Hillary Clinton Talks with Ethanol Supporters in Iowa

ARF-LogoDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been meeting with supporters around Iowa this week since declaring her candidacy on Sunday and Wednesday had private meeting with ethanol supporters to discuss the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Mrs. Clinton met with farmer leaders and America’s Renewable Future co-chair Patty Judge, former lieutenant governor and agriculture secretary for Iowa. “We had about an hour with her and had a very good discussion with her,” said Judge in an interview after the meeting. “I felt very good after our conversation.”

Judge says Clinton was very receptive. “I believe that she was supportive of the Renewable Fuel Standard and supportive of continuing the research and development in renewable fuel and renewable energy that we started here in Iowa.”

Clinton supported the RFS when she ran for president in 2007 and Judge expects that to be the case this time as well. “I would like to get her out to see an ethanol plant and see how it works and I think we’ll have that opportunity this summer,” said Judge.

Listen to my interview with Judge here: Interview with Patty Judge, America's Renewable Future co-chair

EPA Sets Timeline for RFS Volume Requirements

epa-150Under a court settlement with the oil industry, the Environmental Protection Agency today announced they will propose the 2015 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) renewable volume obligations by June 1, 2015, and issue the final 2014 and 2015 RFS blending targets by November 30, 2015. In addition, EPA will also release the proposed 2016 RFS RVOs by June 1 and the 2016 numbers will be finalized by Nov. 30.

The biofuels industry reacted immediately to the announcement. “This consent agreement is a good start,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “We are particularly pleased that the Agency has committed to addressing the 2016 RVO in the same time frame even though that is outside the scope of the consent agreement.”

“By taking this action, they are ensuring that the RFS is back on a path to certainty for the biofuels industry, providing the necessary guidance for the industry to continue to thrive and advance alternative fuel options for American consumers,” Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said.

“ACE has consistently said it is much more important for EPA to get the RFS done right than it is for them to get the RFS done quickly, and that bears repeating given today’s announcement that the RFS will be getting back on track for implementation,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive VP Brian Jennings.

National Biodiesel Board is pleased the EPA announcement said they would “re-propose volume requirements for 2014, by June 1, that reflect the volumes of renewable fuel that were actually used in 2014.”

“The volumes for Biomass-based Diesel in 2014 were approximately 1.75 billion gallons so EPA reaffirming its commitment to “actual use” appears to be a step in the right direction,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel.

Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) executive director Brooke Coleman says the announcement sends a good signal to the advanced biofuels industry. “Now that we have a better idea of when it will happen, we look forward to working with EPA to make sure that the new RFS proposal supports the commercial deployment of advanced biofuels as called for by Congress.”

EPA intends to issue a Federal Register Notice allowing the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed consent decree.

ARF Challenges Confirmed Candidates

ARF-LogoThe America’s Renewable Future campaign is challenging the two confirmed Republican presidential candidates to take a stand for renewable fuels.

In a letter to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has been forthcoming about his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), ARF questioned his recent reported comment that the oil industry “doesn’t get subsidized.” The letter, with the message that “Oil Subsidies Are Real,” details $165 billion in subsidies and tax breaks the oil industry is poised to receive over the next ten years.

With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officially declaring his candidacy this week, ARF recognized his introduction of the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act as “a step in the right direction” but urged him to commit to supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Sen. Paul has an opportunity to stand up for a commonsense, bipartisan policy that provides access to the marketplace for a clean, domestic alternative to foreign oil and we hope that he will,” said the campaign in a statement.

Another potential presidential candidate, Donald Trump, was in Iowa on Wednesday and took the time to meet with ARF co-chair Annette Sweeney “to discuss the importance of the ‪#‎RFS‬ to America and our rural communities.”

America’s Renewable Future is an Iowa-based coalition formed with the goal of educating presidential candidates about the RFS and urging their support.

Think Tank Ponders Cellulosic Ethanol Link

3rd-wayA new report from centrist think tank Third Way ponders the quest for cellulosic biofuels and concludes that the pathway is via corn ethanol.

This report confirms what the biofuels industry has been saying for some time now – that you cannot have cellulosic ethanol without the continued production and support of grain-based ethanol,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis.

One of the takeaways from the Third Way report is that, “proposals to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would discourage engagement from the corn ethanol industry” and thus delay commercialization of cellulosic ethanol and steer investment overseas.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen says the report highlights the importance of consistent policy for the continued evolution of biofuels. “Legislative efforts to undermine either will set the nation’s energy and economic future back generations,” said Dinneen. “Third Way should be commended for adding a thoughtful component to this ongoing discussion and I can only hope that it is read with interest by Senators Feinstein and Toomey.

“(T)he biggest point, coming from a thought leader in the space like Third Way, is that Congressional intervention on the RFS would be highly detrimental to the deployment of cellulosic biofuel,” said Brooke Coleman of the Advanced Ethanol Council.

“The success of the conventional ethanol industry has driven serious investment in the cellulosic industry and there is an important linkage between them,” says Adam Monroe, President Americas for Novozymes which produces enzymes used for cellulosic ethanol production. “Tinkering with the corn portion of the RFS now will only hurt both industries.”

The report also concludes that “companies with an extensive background in the corn ethanol industry are cracking the cellulosic code,” and continued investment from these companies in facilities and innovation is critical to growing U.S. cellulosic capacity.”

Farmers Union Concerned Over RFS Omission

nfu_logo1The National Farmers Union (NFU) is concerned that Pres. Obama has left the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) out of his plan to cut greenhouse gases. This news release from the group says NFU President Roger Johnson isn’t pleased about the omission in the president’s formal submission of a plan to the United Nations that would cut the United States’ greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.

“The RFS offers America a cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuel sector with its support for biofuels,” said Johnson. “The president is ignoring agriculture’s great potential to help the country cut GHG emissions and mitigate climate change by excluding the RFS from his plan.”

Johnson noted that climate change poses a great risk to agriculture. Family farmers and ranchers are willing and able to help build climate resiliency.

“America’s family farmers and ranchers are already feeling the impact of increased weather volatility, resulting in fewer workable field days, increased potential for soil erosion, and increased crop insurance claims,” said Johnson. “The RFS provides these farmers and ranchers with a tool to help the country cut GHG emissions and mitigate the climate change that directly impacts their livelihoods.”

Johnson says he is also concerned that the president’s plan did not include any other ways agriculture or rural communities can be involved in reducing GHG emissions.

Biodiesel Group Files Petition over Argentina Imports

nbb-advancedThe National Biodiesel Board (NBB) wants a recent decision to streamline Argentinian biodiesel imports to the U.S. put on hold pending public review and comment.

In a petition filed Monday with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, NBB cited the lack of public comment on the EPA decision and “little transparency regarding the plans Argentinian producers can use to demonstrate compliance” with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“We have serious questions about how Argentinian producers will certify that their product meets the sustainability requirements under this new approach and whether U.S. producers will be operating under more strict regulations,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “The U.S. biodiesel industry is in a state of crisis right now as a result of EPA’s continued delays in finalizing RFS volumes. An influx of Argentinian biodiesel will only exacerbate the domestic industry’s troubles at the worst possible time.”

The EPA approved the application from Argentina’s biofuels association CARBIO at the end of January.

Typically under the RFS, foreign producers must map and track each batch of feedstock used to produce imported renewable fuels to ensure that it was grown on land that was cleared or cultivated prior to Dec. 19, 2007 – when the RFS was established. The EPA’s January decision allows Argentinian biodiesel producers to instead rely on a survey plan being implemented by a third party to show their feedstocks comply with the regulations. The goal of the survey program is to ease the current map and track requirements applicable to planted crops and crop residues grown outside of the United States and Canada, resulting in a program that seems far less stringent and more difficult to verify.

Read more from NBB here.

Ethanol Supporters Counter Funding Request

houseEthanol and agriculture industry groups sent their own letter to House Appropriations leadership in response to a group of lawmakers calling for the elimination of funding for blender pumps or corn ethanol export promotion.

The letter signed by the Renewable Fuels Association, American Coalition for Ethanol, National Farmers Union, National Corn Growers Association, and Growth Energy calls on the subcommittee to “vehemently oppose and reject any efforts to include such limiting language” in FY 2016 appropriations for USDA.

It is important to note at the outset that there already exists a prohibition on the US Department of Agriculture using grant funds for the installation of blender pumps, which was included in the recently passed Farm Bill. Now, in a blatant effort to shelter the oil and gas industry from any further competition from ethanol, Representatives Goodlatte, et al. are seeking to place limitations on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to help promote the consumption of American made ethanol at home and abroad; something that agency has been successfully doing with other agriculture and livestock products for decades.

Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Jim Costa (R-CA), claim in their letter that the government has created an “artificial market” for ethanol that is “negatively impacting American consumers, livestock farmers, food producers, retailers, air and water quality, and the ability to feed our nation’s hungry.” The ag and ethanol groups responded that “corn prices today are below the prices witnessed in 2007 when the Renewable Fuel Standard was expanded and livestock feed costs are at their lowest levels in more than five years…Meanwhile, consumer food prices have advanced more slowly since passage of the RFS than in the 25 years prior to its enactment.”

Read the letter here.

EPA Changes Cellulosic Waiver Credit Provisions

epa-150The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final rulemaking this week to clarify the data sources and methodology used to calculate the Cellulosic Waiver Credit (CWC) price.

Under the rule, EPA has calculated the CWC prices for 2014 at $0.49 and for 2015 at $0.64. According to the EPA document, “The price of CWCs are determined using a formula specified in the Clean Air Act (CAA). The cellulosic waiver credit price is the greater of $0.25 or $3.00 minus the wholesale price of gasoline, where both the $0.25 and $3.00 are adjusted for inflation.”

The direct final rule also amends the regulations to remove the CWC prices from the code of federal regulations allowing them to be announced in a more timely fashion on EPA’s website.

Ethanol Fly-In Focus on RFS

ace-fly-15-ronThe American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) and more than 70 of its members have been in Washington, DC this week meeting with lawmakers, administration officials, and top staff members as part of the group’s “Biofuels Beltway March” annual fly-in.

The group had 160 meetings with lawmakers or their staff representing 43 states scheduled during the two day event with a primary focus on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ACE President Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol was pleased with how the meetings went Tuesday. “It was really a stark contrast to the last few years we’ve been out here in that these folks really know the RFS now,” he said.

Alverson noted in particular meetings that he had with senators from Arkansas and Delaware who had concerns about poultry feed costs, but they were able to find areas of common ground. “One of them is energy security and the other is the low cost fuel we produce,” he said. “I thought we had really constructive conversations.”

Listen to Jamie Johansen’s interview with Alverson here: Interview with ACE president Ron Alverson


2015 ACE Fly-In Photo Album

Biofuel Advocates Invite Candidates to Learn RFS

ARF-LogoIt won’t be long until presidential candidates invade Iowa once again (and some already have). So, Iowa-based America’s Renewable Future (ARF) has publically invited Sen. Ted Cruz and all potential 2016 presidential candidates to tour Iowa renewable fuel facilities across the state to learn more about the success of the industry.

“The goal of our organization is to educate candidates on the economic importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its many advantages, not only locally, but nationally,” said former Lt. Gov. and ARF co-chair, Patty Judge, “the RFS sustains 73,000 jobs in Iowa and over 800,000 nationally. Iowa farmers epitomize hard work and are a beacon of rural America’s success and we hope that Sen. Cruz will stand with them.”

Following Sen. Ted Cruz’s opposition to the standard at the March 7 Iowa Ag Summit, the organization is especially interested in drawing the Texas senator to an ethanol plant tour on his upcoming trips in April. “Sen. Cruz’s remarks show that there is a chance to have important dialogue on this issue,” said ARF co-chair and Nevada, IA cattleman, Bill Couser, “I had a chance to personally invite Sen. Cruz at the Ag Summit in addition to the two formal invitations ARF has sent to his campaign and I hope that he will not miss this chance to see just what this policy means for real Iowans and their families.”

“This comes down to supporting independence from foreign oil while supporting American jobs or giving in to foreign interests and Big Oil,” added Couser, “We hope that Sen. Cruz we will make time to hear from folks who have seen the success in this industry and ask questions about his concerns.”

Emerging Issues Forum Features Biz Issues & Trends

The 10th annual Ethanol 2015: Emerging Issues Forum is set for April 16-17, 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska hosted by the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB). The event is designed for ethanol producers and others integrally involved in production, technology, policymaking and marketing of ethanol and its co-products.

NEB has announced that Paul Argyropoulos, senior policy advisor to the Office of Air Quality and Transportation at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will be the featured speaker April 16th.  Argyropoulos will address EPA’s plans for the final rule on NEB logoRenewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2014 and plans for 2015 and 2016. In addition, he will address issues associated with the RFS including steps EPA is taking to get the RFS back on track.

“Paul is as knowledgeable as they come on these issues and we are absolutely delighted that he will be able to join us this year,” said Todd Sneller, NEB administrator. “He has worked on fuel and air quality programs for more than 20 years and with new ozone standards, the Tier 3 program and fuel economy standards all impacting the future of ethanol. It is a very timely addition to the program.”

Other topics during the forum include ethanol marketing challenges; domestic and international ethanol marketing opportunities and barriers; emerging trends in ethanol co-products; low carbon fuel standards; and integrating technology for efficiency, profitability and sustainability.

EPA Chief and Ag Secretary on RFS at NFU

The heads of both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency spoke to the National Farmers Union (NFU) convention in Wichita Monday and talked about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

nfu15-ginaEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted that her agency was “in the hot seat” over the RFS after failing to set standards for the industry last year.

“The RFS is a complicated program, and we weren’t able to accomplish what we needed to do last year,” she said. “Implementing the RFS as Congress intended has been challenging.”

“We need to set levels that send a longer-term message,” McCarthy continued, explaining the agency’s intention to set Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for 2014, 2015, and 2016 before summer of this year.

Listen to McCarthy’s speech here, courtesy of Ken Rahjes, AgView.net. EPA Chief Gina McCarthy at 2015 NFU Convention

nfu15-tomAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stressed his continued support for the RFS. “I love the RFS – I’m for RFS,” he said. “We need to make sure Congress doesn’t do anything to damage it or repeal it or make it difficult to use. We need to be advocates, spokespeople for this industry. We need to go out and tell folks this is the right thing to do,” he said.

Vilsack urged the crowd to continue to educate the public about the potential of weaning the nation from foreign oil imports and highlighting the potential of renewable fuels. He pointed to areas of the economy, like the military, that were converting to home grown fuels. “Navy is starting to look at renewable fuels. I am optimistic about this. We need to be advocates for this industry. We don’t want to lose this amazing marketing opportunity.”

Iowa Biodiesel Plant Latest Victim of Govt Inaction

westerndubuque1An Iowa biodiesel plant is the latest victim of the government’s inaction on measures that are aimed to help the biofuels industry. This article from the Dubuque (IA) Telegraph Herald says the 30-million gallon nameplate Western Dubuque Biodiesel has had to stop production completely – just another of the too many biodiesel refiners that have had to shut down due to the federal government’s failure to give clear direction on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the expiration of the $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel tax credit.

“All the tanks are full and no one is buying,” General Manager Tom Brooks said. “How do you sell product to a buyer who doesn’t know what he has to blend against? That’s the frustration.”

Across the U.S., biodiesel production fell from a high of 1.8 billion gallons in 2013 to 1.75 billion last year. In Iowa, production fell slightly, but it remains the nation’s leading producer, accounting for 16 percent of biodiesel output in 2014, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

Uncertainty sent prices falling nearly 25 percent for all of 2014 and led to a 73 percent decline in industry profitability, Brooks said. The result: Dozens of biodiesel plants have stopped production or laid off workers in recent months.

“It creates doubt and uncertainty for investors and lenders, because they don’t know whether the industry is stable. Is the business growing or stagnating?” he said. “And when you’re running the plant at half capacity, your costs increase.”

The article goes on to say that state biodiesel tax credits have helped a little, but industry officials worry the same uncertainty in federal policy will continue to plague biodiesel in 2015.

Advanced Biofuels Group Would Reopen RFS

abfaAdvanced Biofuels Association President Michael McAdams today called on Congress to amend the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to strengthen it for the “continued development of the advanced and cellulosic industry.”

In an address this morning to the 2015 Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference, McAdams said the “RFS simply doesn’t work as well for companies trying to move cutting-edge technology from a demonstration plant to commercial scale.” He called for changes in several areas, including minimum RIN value for cellulosic fuels, extending the program beyond 2022, and removing “the loop hole that allows the oil industry to opt out from buying a cellulosic gallon.”

The idea of reopening the RFS even to make positive changes is opposed by other biofuels organizations. “By opening up the RFS for legislative changes, you are opening a can of worms that will only create further uncertainty for the industry, which is the last thing biofuel producers of any kind need,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis in a statement.

“We seriously question who ABFA is representing these days,” said Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen in response to a reporter’s question on a conference call this morning. “There’s nothing ABFA has identified as needed improvements to the program that the agency already does not have the authority to address.”

Novozymes president Adam Monroe added that ABFA “does not represent even the majority of advanced biofuels producers” and doesn’t believe their position is representative of the industry. “It’s the politics that are broken not the legislation,” said Monroe.

RFA and Novozymes comment on ABFA call to open RFS

Biofuels Leaders Defend RFS

Holding a press conference in advance of the American Petroleum Institute continuing its call to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), representatives of the ethanol and advanced biofuels industry and corn growers defended the law and the fuel.

mess-rfsGrowth Energy CEO Tom Buis said the oil industry is making the same old arguments about ethanol that are simply not true, but he thinks the industry received a good boost over the weekend “when six out of nine of the Republican presidential candidates that came to the Ag Summit expressed support for the RFS.”

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) first vice president Rob Elliott of Illinois talked about how the facts dispel the perpetual myths about food versus fuel. “Corn prices are now below cost of production … so obviously food prices have not followed a similar path,” he said.

Adam Monroe, president of enzyme producer Novozymes, said if Washington gives in to pressure by the oil industry to weaken the RFS it will keep second generation biofuels from going forward. “It makes it tremendously difficult for us to bring in new investors and spend more money,” he said.

Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen says no matter what ethanol critics say, there is now real world data that shows no detrimental effects have occurred as a result of the RFS and he encouraged reporters to question API. “Ask them to explain the fact that the price of corn is lower than it was when the RFS was passed,” he said, noting also that food price inflation has been lower, the dead zone has gotten smaller, and hunger worldwide has fallen.

Conference Call with Renewable Fuel Industry Leaders