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

ACE Fly-In Coming Soon

ace14-dc-brianThe American Coalition for Ethanol is holding its 7th annual DC Fly-In, also known as the Biofuels Beltway March, on March 24-25.

ACE executive vice president Brian Jennings says talking to Washington bureaucrats and lawmakers about ethanol is more important than ever. “We’re really going to be focusing on some new members of Congress and educating them on the RFS and E15 in particular,” he said. “There were over 70 new members of Congress elected, and when you look at the current members of Congress, just two in five were in office when RFS2 was enacted back in 2007.”

Members of the ethanol industry who attend the ACE Fly-In hear from members of the administration and discuss many current issues, and then go out in groups to visit members of Congress and their staffs. “Last year we had well over 200 meetings with members of Congress, both sides of the aisle and both houses,” said Jennings, who stressed that they encourage members to “tell their stories” to make an impression.

Jennings says registration is still open for the Fly-In and there is no fee to attend.

Listen to my interview with Brian at the recent National Ethanol Conference: Interview with Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol

RFS in Spotlight at Iowa Ag Summit

iowa-ag-walkerNine potential Republican presidential were asked to address their opinions on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) at the Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines on Saturday. The final score was six in favor, three opposed.

On the plus side were former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Last to speak at the event, Walker said he viewed the RFS as an access issue. “So it’s something I’m willing to go forward on, continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard and pressing the EPA to make sure that there’s certainty in terms of levels set,” said Walker, adding that he would like to see market access issued addressed in the long term and voicing support for blender pumps. “Right now we don’t have a free and open market,” he said. Iowa Ag Summit comments from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

couser-cruzOn the Texas side are former Governor Rick Perry, who sought a waiver from the RFS in 2008 and said it should be left to the states, and Senator Ted Cruz, who said it would “be the easy thing” for him to say he supported the RFS before the Iowa crowd. “But I’ll tell you, people are pretty fed up, I think, with politicians who run around and tell one group one thing, tell another group another thing, and then they go to Washington and they don’t do anything that they said they would do,” said Cruz. He compared the RFS to “corporate welfare” and said the government should not pick winners and losers and said ethanol was a big enough part of the industry that “demand will continue without the federal mandate.”

Cruz is pictured here with Bill Couser, an Iowa cattle producer and ethanol supporter who is co-chairman of America’s Renewable Future (ARF), an Iowa based bipartisan coalition that supported the summit. He invited both Cruz and Perry to visit his operation in Nevada.

“Show them why we do this, how we do this, and say what do you think?” said Couser in an interview at the recent National Ethanol Conference. “I can say, let’s go look at a corn field, let’s go look at a feedlot, let’s go look at some windmills, let’s go look at Lincolnway Energy, and then let’s go to the DuPont plant right next door and I’ll show you what we’re doing with the whole plant and being sustainable.”

Couser says they plan to approach all potential presidential candidates individually and invite them to visit and learn more about agriculture and renewable energy, including Hillary Clinton. “Wouldn’t that be something if she showed up?” he said.

Listen to my interview with Bill here: Interview with Bill Couser, America's Renewable Future Co-Chair

Also opposed to the RFS is former New York Gov. George Pataki, who “supports ethanol”, but honestly doesn’t think “the federal government should require anybody in America to buy anything, whether it’s renewable fuel or Obamacare” and thinks the RFS should be “phased out.”

Leno Anti Ethanol Rant Raises Eyebrows

Former Tonight Show host, comedian, and car enthusiast Jay Leno is being taken to task by automotive experts for a harshly-worded, negative article in AutoWeek entitled “Can’t We Just Get Rid of Ethanol?”

The thrust of the article is to support reform or elimination of the Renewable Fuel Standard and even attacks farmers.

I just don’t see the need for ethanol. I understand the theory—these giant agri-business companies can process corn, add the resulting blend to gasoline and we’ll be using and importing less gasoline. But they say this diversion of the corn supply is negatively affecting food prices, and the ethanol-spiked gas we’re forced to buy is really awful. The big growers of corn have sold us a bill of goods.

leno-e85-corvetteLeno has been a long-time supporter of renewable fuels. This picture from an April 2008 Popular Mechanics article written by Leno shows him with a 2006 Corvette Z06 that he said “has a top speed of 208 mph and runs on a homegrown alternative to gasoline – cleaner-burning E85 ethanol.”

In this interview with DomesticFuel in 2007, Leno talks about biodiesel specifically but all renewable fuels in general about being good for America and agriculture. “We try to support companies that make products here in America,” he said. “To me, it’s a great thing to see people no longer losing their farms because they can’t make a crop that’s viable anymore …you support the farmers, they watch my TV show, I buy their products.” 2007 Interview with Jay Leno on Renewable Fuels

Syndicated car show host and technician Bobby Likis thinks Leno’s article seems uncharacteristic. “I cannot believe “what Jay said” is “what Jay really believes.” His words smack of otherwise invested horse-whisperers who use personal agendas to sway vulnerable-for-whatever-reason people towards their way,” says Likis in an editorial for the E-xchange Blog refuting all of Leno’s claims.

Bob Reynolds, president of Downstream Alternatives and automotive engine specialist, particularly countered Leno’s claims that ethanol causes corrosion in vintage cars. Reynolds cited a study by Hagerty Insurance and Kettering University’s Advanced Engine Research Lab that concluded “with minor updates and proper maintenance E10 will not prevent the ability to enjoy your collector car.”

Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen commented on Leno’s apparent biofuels about-face. “Will the real Jay Leno please stand up?,” said Dinneen. “Unfortunately, it appears Leno has fallen victim to the relentless barrage of myths and misinformation about ethanol and classic cars coming from all of the usual suspects.”

“Clean, Secure, American Energy” Campaign Launched

This month marks the 102 anniversary of tax breaks signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, for the oil industry. They were part of the first income tax code that took effect on March 1, 1913. As America marks this anniversary, Fuels America has launched a new campaign, “Clean, Secure, American Energy,” to highlight the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This August will mark the 10th anniversary of the renewable energy legislation, a policy that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been dragging their feet on finalizing for 2014 and announcing renewable fuel volumes for 2015.

fuels-americalogoWhile oil companies have been benefiting from hand outs for more than a century, tax credits for corn-based ethanol expired several years ago. Fuels America cites that during the past 10 years, the commonsense, bipartisan RFS has tripled America’s biofuel production and helped lower our the country’s dependence on oil to the lowest level in decades – all while delivering environmental and economic benefits.

According to Fuels America, the “Clean, Secure, American Energy Campaign” is launching this week with a significant digital advertising campaign that will run on RollCall.com. The ads congratulate the oil industry by “Celebrating 102 Years of Oil Spills and Pollution”.

Last week, renewable fuel supporters highlighted the environmental benefits of the RFS by sending a letter to President Obama, urging him to ensure the EPA’s new multiyear rule for the RFS supports growth for existing and new biofuels technologies and lives up to the original intent of the bipartisan law.

“The RFS is working and has resulted in significant environmental gains,” the letter said. The RFS is America’s only fully implemented policy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.”

Vilsack Stresses RFS Support at #Classic15

classic15-vilsack-1Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke to over 7000 agricultural producers and industry members during his 6th appearance at Commodity Classic on Friday. Sec. Vilsack began by stating that he “was in the presence of greatness” and went on to thank farmers for all that they do on a daily basis. He also thanked farmers for their work on the Farm Bill when it came to grassroots support and involvement in motivating legislation.

Among the many issues Vilsack addressed was the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “There are a multitude of positives about this industry,” said Vilsack, who addressed members of Growth Energy on Thursday. “I’m going to educate my friends at EPA about the importance of this industry.”

classic15-vilsack-rfaThe secretary was applauded when he spoke adamantly in support of biofuels. “There’s a good news story here,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to tell America this is a good, solid industry.”

Strolling through Commodity Classic trade show after his address, Secretary Vilsack stopped by a few booths, including the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) where he picked up a couple of E15 VW bug stress balls for his grandchildren.

Listen to Secretary Vilsack’s complete remarks about biofuels here: Vilsack Addresses Commodity Classic - Biofuels Comments

2015 Commodity Classic Photo Album

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Biofuels and Ag Groups Protest Anti-RFS Bill

mess-rfs U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today introduced legislation that would abolish the corn ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) as a co-sponsor. The move was immediately criticized by both ethanol and agricultural organizations.

“Senators Feinstein and Toomey continue to operate under the misguided assumption that the RFS is driving food prices higher” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen. “It is not. Corn is less expensive today than when the RFS was passed! As the World Bank recently concluded, ‘most of the contribution to food price changes from 1997-2004 and 2005-2012 comes from the price of oil.’”

“Just like their previous failed attempt, this legislation is incredibly shortsighted,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “Nearly identical legislation has been introduced in the past and has always failed to gain any traction since a majority of senators understand the importance of homegrown, American renewable fuels. This bill would eviscerate the RFS – the most successful energy policy enacted in the last 40 years.”

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson says the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act would “cripple rural America’s economy and be an enormous step backwards for America’s goal of energy independence by a decade or more.”

National Corn Growers Association
board member Keith Alverson of South Dakota added that Congress should not turn its back on success with renewable fuels. “The Renewable Fuel Standard is working,” said Alverson. “With a second consecutive record crop, there is more than enough corn to meet all demands for food, fuel, feed, and fiber. Corn farmers have more than met our commitment on the RFS. There are many good reasons to continue this policy, and we look forward to working with Congress to support it.”

Fuels America held a telephone press conference to discuss the legislation on Thursday with Dinneen, Alverson, POET’s Jeff Lautt, BIO’s Brent Erickson, and Advanced Ethanol Council’s Brooke Coleman. Listen or download here: Fuels America press conference on Toomey-Feinstein bill