Murphy USA Opens First E15 Station

logo-murphy-usaMurphy USA has opened the first E15 (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline) station in Arkansas, located at 2720 N. West Avenue in El Dorado. The Arkansas station is also the second Murphy USA location to offer E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline). E15 is approved for vehicles 2001 and newer, while both E15 and E85 can be used in flex fuel vehicles. Murphy USA operates 1,179 stores in 23 states throughout the country, with additional E15 and E85 locations being planned in the Midwest.

“It is very encouraging to see a major retailer like Murphy USA understand the value in offering ethanol-blended fuels like E15 and E85, and we are confident they will have a positive experience,” stated Robert White, director of market development for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “Retailers across the country are always looking for new opportunities to increase volumes and margins, while also attracting new consumers, and E15 and E85 are the perfect fit.”

The very first E15 station opened over a year ago in Lawrence, Kan. With the addition of the Arkansas station, there are now more than 60 stations in 12 states registered to offer the higher level fuel blend. E15 is the most tested fuel additive in the history of the Environmental Protection Agency and has been on the market for more than 16 months and driven over 45 million miles with no known cases of engine damage. Additionally, E85 has been available since 1995. There are now approximately 3,216 stations that sell E85 and more than 15.5 million flex-fuel vehicles on the roads.

Listen to the interview with Robert White about Murphy Oil’s E15 rollout strategy: Murphy USA Embraces E15

EPA’s RFS Action Hurts Investments, Puts US Behind

CorleA few years ago, the U.S. was considered the most promising biofuels market in the world. But recent policy changes, including the latest from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to roll back ethanol and biodiesel blend amounts to lower than what was scheduled in the Renewable Fuel Standard, is allowing the American biofuels market to be outpaced by competitors in Asia and South America. In addition, Thomas Corle with DONG Energy told the panel at yesterday’s hearing on the subject in Arlington, Va. that investors are now more nervous to put money into the U.S. system.

“Financial institutions will base their investment risks on this historical event,” adding that this proposal goes from a policy of encouraging the RFS to discouraging its implementation. Corle said that in 2008, the U.S. was seen as the most promising market for cellulosic ethanol in the world. “But it has now been replaced or outpaced by other markets that are moving faster, especially China and Brazil. We could be driving by biomass refineries in China before we get our first commercial project commissioned here in the U.S. because the policy risk in the U.S. is greater than even China.”

He cited several other projects where the actions of the EPA are stalling projects in the U.S., costing the country jobs and energy security.

More of Thomas’ testimony can be heard here: Thomas Corle, DONG Energy comments to EPA hearing

Success of RFS is Ag Issue Felt All Over the World

schwark1Nearly 30 years ago this Christmas time, the world saw one of the greatest human sufferings ever unfold before its eyes, as a million people starved to death in Ethiopia. In a particularly poignant moment during yesterday’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) hearing, Rick Schwarck, the president and CEO of Absolute Energy, an ethanol producer on the Iowa-Minnesota border, reminded the audience why that tragedy happened.

“It’s hard to talk about because it is so perverted. It was caused by low ag prices.”

Rick went on to point out that Ethiopia’s economy has dramatically rebounded, especially in the last few years, as commodity prices worldwide have risen and raised the fortunes of the 80 percent of the population in Ethiopia that relies on a rural, ag-based economy. He added this is being repeated all over the world, throwing cold water on much of the food-versus-fuel argument.

“Google any ag country, and take a look at the growth curves in their economies; it’s been staggering,” Rick said.

This is a pretty busy time of year for Rick, as he is president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) and a member of the national Renewable Fuel Association (RFA). Plus, his family has a choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm back home, so he felt pretty lucky to be able to make the trip. But he also knows how important it is for the RFS to be enforced, in his words, “just as it was written and just as it was intended.”

Listen to Rick’s testimony here: Rick Schwarck, President and CEO of Absolute Energy comments to EPA hearing

Real Jobs on the Line with EPA’s Changes to RFS

beemer1One of the country’s oldest ethanol producers says it could generate a lot of economic activity for the rural communities where it has had to idle some plants, if the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) wasn’t being tinkered with. Speaking at yesterday’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing on the agency’s proposed changes to the RFS, Mark Beemer, President of Aventine Renewable Energy, said the potential money that could come into just one rural community is staggering.

He said if they were able to re-open their two Aurora, Nebraska ethanol facilities, they would be adding $5 million of payroll to the local community (of 4,500 residents) with 65-70 jobs, paying for $5 million worth of millwright activities to repair and maintain these two ethanol facilities, plus another $85 million for other spare parts and supplies, and the biggest purchase of all – nearly $300 million in local corn purchases, for a total benefit to the local community of about $400 million. “That’s why ethanol has been so successful, because of the impacts in rural America.”

Mark also expressed frustration over possible wavering by the EPA over the Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) issue and feared that if the agency doesn’t make the obligated parties follow through, those obligated know they’ll have found a way to end-run the law.

“Congress was fully informed of the blend-wall issue with RFS2 when it was established, and rising RIN values would be the stick, not the carrot, imbedded in the legislation that would incentivize the distribution of E85 and E15,” he said.

Mark said American agriculture has come through on its end of the RFS deal; now it’s time for the government to do its part.

“I ask the EPA to reconsider your changes to the mandate and restore the RFS2 to the original Congressionally mandated target levels.”

Listen to all of Mark’s testimony here: Mark Beemer, President of Aventine Renewable Energy comments to EPA hearing

RFS is Working… Why Are We Here?

oestmann1So the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) should certainly be considered a success since it is doing many of the things it was projected to do:
- A capacity that is greater than 10 percent of the total fuel supply (that amount was expected right in the original bill)
- An alternative to foreign-based fuels
- A growing renewable fuels industry
- Adding to farm incomes in rural America

Plus, a lot more. So that led to this question during the Environmental Protection Agency’s hearing on the RFS in Arlington, Va.:

“So why are we even here?” asked Jeff Oestmann with East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC, an ethanol producer with an approximately 45 million gallon per year operation in Garnett, Kansas. “It boggles the mind to understand why we have a completely successful program by any measure, all targets are being met, and we have compliance by all [Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO)] parties.”

One of the most frustrating things Jeff cited was the fact that the EPA proposed lower amounts of ethanol and biodiesel that could be mixed into this country’s fuel supply than what the law intended, and that could destabilize the biofuels industry and the rural economy. He said all this turmoil is already stalling future work as investors are hesitant to put money into an industry they’re not sure will get the support required by the law. And Jeff said he just doesn’t have time to come to debate what is a successful program and was supposed to be the law of the land.

“It’s hard to come to Washington today, as our company is small and really cannot afford my time to be spent here today. Congress has created the RVO. It is EPA’s job to implement the will of Congress… not the will of the auto or petroleum industries.”

Listen to Jeff’s full testimony here: Jeff Oestmann, East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC comments to EPA hearing

AEC’s Coleman: RFS Proposal “Off Track”

coleman1The executive director of the Renewable Fuel Association’s (RFA) Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) says what the government is proposing when it comes to the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be blended into fuels is “off track.” Speaking today at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), in Arlington, Va., just across the river from the Nation’s capital, Brooke Coleman said the proposed changes to the RFS is causing some real problems.

“The new proposal is off track, and we’ve recoiled far too much,” he told the roomfull of biofuels advocates and foes. Brooke pointed out that the EPA’s E85 data is “woefully pessimistic” and needs to be updated.

The heart of the issue is the problems the proposal will cause with Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs). “For our investors to believe in this program and want to enter into this marketplace, they have to believe in RINs. That’s the game-changer,” going on to explain that the RIN program forces the Exxons of the world to buy RINs and forces non-compliant entities to play by the same rules. “It puts the Cumberland Farms and Gulfs of this world on equal footing with Exxon, and they are actually rewarded for complying with the rule.”

He concluded saying the biggest issue with the proposal is it depressurizes the RIN program to the point that investors don’t have confidence they will be able to drive change.

“So we have got to move those numbers up significantly, not unreasonably, to put the pressure back in the program, or the advanced biofuels industry is going to have a very, very, very difficult time surviving.”

Hear Brooke’s full testimony here: Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman comments to EPA hearing

Branstad Makes Impassioned Plea for RFS

branstad1Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad made an impassioned plea in favor of the current Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and showed no love for what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing for reducing the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be put into gasoline as originally mandated in the 2007 law.

“After decades of efforts to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and increase farm income with policies like the RFS, the EPA is now caving in to Big Oil!” Branstad thundered, pointing out that since Big Oil doesn’t control renewable fuels, it doesn’t want to see the green fuels grow. And the governor dismissed claims that vehicles can’t handle higher blends, pounding on the table as he said, “If you don’t believe it can be done, go to Brazil! Go to Brazil where they are making ethanol out of sugarcane and soon going to be doing it out of corn, and they have virtually all flexible-fuel vehicles in their fleets!”

Branstad continued his passionate speech, recalling the farm crisis of the 1980s when he was governor the first time around and how the proposed cuts in the RFS could cause another crisis, especially when you consider that there’s still no farm bill. And he said the problems could spread beyond Iowa’s borders.

“This EPA proposal will cost 45 thousand jobs in this nation. We don’t need to drive the number of people employed down,” simply to cater to the petroleum industry. Branstad added Iowans, who supported Obama during each of his campaigns, including his historic election in 2008, because he promised to support renewable fuels, now feel betrayed.

Moving forward, he wants the EPA to come to his state to hear from the people most directly affected by the proposed change, “where people know about the impact this has and know the truth and the facts!”

Listen to the entirety of Gov. Branstad’s testimony here: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad comments to EPA hearing

Patriot’s Hulting Tells Rural Businesses’ Side of RFS

hulting1A change in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) will have dramatic impacts for the small businesses that have cropped up in rural America. That was the message Patriot Renewable Fuels‘ Judd Hulting made to the Environmental Protection Agency’s hearing on its proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be mixed into gasoline.

“We believe what is being proposed is a step backwards and really not what Congress envisioned back in 2005 and 2007,” he told the panel in Arlington, Va., today. He says small, rural companies, such as his, have been on a positive roll the last few years, thanks to the market the RFS has helped nurture. Judd also alluded to the fact that changing the RFS also puts too much uncertainty into investors’ minds and keeps them from putting more into the rural communities where these biofuels refineries have thrived. “What our investors envisioned was a long-term program.”

Judd pointed out that his plant is hiring more workers, as Patriot Renewable Fuels adds a refinery turning the corn oil from the plant’s ethanol operation into biodiesel. Plus, he said the industry is not getting enough credit for producing several products from that same bushel of corn.

“Over 5 years, we’ve produced half a billion gallons of ethanol; every day we produced a 1,000 tons of feed,” pointing out that his own livestock-producing family is benefiting from these biofuels co-products.

Listen to all of Judd’s testimony here: Judd Hulting, Patriot Renewable Fuels comments to EPA hearing

Dinneen: RFS Not for Big Oil’s Convenience

dinneen1The case for keeping the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as-is is being made today at an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing in Arlington, Va. Our friends from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) have shown up in force, making sure biofuels’ voices are being heard. Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the RFA, told the EPA that they need to keep in mind why the RFS was set up in the first place.

“The RFS was designed to drive investment in new technologies, to drive innovations, to drive new market opportunities. It was NOT designed to be convenient for the oil companies,” he said, adding prices for Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs, the currency on which the RFS relies, will be hurt by EPA’s proposal to lower the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply. “What you’ve done with this proposal is rip this market-forcing mechanism [the RIN] away, returning us to more petroleum, fewer choices at the pump, more costly gasoline.”

Bob also made the case that rising RIN values don’t impact consumer gas prices. “There’s no correlation between rising RIN values and gasoline prices.”

He concluded by encouraging the EPA to listen to those making the case today for preserving the RFS as it was written and intended.

“Listen to those people that are concerned about what this program does for rural America, what this program does for consumers, what this program does for new technologies, and revise this [proposal].”

You can hear Bob’s testimony to the EPA here: Bob Dinneen, CEO RFA comments to EPA hearing

RFA’s Bob Dinneen to Keynote IRFA Summit

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen will be the keynote speaker at the 8th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show hosted by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA). The event takes place January 28, 2014 at The Meadows Conference Center at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa.

RFA Bob DinneenIRFA notes that under Dinneen’s leadership for more than two decades, the RFA has been a driving force behind creating a dynamic and robust national ethanol industry. Dinneen was instrumental in enacting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2005 and, two years later, in expanding the RFS to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

“As the ethanol industry faces one of its most challenging times in history, we’re fortunate to have RFA and Bob Dinneen leading the charge to preserve and advance the federal Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Rick Schwarck, IRFA President and President of Absolute Energy in St. Ansgar. “Powerful forces stand in staunch opposition to the RFS and development of next generation ethanol. Summit attendees are lucky to hear the latest RFS and ethanol insight from a top insider like Dinneen.”

The Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show is free and open to the public. To register and learn about sponsorship and trade show opportunities, please click here.

Live From EPA Hearing on RFS

eparfa1We are live from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard in Arlington, Va., just across the Potomac River from the Nation’s capital!

In less than an hour, we’ll start hearing from advocates and friends of the biofuels industry, in particular, our friends from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), who have come from across the country to explain the economic and environmental fallout from the EPA’s draft proposal to lower the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be mixed into the country’s fuel supply. They’ll also be countering Big Oil’s arguments against the RFS, so it should be a lively hearing with dozens of folks from both sides of the issue taking part.

We seem to have a good Internet connection now, so I’ll try to update you as the day’s events unfold. Check back often here at DomesticFuel.com!

RFS Proposal Could Devastate Rural Economy

Protect the RFSRepresentatives from state government, the agriculture community, and the ethanol industry all say the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) biofuels requirements would have a negative impact on agriculture and rural economies.

During a telephone press discussion today about the proposal, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said he was proud of his state’s leadership in biofuels production and he believes lowering the volume obligations would be detrimental for jobs and land values in rural America. “I’m concerned that this would be devastating to what has been a robust economic recovery” in the agricultural heartland of America, said Branstad. “I think the president’s made a terrible mistake caving in to Big Oil on this issue.”

american-farm-bureau-logoThe proposal has already led to lower futures prices for corn, which American Farm Bureau economist Matt Erickson says could mean 2014 will see prices below the cost of production for the first time since 2005. “Looking at USDA’s cost of production forecast, the breakeven for corn for 2014 is forecasted to be over $4 a bushel,” Erickson said, adding that if the price is lower, farmers would lose money.

Reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil was the primary objective of the RFS, but “revitalizing rural communities, boosting farm income and reducing farm program costs were also important policy objectives,” but noted Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “The RFS has certainly helped to do that and this proposal will reverse that policy as well.”

Listen to comments from Branstad, Erickson and Dinneen with questions from the media here: Comments on RFS Proposal Negative Impacts

100th Anniversary of the Gas Station

Makeshift gas station in 1900's. Image courtesy of John Jakle.

Makeshift gas station in 1900′s. Image courtesy of John Jakle.

December 1, 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the modern gas station. As Americans pull up to the pump this holiday season, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is encouraging consumers to fill up with ethanol-blended fuel.

“For 100 years drivers have been paying too much for transportation fuel. This can be seen today more than ever,” said Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of RFA. “The price of gasoline is the first thing people see as they drive into a gas station. With the excitement of seeing loved ones comes the reality of the cost of a tank of gasoline, but ethanol reduces the cost of gasoline by on average $1.00/gallon in 2012 and 2013. In addition to cost savings it offers consumers choice at the pump. Now that is truly something to be thankful for.”

According to RFA, a popular cost saving fuel choice is E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) for flex fuel vehicles. There are approximately 3,200 stations offering E85 today and over 15.5 million flex fuel vehicles on the road. According to E85Prices.com, E85 prices in Michigan today average $2.62, compared to the average gas price of $3.27. In Lake Odessa, Michigan E85 prices even reached as low as $2.19. Click here to located E85 stations.

RFA also notes consumers increasingly have the option of a new fuel blend, E15 (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline) for cars 2001 and newer. E15 is the most tested fuel in the history of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and has already been driven over 45 million miles with no known instances of engine damage or misfueling. Approximately 75 percent of vehicles currently on the road are approved for E15 use.

E15 is currently available in 10 states including Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, and Illinois.

Questions About EPA Authority for RFS Waiver

coppessEven before the Environmental Protection Agency officially released its proposed 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), questions arose about whether the EPA is overstepping its authority.

University of Illinois Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and Policy Jonathan Coppess, former counsel to the Senate Ag Committee and former administrator for USDA, says there is a legal argument to be made that EPA is stretching the definition of inadequate domestic supply in proposing a waiver based on the blend wall. “The entire intent of the statute was to increase production,” Coppess said during a media call today. “How does this unique or novel way of interpreting “domestic supply” fit with the intent Congress has for the overall statute?”

RFA-logo-13Coppess and Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen both stressed that no lawsuit has been filed against EPA’s proposal and they hope that will be unnecessary. “This is a proposal so there is no legal issue to litigate on,” said Dinneen. “We are hopeful that in the comment period, the agency … ultimately modifies the proposal to not include the blend wall in the waiver process.” Dinneen says they held the media call with Coppess to simply “tee up what the issues are” regarding the proposal.

Listen to or download the call with comments from Dinneen and Coppess here: RFA Call on EPA Authority for RFS Waiver

Also, check out our recent DF Cast featuring an interview with Coppess on the issue.

E15 Now Available in Northern Illinois

E15, a blend of 15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline, is now available in Rochelle, Illinois complements of the partnership between Illinois River Energy and the Rochelle Petro Travel Plaza.

E15 is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for vehicles 2001 and newer and is the most tested fuel in EPA approval history. It has been available for more than 16 months and driven over 45 million miles with no known cases of engine damage. DSC_0345According to data cited by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), ethanol is revitalizing rural communities and saved consumers on average $1.00/gallon at the pump in 2012 and 2013. It has created over 87,000 jobs while sustaining an additional 295,000 and has reduced America’s foreign oil dependence to 41 percent, compared to 48 percent without ethanol.

“Today’s launch of E15 is an example of local businesses coming together to help consumers. We are proud to offer drivers in Rochelle, and all of northern Illinois, another choice at the pump,” said Illinois River Energy Group CEO Rich Ruebe. “We encourage everyone with a 2001 and newer vehicle to come by the Plaza and check out the new fuel.”

Robert White, director of market development for RFA, said, “The E15 offering at Rochelle Petro Travel Plaza is another step forward in E15 use and expansion. I have seen firsthand the hard work and dedication from both Illinois River Energy and Rochelle Petro Travel Plaza to get E15 into the local marketplace. As more companies follow this example, we will see the expansion of E15 across the country.”

Ray Newton, general manager of the Petro Travel Plaza, said the of higher ethanol fuel blend, “The Petro Travel Plaza in Rochelle, Illinois is delighted to be the first retail location in Northern Illinois to offer motorists expanded fuel choice. With our grand opening celebration this week, motorists with any gasoline-powered 2001 and newer light duty car, truck, or SUV will have the choice to purchase a less expensive, higher octane, cleaner burning fuel, E15 containing 15 percent American-made ethanol, which is a better value than the traditional 10 percent ethanol blends.”

Illinois River Energy, owned by GTL Resources USA, Inc., will mark their seventh anniversary next month. Based out of Rochelle, Ill., the company employs over 60 local residents and what began as a 50 million gallon of ethanol facility grew into more than a 120 million gallon per year facility. The local community is vitally important to Illinois River Energy as they receive a majority of their corn from farmers within 40 miles of their processing facility. Additionally, Petro Travel Plaza – the largest full service plaza in northern Illinois – opened their doors in 1992. They offer high level ethanol blends including E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) and now E15.