingly support the RFS for its ability to strengthen this great nation,” continued Dinneen. “Members of Congress and the Obama Administration should review this data before taking action to reduce or eliminate a program with broad national appeal and tangible energy and environmental benefits.”

Expanding on the polling results, Dinneen added, “Americans see great value in investing in the next generation of fuel, cellulosic ethanol, and they support the idea of an open fuel standard which encourages the manufacturing of cars that run on any number of alternatives to petroleum. In fact, Americans appear to have a visceral dislike for the billions and billions of dollars in government subsidies and special tax treatment that Big Oil has enjoyed for 100 years.”

Sixty-six percent of the respondents favor incentives for the expansion of cellulosic ethanol while 78 percent of respondents favor auto manufacturers to build cars that will run on fuel other than oil. In addition, 66 percent of respondents oppose oil company subsidies while only 22 percent favor oil subsidies.

Continue reading

Oil-Induced Rail Chaos Driving Up Gas Prices

The railroad industry is America is struggling to keep up with demand and according the Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), this is negatively affecting deliveries of ethanol and biofuel co-products. In a letter to Ed Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), Dinneen sent a list of questions that address the “abject failure of the rail system to adequately address the needs of all of its customers.”

According to Dinneen, U.S. ethanol is the lowest price liquid transportation in the world, saving American consumers between $0.50 and $1.50 per gallon. He writes, “Over the past several weRail car getting filled with ethanol at Patriot Renewable Fuels biorefineryeks, however, the sheer chaos that is today’s rail system is denying consumers that price relief by driving up the transportation cost for and impacting the supply of ethanol and other commodities. Nothing has changed with regard to ethanol production costs or efficiencies. The only change has been abject failure of the rail system to adequately address the needs of all its customers. The U.S. economy is suffering as a consequence.”

Dinneen says the letter spells out in clear detail the limiting impact the rail situation is having on the ethanol industry. He writes, “In response to increasing demand, the ethanol industry was producing at an average rate of 949,000 barrels per day (bpd) in December 2013. But disarray on the rail system in the first quarter of 2014 has forced ethanol producers to significantly curtail output. By the first week of March 2014, ethanol output had fallen to 869,000 bpd, as producers were forced to slow down. Onsite storage tanks were brimming full and, in many cases, the railcars and/or locomotives needed to ship ethanol were simply not available. As a result, ethanol stocks in key regions have been depleted and prices have increased. All of this is due to the turmoil on the rails—dislocated railcars and locomotives, increased terminal dwell times, slower train speeds, an insufficient number of crews, and a shortage of spare railcars and locomotives.”

The railroad industry has blamed the winter weather as the major problem but Dinneen says this is simply an excuse. “The railroads have attributed this lackluster performance and inefficiency to winter weather. But they seem to have forgotten that winter comes every year!… Indeed, a more plausible explanation for the severity of the current epidemic is the explosive growth in railcar shipments of Bakken and Canadian crude oil.”

Dinneen continues, “The surge in crude oil production from fracking has reshuffled the existing fleet of railcars and locomotives, pressured lease rates, changed normal rail traffic patterns, and generally exerted significant stress on the rail system. According to AAR, crude oil shipments have increased from 9,344 carloads in 2008 to 434,032 carloads in 2013. In addition, AAR data show rail shipments of industrial sand nearly tripled between 2008 and 2013, stating, ‘…frac sand is almost certainly the primary driver behind the increased industrial sand movements on railroads over the past few years.’ It seems absurd to suggest, as some have, that the efficiency of the rail system has been unaffected by the 4545% increase in crude oil shipments and the 170% increase in sand shipments since 2008.”

Click here to view the list of questions and the full letter.

Oil Spills & Contaminated Gas – Ethanol Takes On API

RFA_GrowthEnergy_Dear_Oil_AdA recent edition of the New York Times and Politico have published what the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy are calling “good-humored, but factual takedown of Big Oil’s false, hypocritical attacks against clean, renewable ethanol”.

In response to American Petroleum Institute’s (API) current national anti-biofuel campaign, the two ethanol associations have published an ad that is an open letter to Jack Gerard, API president in Politico and all DC editions of the New York Times.

Dinneen and Buis write, “Despite the millions of dollars your industry has spent on bogus TV ads, there hasn’t been a single reported case of engine damage from ethanol blended fuels like E15. But last week, Exxon admitted selling customers in Louisiana more than 5 million gallons of oil-based gasoline that was so bad that it’s been stopping cars dead in their tracks. In fact, one auto shop reported 40 or 50 customers who had trouble starting their engines as a result of Exxon’s contaminated gas. That’s 40 or 50 more cases of engine problems than have been reported in the entire country from E15, and that’s just one shop in Baton Rouge!”

With summer around the corner consumers are getting their boats ready for the waters and API has taken the opportunity to run ads about boats not being able to use E15 or other higher blends of ethanol. However, what API does not acknowledge is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not approve E15 for small engines or boats.

Going directly at the current API boat ads, the open letter continues, “While your ads are misleading people about the impact of ethanol on marine engines, boats in Houston are in dry dock because of your oil spill! In fact, that one company has been fined for 77 different oil spills since 2008, which means they have averaged more than one oil spill per month for the last six years. That’s a lot of boaters impacted by oil spills, Jack.”

The open letter is summed up in one simple closing thought, “You see, Jack, the real environmental peril is oil, not renewable fuels like ethanol.”

Ethanol Report From RFA in DC

dinneen-dcAfter the ACE Biofuels Beltway March, I was able to stop by and visit with Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen in his Washington DC office and we covered the waterfront on issues currently facing the ethanol industry.

ethanol-report-adIn this Ethanol Report, Dinneen discusses what he’s hearing about the EPA proposal to lower the RFS, the latest anti-RFS ad campaign from Big Oil, rail delays impacting ethanol shipments, getting the tax credits for advanced biofuels reinstated, USDA plans to continue to support ethanol, and enthusiasm in the industry.

Ethanol Report with RFA president Bob Dinneen from DC

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

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.

Ethanol Industry Takes LCFS Fight to High Court

The nation’s ethanol industry has decided to take its fight against the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) to United States Supreme Court.

rfagrowthThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy today filed a joint petition with the U.S. Supreme Court for “certiorari to make a final determination relating to the constitutionally flawed LCFS.” The action follows a decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January to deny rehearing en banc in the litigation regarding the California law.

A joint release from the two ethanol groups stated, “California, through adoption of the LCFS, has violated the most basic, structural features of interstate federalism. LCFS not only discriminates against out-of-state commerce, but it seeks to regulate conduct in other States in direct contravention of our constitutional structure and at the direct expense of Midwestern farmers and ethanol producers.”

The January decision by a divided panel of the the Ninth Circuit Court reversed a previous District Court finding that the California LCFS violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and is therefore unconstitutional. The ethanol groups note that California officials admit the LCFS seeks to regulate greenhouse gas emissions occurring in other states “by rewarding and punishing industrial and agricultural activity taking place outside California” and in doing so systematically favors California, which they contend is unconstitutional.

Ethanol Exports Start 2014 Higher

Exports of U.S. ethanol started 2014 at the highest level seen in over two years.

rfa-annAccording to U.S. Census Bureau data, ethanol exports in January totaled 86 million gallons, which is the highest monthly volume since December 2011. “Exports were up a third from December 2013, while imports remained sparse, meaning the United States was a net ethanol exporter by the widest margin in over two years,” according to Renewable Fuels Association research analyst Ann Lewis, writing on the E-xchange blog.

Brazil was the top customer for U.S. ethanol, beating out Canada for the number one spot, importing nearly 23.9 million gallons, the largest monthly volume to Brazil in two years. Exports to Canada dropped 36% from December to 18.8 million gallons (mg). Rounding out the top destinations were the United Arab Emirates (12.4 mg), India (10.7 mg), the Philippines (5.5 mg), and Mexico (3.3 mg).

Meanwhile, exports of the ethanol co-product distillers dried grains (DDGs) were lower in January, down 9% to 903,827 metric tons (mt). Lewis notes that China was again the leading destination with 344,147 mt. “However, China’s market share scaled back to 38%, in contrast with its majority stake (56%) of U.S. DDGs exports averaged over the second half of 2013,” writes Lewis. Mexico (140,664 mt), South Korea (77,977 mt), Vietnam (48,514 mt), and Japan (44,505 mt) rounded out the top five DDGS markets in January.

CARB Considers Small ILUC Change for Ethanol

carb-14-2The California Air Resources Board (CARB) today is proposing potential changes to indirect land use change (iLUC) penalties under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) which some scientists and the ethanol industry say are a start, but don’t go far enough.

Based on a review of materials made available by CARB prior to the workshop, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen said, “CARB appears to be taking a small step in the right direction, but the science shows a much larger reduction to the iLUC penalty for corn ethanol is warranted.”

RFA-logo-13Dinneen notes that a group of 14 well-known scientists, including five members of CARB’s own expert work group, sent a letter to CARB last week recommending that the penalty should be lowered by 50-80 percent, rather than the 20 percent CARB is proposing. “The larger issue here is that in the five years since the LCFS was adopted, there have been no indications that the policy has caused—or will cause—any kind of land use change,” said Dinneen. “Amazon deforestation has fallen to its lowest rate on record, U.S. cropland area continues to shrink, and U.S. forested area continues to increase. All of this suggests the iLUC hypothesis needs to be critically re-evaluated.”

Dinneen believes that California consumers will be negatively impacted if CARB maintains the iLUC penalty for corn ethanol. “Under CARB’s apparent proposal, grain ethanol—the lowest-cost renewable fuel used in the California market today—will ultimately be replaced with higher-priced imported fuel,” said Dinneen.

The CARB workshop on the proposed Indirect Land Use Change values and how they were determined by staff will be webcast today beginning at 1:00 pm Pacific time. During the webcasts, CARB will also be accepting feedback and questions sent via email to sierrarm@calepa.ca.gov.

Ethanol Advocate Honored by Corn Growers

Jere White (center) with his wife Linda and son Robert, honored by NCGA CEO Rick Tolman and president Martin Barbre

Jere White (center) with his wife Linda and son Robert, honored by NCGA CEO Rick Tolman and president Martin Barbre

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) celebrated the long and productive career of an ethanol advocate and industry leader during the recent Commodity Classic.

Jere White is retiring from the Kansas Corn Growers after leading that organization for a quarter of a century and was presented with the Meritorious Service Award from NCGA. He has been a strong supporter of the ethanol industry during that time and his son Robert is Director of Market Development for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

An avid motorcyclist, White had a serious accident in September 2012, and while he has made a remarkable recovery from critical injuries, he recently decided it was time to pass the reins of the association on to someone else.

classic14-greg-jereThe new Kansas Corn CEO, pictured here with Jere, is Greg Krissek – also a long-time ethanol advocate and industry leader. In his career, Greg has served as Assistant Secretary at the Kansas Department of Agriculture; Director of Operations at Kansas Corn and Kansas Grain Sorghum; Director of Government Affairs for ICM Inc. and, most recently was a manager at Kennedy and Coe, LLC. He has also served on many ethanol and agricultural association boards and on seven ethanol plant boards of directors.

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Ethanol’s Voice Heard at Commodity Classic

white1It might not be a biofuels convention per se, but the recently completed Commodity Classic in San Antonio attracted lots of producers and advocates for the green fuels. Previously, I talked to Joe Jobe from the National Biodiesel Board about his group’s participation in the annual meeting of corn, wheat, soybean and sorghum growers. At the booth next door was another group in the biofuels game, the Renewable Fuels Association, representing the ethanol industry. RFA’s Director of Market Development Robert White said that they’re glad to come out and talk with the thousands of corn farmers attending who are a big part of the main feedstock for ethanol and invest heavily themselves in the industry.

“It’s a good place for us to be. It’s actually nice to go into a friendly environment every once in a while,” he said.

Of course, the biggest thing they heard at the event was the concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to cut a billion gallons of ethanol from the Renewable Volume Obligations, the amount of ethanol required to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply. Robert said they need to counter some of the myths that petroleum companies are trying to spread with fact-based arguments in favor of ethanol.

“And it has to be strategic, because if the opposition to the [Renewable Fuels Standard] is a fire hose, we’re a dripping faucet, and we have to make sure it’s a strategic approach and it’s fact-based because if we got caught stretching the truth, they’d never forget it,” he said.

Robert went on to say that despite the comment period for the EPA being over, it’s important to keep letting Washington know where ethanol and all biofuels proponents stand.

“Don’t become complacent. Keep reaching out to elected officials, EPA and the White House to make sure they know how important this is to individual farming operations and rural America.”

Listen to my interview with Robert here: Robert White, RFA

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Advanced Ethanol Here at Last

nec14-cellulosic-panelDuring the National Ethanol Conference, representatives of four leading companies talked about how advanced ethanol is here at last. Moderated by Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman, the panelists included Chris Standlee with Abengoa; Kenneth Hill with DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol; Delayne Johnson, CEO of Quad County Corn Processors; and Steve Hartig, Licensing General Manager for POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC.

nec14-standlee-2

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am thrilled to finally be able to say that this is the pivotal year for second generation ethanol for the United States and perhaps in the world,” said Chris Standlee with Abengoa Bioenergy, who talked about the upcoming launch of their 25 million gallon/year cellulosic ethanol facility in Hugoton, Kansas. The company has invested nearly 10 years into developing its own proprietary second-gen technology and the biorefinery in Kansas that will go online in 2014 is the fruition of this commitment. Learn more about Abengoa’s cellulosic refinery here: Remarks by Chris Standlee, Abengoa

Kenneth Hill with DuPontKenneth Hill with DuPont noted that his company is focused on bridging the gap between agriculture and advanced materials. This includes enzymes and cellulosic biofuels. DuPont is working with companies around the world to develop cellulosic biofuels, yet the project that may have the most attention is currently under construction in Nevada, Iowa. Learn about this project and others here: Remarks by Kenneth Hill, DuPont

Delayne Johnson Quad County Corn ProcessorsDelayne Johnson said that since Quad County Corn Processors went into production in 2002 they have continuously been looking for niche ways to add value to a kernel of corn. With the aid of R&D expert Travis Brotherson, five years ago he developed a now patented cellulosic process. The technology has added 6 percent to their yield, they are getting 2 1/2 times more corn oil than they had been getting, and are able to produce a higher protein feed product (DDG) than they had in the past. Quad County is currently in the process of building the technology out at full-scale and the cellulosic portion of their biorefinery is expected to begin production this summer. Learn more about Quad County’s cellulosic technology here: Remarks by Delayne Johnson, Quad Council Corn Processors

Steve Hartig with Poet DSMFor many years Poet has been talking about the future of cellulosic ethanol using corn residue – corn stover, corn cobs, etc. According to Steve Hartig, With major strides over the past few years and a key strategic partnership with DSM, Project Liberty is set to go into production later this summer. Project Liberty is co-located with a first generation ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Once in production, co-location will be their key strategy for several reasons included excess energy, infrastructure and personnel. Learn about Poet-DSM’s take on the advanced biofuels here: Remarks by Steve Hartig, POET-DSM

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Cold Winter Challenges Ethanol Plant Logistics

nec14-rail-bobAt the National Ethanol Conference last week, Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen had a discussion with Ed Hamberger, President and CEO, Association of American Railroads, on Regulatory Crackdown on Rail Transport. They discussed current government proposals focused on rail cars.

Hamberger kicked off the discussion by noting that ethanol has been one of the fastest growing commodity segments for the railroads growing from 40,000 rail cars of ethanol in 2000 to 330,000 in 2011- an 800 percent increase. While he said there were some challenges, new routes, new track, new employees, he said that over the years, the ethanol industry and the rail industry have become good partners for America. Rail Transportation conversation

nec14-patriot-vondraOne ethanol plant of many that is using the railroads to transport its ethanol and byproducts such as dried distillers grains (DDGs) is Patriot Renewable Fuels, located just off I-80 in Annawan, Illinois.  Using rail and trucks involves a lot of logistics and Patriot’s Rick Vondra has noted that with the cold weather over the last couple months they, along with other ethanol plants, have had challenges in moving their product, in particular rail movement.

“It’s been a tremendous challenge and we’ve had to find alternative ways to move our product,” explained Vondra. He said they are using more trucks but so are other plants and on top of the increased demand from their plant and the ethanol industry, the trucks still have other products to deliver.

So how is the weather affecting the railroad industry? Vondra said snow and ice have been a big factor because rail workers have to go and move switches that can get frozen. They have to remove ice from lines and with temperatures getting as cold as 20 below zero, workers can’t be outside long.

With the goal of increased use of E15 and other higher blends of ethanol being a recurring theme during the conference, I asked Vondra what some of his takeaways of this conversation were. He noted that Patriot is working closely with retailers, wholesalers, distributors and car dealers in their local community to educate people on the benefits of ethanol, but also to encourage more adoption and use of ethanol in the community.

Listen to my interview with Rick where he talks about cold logistic challenges as well as their work on ethanol education. Interview with Rick Vondra, Patriot Renewable Fuels

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC