NTSB Holds Rail Transportation Safety Forum

ntsbOutgoing National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman says “regulators are behind the curve” when it comes to the transport of hazardous liquid, whether ethanol or crude.

“Those shipments have increased by over 440 percent (since 2005) but our regulations have not changed,” Hersman said at the National Press Club prior to the start of a two day forum on Safety of Rail Transportation of Crude Oil and Ethanol. She says accidents are happening “far too often, safety has been compromised” in oil train shipments.

Some of the concern brought about by recent accidents involving both oil and ethanol shipments revolves around the rail tank cars themselves, particularly the DOT-111, which she says is not safe enough for hazardous liquids. “Carrying corn oil is fine, carrying crude oil is not,” said Hersman.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO bob Dinneen testified at the NTSB forum about the safety record of ethanol shipments via the DOT-111A railcar, the intense focus of the RFA on safety training and best practices within the ethanol industry, and the need for the NTSB to focus on the root cause of recent derailments, including track conditions and human error.

RFA-logo-13Noting that 70 percent of ethanol travels to the marketplace via rail and has done so for over 30 years, Dinneen gave credit to the railroads that since 2012 have successfully shipped 99.997 percent of hazardous material carloads. “From 2006–2013, the U.S. ethanol industry moved over two million shipments of ethanol,” Dinneen testified. “However, during that period only 226 cars derailed with only 91 releasing product.”

Dinneen further testified that in each of the ethanol derailment incidents that have occurred, the NTSB determined the derailment to be the result of rail operation, such as substandard track integrity, switching failures, inspection errors, maintenance problems or lack of communication between train crews. “Keeping the cars on the track by eliminating the root causes of these DOT-111A tank car derailments is the only way to achieve a perfect safety record,” said Dinneen.

Renewable Fuels Fuel Jobs and Economy

A new industry report released today shows how the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is creating jobs and significant economic impact.

fuels-americaThe Fuels America coalition released an economic impact study by John Dunham & Associates showing that the industry supports more than 850,000 American jobs and drives $184.5 billion of economic output.

Renewable fuels now represent nearly 10% of America’s fuel supply and have helped reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil to the lowest level in years. The analysis takes into account the entire supply chain for renewable fuels and quantifies the impact to the U.S. economy, including:

• Driving $184.5 billion of economic output
• Supporting 852,056 jobs and $46.2 billion in wages
• Generating $14.5 billion in tax revenue each year

The full analysis is publicly available on the Fuels America website, including localized reports for every state and every congressional district in the country.

Fuels America held a telephone press conference introducing the report results featuring comments from Jon Doggett, National Corn Growers Association public policy; Adam Monroe, Novozymes; Larry Ward, POET; and John Dunham, report author.

Listen to or download here: Fuels America new economic report

Ethanol Groups Fight Back with “Oil Rigged”

fuels-americaA coalition of biofuels organizations is fighting back against the oil industry by launching a new campaign called “Oil Rigged.”

Members of Fuels America today unveiled the details of its new “Oil Rigged” television and digital ad campaign and OilRigged.com designed to “expose the many ways the oil industry is rigging the system to protect their profits and block the transition to clean, American renewable fuels.” The announcement included representatives of member organizations Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Growth Energy, and Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

“They’ve rigged Washington,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, noting the oil industry has spent $855 million on lobbyists and campaign contributions over the past five years “more than a million dollars for every member of the House and Senate.” He added that the oil industry has also rigged the market “by refusing to invest in the infrastructure” to sell higher blends of ethanol, rigged the tax code and rigged the debate over renewable fuels.

oil-rigged“They are trying to rig the debate with misinformation, junk science and misleading ads all designed to scare consumers and Congress about ethanol to protect their market share,” said RFA president Bob Dinneen.

The group chose Earth Day for starting the campaign to make the point that biofuels are making a positive difference for the environment. “What we’re really talking about here is doing the right thing for the planet,” said Brent Erickson, BIO Executive Vice President. “Of everything the United States is doing from a policy standpoint to reduce carbon pollution, the Renewable Fuel Standard is making the biggest impact by far.”

Listen to all the comments from Buis, Dinneen and Erickson here: Fuels America Oil Rigged Campaign

Advanced Biofuels Group Questions Corn Stover Study

aeclogoA new study about the climate impact of using corn residue for biofuel production raises more questions than it answers, according to Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC).

“In reality, the study confirms what we already know; that excessive agricultural residue removal is bad for the soil and has negative impacts on climate,” said Coleman in a statement, adding that the study uses corn stover removal rates far exceeding those used in the field. “The analysis also models a one-size-fits-all approach to managing soil carbon that, by definition, ignores how farmers manage their land.”

The study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln used a supercomputer model to estimate the effect of residue removal on 128 million acres across 12 Corn Belt states. Researchers reported that “removing crop residue from cornfields generates an additional 50 to 70 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule of biofuel energy produced.”

Total annual production emissions, averaged over five years, would equal about 100 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule — which is 7 percent greater than gasoline emissions and 62 grams above the 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as required by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.

“Our industry is more than willing to engage in important discussions about the climate impacts of using agricultural residues to make fuel, but the headline-chasing strategy of trying to sell extreme modeling assumptions as the norm does not facilitate that process,” commented Coleman. “If you look at the full spectrum of peer-reviewed work, cellulosic biofuel is the lowest carbon fuel in the world.”

RFA-logo-13Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen believes the study is “fundamentally flawed and its conclusions are highly suspect. The results are based on sweeping generalizations, questionable assumptions, and an opaque methodology. The authors offer no robust explanation for why their findings contradict other recent, highly regarded research. Ultimately, this paper should be seen for what it truly is – a modeling exercise of a hypothetical scenario that bears no resemblance to the real world.”

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.