Ethics Group Sues EPA for RFS Documents

crewCitizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to provide documents regarding oil industry efforts to influence the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Last May, following a Reuters article describing how the Carlyle Group and Delta Airlines had lobbied members of Congress and the administration to reduce the amount of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel, CREW asked for an investigation by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records. It took months for the EPA to release even the documents the agency already had provided to Reuters, and it has yet to hand over all relevant documents.

Based on a follow-up Reuters article, CREW also has concerns that oil companies leveraged high-level political connections to convince the White House and the EPA to insert special waivers into the RFS that could potentially allow oil companies to refuse to sell biofuels.

“It certainly seems as if the administration has backtracked on its commitment to renewable fuels. The question is why. Was there a back room deal orchestrated by big oil and high ranking officials in the Obama administration?” asked CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Even though it is nearly 2015, the renewable fuel standards for 2014 still haven’t been released. Is this to avoid potential political fallout in the mid-terms for siding with the oil industry over the biofuel industry?”

CREW also notes that Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sent a letter earlier this month to the White House expressing their concerns about EPA potentially inserting a waiver into the RFS, which would allow oil companies to refuse to distribute renewable fuel. Carlyle and Delta lobbied heavily for both of these modifications to the program and would benefit financially from the change.

Big Oil Denied Again

Big Oil has been denied again. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has found that the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Engine Products E15 Bargain!Group (EPG) did not have standing against keeping E15 out of the marketplace. In the rule the judge wrote, “they cannot show that their members have suffered or are threatened with suffering a relevant injury.”

The court held to their previous ruling in GMA v. EPA and likewise denied standing to those who challenged the E15 waiver decision. Growth Energy successfully sought a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2009 to allow retailers and consumers to choose E15 – a blend of up to 15 percent ethanol. EPA granted the waiver in 2011 for all 2001 and newer motor vehicles.

“Today is another victory for ethanol and the American motorist,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “To continue to achieve the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard, [RFS] Growth Energy led the fight for E15 which is now being sold by over 90 retailers in 14 states. This decision is important because it continues to uphold the choice and savings for the American motorist with E15.”

Fuels America Launches Pro Biofuels Campaign

Fuels America has launched a new TV and radio campaign thanking American renewable fuels supporters Minnesota Senator Al Franken, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry and Michigan Rep. Gary Peters for fighting for local jobs and working to end America’s reliance on foreign oil.

The ads, on the radio in Minnesota and in Michigan and on television in Nebraska, thank the elected officials for supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the policy that allows domestic renewable fuels to compete in the motor fuel market.

Ads include:

  • Michigan Statewide: Radio ad titled “Our Pockets” about Gary Peters’ support of the RFS and fight to break America’s addiction to foreign oil, and how the Koch Brothers and Big Oil have spent millions against Peters.
  • Minnesota Statewide: Radio ad titled “Next Caller” highlighting Senator Franken’s support of the RFS and his work pushing the Obama Administration to increase production of renewable fuels.
  • Minnesota’s 7th District: Radio ad titled “Change Course” highlighting Collin Peterson’s support for a strong RFS, reduced reliance on foreign oil, and a stronger rural economy.
  • Nebraska’s 2nd District: TV ad titled “Solution” highlighting Lee Terry’s support of the RFS.

Cellerate Receives D3 RIN Certification

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given D3 Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) certification to Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) for its cellulosic ethanol produced with Cellerate Cellerate Processprocess technology. The technology is a collaboration between Syngenta and Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, a subsidiary of QCCP. The biorefinery earned D3 pathway approval from the EPA on Oct. 7, 2014 and Quality Assurance Program (QAP) certification on Oct. 10, 2014. Clearing these hurdles led to production of QCCP’s first QAP D3 RINs on Oct. 16, 2014.

To qualify as cellulosic biofuel, a renewable fuel must meet a 60 percent threshold (aka reduction) for lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. RINs are used for compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program and may be “banked,” traded or sold for use by parties (fuel producers and importers) who must comply with the RFS.

According to QCCP Chief Executive Officer Delayne Johnson, as cellulosic D3 RINs become available on the commercial market, biofuels opponents will no longer be able say there are no D3 RINs as a strategy to weaken the RFS. “The biofuels industry now has the technology available to create two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol – with no more corn,” said Johnson. “QCCP is proud to be one of the first companies to issue D3 RINs. We look forward to higher D3 RIN requirements in 2015 as new production comes on.”

QCCP expects to produce one million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2014 and two million gallons in 2015. Earlier this year.

“Cellerate is designed to increase an ethanol plant’s production by allowing the corn kernel fiber to be converted into cellulosic ethanol,” added Jack Bernens, head of marketing and stakeholder relations for Enogen corn enzyme technology. “Ethanol plants can easily integrate Cellerate process technology into their existing production process. Cellerate, in conjunction with Enogen corn, will deliver notable benefits to ethanol plants beyond what can be achieved through either technology alone.”

Ethanol Industry Applauds Abengoa

abengoaMembers of the ethanol industry joined with government leaders in applauding Abengoa at the opening of its $500 million cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas last week.

Among those on hand for the celebration was Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White who says Americans should be proud of the new plant “because this phantom fuel, as the naysayers like to call it, is here and it’s here to stay.”

However, White says they are concerned that this third cellulosic plant opening this year could be the last if EPA fails to continue implementing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as Congress intended. “There may never be another celebration like this and it’s sad but true,” he said. “This promise was made years ago and (the administration) needs to stick to it.”

Interview with RFA's Robert White at Abengoa Opening

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

EPA Fools Ethanol Advocates – Merle Anderson

The following is a guest editorial by American Coalition for Ethanol founder Merle Anderson.

merle-headI just want to remind EPA and Big Oil that I am still around. Since organizing the American Coalition for Ethanol nearly 30 years ago I have just celebrated my 93rd birthday.

I am damn mad because I think we’ve let EPA fool us into letting the fraudulent 10 percent ethanol blend wall stand. It has collapsed grain markets by dishonestly ending ethanol’s growing demand for corn and they call that free enterprise. I call it stealing many, many billions of dollars from agricultural economies.

That blend wall exists because EPA fooled people into thinking it is legitimate because fueling standard cars with E30 illegally increases gasoline’s hazardous emissions. Ever try drinking gasoline? My friend Orrie Swayze’s research agrees that E30 reduces gasoline’s hazardous emissions by 30% because, unlike gasoline, ethanol does not produce known human carcinogenic tailpipe emissions.

I also find it laughable that EPA claims E30 can harm standard auto engines. Show me a legitimate warranty denial. I have never owned a flexible fuel vehicle and fueled my last 7 vehicles with half E85 or used E30 through blender pumps to travel over 600,000 miles. When I traded in the vehicles, the engines were still in top condition.

When blender pumps were installed for the first time, I started hearing many positive remarks about ethanol’s engine performance. EPA tries to deny that standard auto owners have successfully driven millions of miles annually on popular, high octane E30 since blender pumps were installed five years ago. Our typical report still is “more power and can’t tell any difference in mileage compared to E10.”

I challenge agricultural and ethanol leaders to dare and expose EPA’s lies that built the blend wall. I also urge that you use E30 in standard vehicles and openly endorse premium E30 as the legal, safest, best, lowest cost fuel choice on the market today for standard vehicle owners.

Merle Anderson
Climax, MN

Abengoa Celebrates Cellulosic Ethanol Achievement

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Goes Into ProductionSpanish-based Abengoa celebrated its cellulosic ethanol achievement today with a celebration of the plant’s grand opening. Thousands of people attended the event with dozens of high profile guests on hand ranging from former and current Senators to governors to the town mayor, to Interior Secretary and Energy Secretary Ernst Moniz who gave the keynote speech.

The bioenergy plant is based in Hugoton, Kansas and when at full scale will produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol from biomass per year as well as 21 MW of electricity. The plant will use no power from the grid, in fact, it will sell its excess power – a model common in Europe and Brazil.

Javier Garoz Neira Abengoa BioenergyAbengoa announced the plant would be located in Hugoton in 2007 and a lot of has happened since then as Javier Garoz Neira, CEO of Abengoa Bioenergy, said in his remarks. That same year they produced cellulosic ethanol from wheat straw in their pilot facility located in York, Nebraska. In 2009 they built a larger cellulosic demonstration plant in central Spain. In 2011, working with the Department of Energy (DOE) Abengoa was able to secure a loan guarantee to build the plant in Hugoton, Kansas and today the plant is gearing up to produce cellulosic ethanol from corn and what residues at commercial scale.

“It is without a question a major achievement. And we believe it will revolutionize the biofuels industry and our future,” said Neira.

Listen to Javier Garoz Neira’s remarks: Javier Garoz Neira Remarks

Manuel Sanchez Ortega AgengoaManuel Sanchez Ortega began his remarks by noting how important today is for everyone in the room. He also addressed the role of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in providing a platform for the development of second generation biofuels. “Without the RFS, there was no way we would have decided to invest more than $500 million dollars in a project full of risks from both technology and financial without the existence of a solid framework of the RFS.”

Ortega stressed that the role that advanced biofuels will play around the world is not illusive. “The promise of a sustainable and domestic energy is not illusive or imaginary, not anymore. It is right here in front of us. Progress has always come from innovation. And we at Abengoa believe that only through innovation we make make Earth a better place to live.”

Listen to Manuel Sanchez Ortega’s remarks: Manuel Sanchez Ortega Remarks

Check out the Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

Ethanol Advocacy App

ethanol-report-adIf you’re an ethanol advocate, there’s an app for that from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

In this edition of the Ethanol Report, RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen talks about the new app, what it does, who should use it, and why they developed it. He also comments on when we might yet see a final rule on the 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard and how railway transportation issues continue to impact the industry.

Ethanol Report on New Advocacy App

Algal Industry Questions Focus on Biofuels, America

Matt Carr, joined the Algae Biomass Organization this past June as the executive director coming from the BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) where he was introduced to algae and the algae story and he thought this is where the country should be going in terms of sustainable fuels. Carr joined Joe Jobe, NBB and Michael McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association on a panel to give attendees of the 2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference a policy update and industry outlook for advanced biofuels.

“We’re in a tough spot,” said Carr when asked the state of the algal industry. “The advanced biofuels sector grew up on the backs of strong federal policy support, R&D funding from the Department of Energy in the early days along with the nabce-14-carrRenewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and tax policy. Right now all of those areas are uncertain and its causing our members and other across the advanced biofuels industry to question their focus on fuels and their focus on America and to look at other markets in other countries to potentially deploy that technology.”

With elections coming up, Carr was asked if he thinks the political environment will change. He said that the industry is at a point now where it has to see something change. “When we have conservative Republicans recognizing its Washington getting in the way of American innovation and job creation we’ve reached a tipping point.”

What stood out for Carr as part of the panel was the shared sense of frustration with Washington. But he is hopeful that both sides of the spectrum can come together and recognize the opportunity the country has in advanced biofuels.

Interview with Matt Carr, Algae Biomass Organization
Remarks from Matt Carr, Algae Biomass Organization

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

Tips for Biofuel Investment In Turbulent Times

As a biofuels plant, how do you make sound plant management and investment decisions in an environment of political turmoil? This was the theme of one of the panel discussions during the 2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference that nabc plant management paneltook place in Minnesota this week. The conversation focused on how the uncertainty surrounding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that has not been finalized for 2014 as of this writing, affects decisions made for biofuels plants. The panelists discussed tips and strategies on how they try to keep their business healthy and growing while also trying to position themselves for continued, future success.

Insights were given by Mike Jerke, CEO, Guardian Energy Management LLC; Brian Kletscher, CEO/General Manager, Highwater Ethanol; and Randall Doyal, CEO/General Manager, AL-Corn Clean Fuel who all run currently operating ethanol production facilities. While each one pointed to the prices of feedstocks as being the number one cost of production (feedstock costs are 80 percent of a plant’s production costs) there are other ways to streamline efficiencies to stay competitive and one strategy is to diversify into bolt on advanced biofuels technologies.

Doyal noted that the big takeaway for the attendees was that the existing ethanol industry is looking at those next generation biofuel opportunities. “They look down the road all the time, and that the existing ethanol plants are not Gen 1 – we’re way down the road from Gen 1. We’re far more advanced than that and we look forward to bringing that type of thinking into advanced biofuels,” Doyal said.

When focusing on policy, Doyal said policy directly affects a plant when it decides how to deploy its capital. “If you have uncertainty in policy, it creates an uncertain environment in the lending community and it creates uncertainty in your own board room.”

Doyal stressed, “If you don’t have good, consistent, clear policy, it’s hard to figure out your path forward.”

Listen here to Chuck’s interview with Randall Doyal speaking about how policy uncertainty affects plant decisions: Interview with Randall Doyal, AL-Corn Clean Fuel

Click here to listen to the comments of the three panelists:
Remarks from Mike Jerke, Guardian Energy Management
Remarks from Brian Kletscher, Highwater Ethanol
Remarks from Randall Doyal, AL-Corn Clean Fuel

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

NBB Cautiously Optimistic About RFS

“We’ve exceeded the goals of advanced biofuels. Then we had the devastating proposed rule that has gone on for a year now. We are cautiously optimistic that we’ll have something here within the next few weeks and that it will be positive,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) who was one of the panel members of panel that discussed federal biofuels policy and the long-term prognosis of the advanced biofuels industry. The discussion was part of the National Advanced Biofuels Conference that recently took place in Minnesota and also included a robust discussion on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

nabce-14-Joe Jobe NBBJobe noted that the biofuels industry and particularly the advanced biofuels industry is beleaguered. “We’ve been under attack by uncertain policy signals, but we need to keep up the fight and double down on the fight. We need to get more of our message out there. We need to get more involved in policy advocacy, we need to get the RFS working again,” said Jobe.

The industry has demonstrated the RFS can work well said Jobe. “We created it to be a stable energy policy.”

Last year was a record breaker for the biodiesel industry – it grew from producing just over one billion gallons in 2012 to just under 2 billion gallons in 2013. “Advanced biofuels are here. The industry has exceeded the goals of advanced biofuels,” Jobe stressed.

The policy discussion will continue during the 2015 National Biodiesel Board Conference & Expo taking place in Ft. Forth, Texas January 19-22. Registration is open.

Jobe urges the industry to step up its advocacy efforts and its policy efforts to ensure the future of the advanced biofuels industry.

Interview with Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board
Remarks from Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

Small Biodiesel Maker Closing Indicative of RFS Problem

yokayo1While the closing of one small biodiesel maker in California might not seem like big news, it’s certainly indicative of the problems facing the industry, big and small producers alike. This story from the Ukiah (CA) Daily Journal says that Yokayo Biofuels, which turned waste cooking oil into biodiesel, has closed.

[Kumar Plocher, Yokayo Biofuels' CEO] says the biggest reason for their closure was due to a lack of government support both at the state and federal levels. He explains that the carbon credit programs, those where petroleum companies are required to buy a certain amount of renewable fuels, allowed his company to bank carbon credits, normally valued high based on demand. This year state and federal value levels were very low: the state’s due to tampering by global companies that flooded the market and at the federal’s due to the Obama administration and the EPA. “Every year the federal government is supposed to raise the requirement of renewable fuel that should be purchased. At the beginning of 2014, they did not do that; they kept it static. They waited until September to announce a tiny increase, and by that time the damage was done and carbon credits were worthless all year. Every mid-term election year, the dollar per gallon subsidy that goes to biofuels has been absent; they wait until after the election.”

Plocher’s complaint is a common one among advanced biofuel makers and their advocates this year. In fact, at the recent National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo, Michael McAdams, founder and president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, said the partnership between the federal government and industry has to have clarity and certainty, but that’s not been the case lately.

“What we haven’t had in the last two years is certainty for the people I represent in the advanced and cellulosic sector,” McAdams said.

Similarly, Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), pointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimates that corn prices will hit an eight-year low because of the government’s failure to follow through on the promises made in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“Indeed, today’s USDA report should be the closing argument in the debate over the 2014 RFS final rule,” Dinneen continued. “When farmers made their planting decisions for the 2014 season, they anticipated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House would continue to enforce the statutory RFS volumes. But in one fell swoop, the EPA’s proposed rule wiped away demand for 500 million bushels of corn and grain sorghum. Now, farmers are faced with corn prices below the cost of production and the risk of returning to an era of increased reliance on federal farm program payments.”

There is a little good news in all of this. Plocher was able to sell Yokayo Biofuels’ biodiesel assets to like-minded Simple Fuels.

East Kansas’ Jeff Oestmann Featured on Car Clinic

Bobby Likis Car ClinicThe ethanol industry was well represented on the nationally syndicated car-talk program “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” when Bobby Likis spoke with East Kansas Agri-Energy’s President and CEO Jeff Oestmann. The show aired Saturday, October 11, 2014 and the two ethanol advocates chatted about local, regional and national issues surrounding ethanol production.

Oestmann, whose career spans 20 years in the bioenergy and grain processing industries, currently serves on the Board of Directors of both the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) & Kansas Association of Ethanol Producers. During the program, Oestmann discussed the consumer benefits of ethanol production and its impact on local communities and the U.S. economy. Oestmann is a non-commissioned officer who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years, including service in the USMC’s elite Embassy Guard.

Jeff Oestmann East Kansas Agri-Energy“I have a question slate lined up for Jeff that addresses ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the U.S economy, engine performance and national security. Consumers – and American citizens – need to hear the message,” said Likis.

Oestmann shared many facts during the program. “We use cutting edge technology at East Kansas Agri-Energy to produce high-quality ethanol that helps consumers save an average of $1.00 per gallon at the gas station and also benefits our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We put a high priority on innovation, and the biofuels we produce – including next generation renewable diesel – help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, which in turn bolsters America’s national security.”

Click here to listen to Oestmann’s interview.

State of the Advanced Biofuels Industry

nabce-14The National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo opened with a conversation about the current state of important federal biofuels policies, including the status of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Among those on the opening panel was Michael McAdams, founder and president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, who talked first about the state of his industry. “There’s an old expression ‘you’re either the bug or the windshield,'” he said. “Unfortunately, in my own association, about 15% (of my members) have become bugs.”

nabce-14-mcadamsThe reason for that, says McAdams, is the uncertainty surrounding federal biofuels policy. “The partnership between the federal government and industry has to have clarity and certainty,” he said. “What we haven’t had in the last two years is certainty for the people I represent in the advanced and cellulosic sector.”

In an interview after the panel, McAdams described the state of the advanced biofuels industry right now as being in “suspended animation” waiting for clarification on policy including volume obligations under the RFS and pathways for new technologies.

Regarding the RVO, McAdams notes that at this point, with no final numbers for this year yet, the administration needs to be focused on rulemaking for 2015. “I’m assuming the week after the election or maybe Friday before the election we’ll see the numbers (for ’14),” said McAdams. The problem with that is that the 2015 numbers are due November 30 “so one could make a rational case that the numbers they actually publish are the numbers for ’15, not for ’14.” He adds that the administration has already said they expect it will be February before they proposed the 2015 volume obligations.

McAdams urges the advanced biofuels industry to keep working “to deliver the innovative fuels of the future.”
Interview with Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association
Remarks from Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

Crop Report Underscores Need for Market Certainty

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released new corn crop estimates that confirm another record setting corn crop and after accounting for the surplus after all demands are met, will hit a 10-year high. The WASDE report predicts the final 2014 corn crop at 14.48 billion bushels based on a record average yield of 174.2 bushels per acre In addition, WASDE estimated global grain stocks will reach a 14 year high.

While the corn crop is at record levels, corn prices are falling. USDA projected prices will average $3.40 per bushel – the lowest in eight years. This is also below the cost of production for more farmers.

“API [American Petroleum Institute] has spent millions upon millions of dollars on ad campaigns trying to sell people on the canard that ethanol drives up food prices in a misguided attCorn Harvestempt to garner opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS),” said Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “But their argument is bankrupt. Because of the RFS, farmers have invested in technology and increased yields to assure ample supply for all users. Today’s report demonstrates the API campaign is intellectually dishonest.

“Indeed, today’s USDA report should be the closing argument in the debate over the 2014 RFS final rule,” Dinneen continued. “When farmers made their planting decisions for the 2014 season, they anticipated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House would continue to enforce the statutory RFS volumes. But in one fell swoop, the EPA’s proposed rule wiped away demand for 500 million bushels of corn and grain sorghum. Now, farmers are faced with corn prices below the cost of production and the risk of returning to an era of increased reliance on federal farm program payments. The White House has an opportunity to help alleviate this situation simply by fixing the badly misguided 2014 RFS proposal and getting the program back on track.”