The 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.
“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.
The Veteran Asset (TVA) is training veterans across the U.S. for careers in solar energy. The non-profit has announced the availability of TVA scholarships to help cover cost of education.
Scott Duncan, Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Marine Corp (Retired) Scoot Duncan is co-founder and CEO of The Veteran Asset whose mission is recruiting, training and placing veterans into the renewable energy sector, at no cost to the veterans. He said they are establishing the highest quality benchmark in the industry.
“We are hand-selecting veterans and transitioning military candidates, screening and qualifying them for TVA scholarships,” said Duncan. “This very solar-specific recruiting and training process makes TVA graduates extremely valuable to the solar community. Effort on the front end assures high-quality graduates. By vetting out the right candidates, we insure that the end result is a skilled, solar-trained workforce, which is already proving to make a tremendous difference to the solar companies that hire them and to the industry in general.”
The hand-selected veteran recruits are provided a 32-hour course, entitled Entry Level Solar PV Design and Installation, offered in the Ambassador Energy College training facility in Murrieta, California. On the final day of the course, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam is proctored. The TVA formula appears to be working, as the majority of those who have graduated the program since May 2014 have found gainful employment within the solar industry.
Dates for upcoming courses include October 20 – 24 and November 17 – 21, 2014. Interested candidates should visit The Veteran Asset’s website, where they may obtain course details and apply for an interview by TVA staff.
The Scottish Ministers have given Mainstream Renewable Power the go ahead to build a 450 megawatt Neart na Gaoithe (“NnG”) offshore wind farm in the Outer Forth Estuary in the North Sea. This project will be the first large-scale offshore wind farm in Scottish waters to be directly connected to the grid when complete in 2018. The wind farm will provide 3.7 percent of Scotland’s total electricity demand. The wind farm will consist of up to 75 wind turbines and will occupy an area of approximately 80 square kilometres. At its closest point to land it lies over 15 kilometres off the Fife coast in water depths of 45-55 metres.
The subsea cable transmitting the wind farm’s power will come ashore at Thorntonloch Beach in East Lothian from where its underground cable will travel along a 12.5 kilometre route to a substation located within the Crystal Rig onshore wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills. Grid connection will occur in December 2016 and planning permission for the route of the underground cable was received from East Lothian Council in 2013.
Mainstream Renewable Power’s founder and Chief Executive, Eddie O’Connor said, “Today’s announcement is of particular importance for Scotland because it is the first time a wind farm will be built in Scottish waters with the purpose of supplying Scottish homes and businesses with renewable energy. In fact, it will generate enough green power to supply more than all the homes in Edinburgh.”
NnG represents a capital expenditure investment of around £1.5 billion and is on track to be the first offshore wind farm in the UK to attract true non-recourse project finance at the construction stage. The project has pre-qualified for the Infrastructure UK Treasury Guarantee and European Investment Bank funding.
“This is of major significance to the global offshore wind industry because it is on track to be the first time an offshore wind farm of this scale will be built using project finance alone by a private company,” said Andy Kinsella, COO for Mainstream Renewable Power. “It is testament to the world-leading expertise of Mainstream’s offshore development team who have been working on this project since the company was founded in 2008 and further underpins Mainstream’s position as the world’s leading independent offshore wind developer.”
While it’s a pretty well established fact that biodiesel produces fewer particulates than its petroleum counterpart, researchers on a new study want to see if those fewer particulates are also less harmful. This story from Keene State College in New Hampshire says they are using real-world testing to see if those biodiesel particulates are less toxic.
“We began this project using exposure as our measurement of health,” [Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Nora Traviss] explained. “We examined whether or not the pollution created by biodiesel combustion resulted in higher exposure for workers than the pollution created by petroleum diesel. It was very much an exposure assessment.”
With the cooperation of the Keene Recycling Center, Dr. Traviss and her research team mounted particle impactors in the operator’s cabs in machinery at the Center, collecting samples of both petroleum diesel and biodiesel exhaust. The impactors can separate out different sizes of extremely tiny particles, which lets the researchers see exactly what the drivers are breathing. This approach makes Dr. Traviss’ study different from all the others, which collect samples from diesel engines set up in a lab. Dr. Traviss’ samples are real-world. “The exhaust we’re collecting is diluted in the air, it’s going through chemical reactions from the sunlight, and it’s combining with other molecules in the air,” Dr. Traviss explained. “We’re studying the quantity of the particulate matter the driver is breathing and its unique chemical composition, which we hypothesize will be different from particles collected directly from the tailpipe.”
So far, Traviss’ team has confirmed that the amount of particulates in biodiesel exhaust is indeed lower than those from petroleum diesel, although they also found that they are chemically different. They’ll now be using a $400,000 grant from the National Institute of Health to test the toxicity of those particulates.
What the federal government ends up doing about the proposed amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply will have an effect on the valuable renewable identification numbers (RINs) used by blenders and fuel producers. This report from the University of Illinois is the latest in the series of articles from the school’s Ag and Consumer Economics expert Scott Irwin, which tries to predict what RINs will do in the short and long term. In the article, Irwin explains that when the amount of ethanol required to be blended under Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) hits and exceeds the so-called E10 blend wall (10 percent of the entire country’s transportation gasoline usage), then biodiesel becomes a de facto substitute for the ethanol RINs.
Since the level of D4 biodiesel RINs prices drives the level of D6 ethanol RINs prices when the renewable mandate exceeds the E10 blend wall, it is important to understand the drivers of the level of D4 prices. In this regard it is helpful to think of the price of a D4 biodiesel RINs as consisting of two components–intrinsic and time value. The intrinsic value is given by the current biodiesel blending margin, while the time value reflects the chance that blending margins will be even larger (bigger losses) in the future. The typical split between intrinsic and time value of D4 RINS in recent years has been about 60/40. The empirical analysis highlights the key role of three factors in driving D4 prices: i) soybean oil prices; ii) diesel prices; and ii) the $1 per gallon blenders tax credit. Soybean oil prices are the primary driver of biodiesel prices, which together with diesel prices determine the blending margin. The (negative) blending margin for biodiesel has been unusually low in 2014 due to declining soybean oil and biodiesel prices, as well as relatively stable diesel prices. The on- and off-again nature of the blenders tax credit introduces considerable uncertainty into the pricing of D4 biodiesel RINs. It appears that RINs traders currently believe there is a low probability of the tax credit being reinstated retroactively for 2014, otherwise D4 prices and time values would be much lower. There is the potential for a precipitous decline in D4 RINs prices if the market is surprised and the tax credit is eventually reinstated.
The analysis also states that what is making the issue even more complicated is the uncertainty of what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will actually do after proposing a year ago to drastically cut the RFS numbers for both ethanol and biodiesel. While a final answer was promised for last summer, speculation is that EPA might now wait until after the November elections.
The 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.”
The 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
According to an Ecofys study commissioned by the European Commission, generating electricity from onshore wind is cheaper than gas, coal and nuclear when externalities are stacked with the levelised cost of energy and subsides. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) analyzed the report data and determined that onshore wind has an approximate cost of EUR 105 per megawatt hour (MWh). This is less expensive than gas (up to EUR 164), nuclear (EUR 133) and coal (between EUR 162-233). Offshore wind comes in at EUR 186 and solar photovoltaic (PV) has a cost of around EUR 217 per MWh.
The total cost of energy production, which factors in externalities such as air quality, climate change and human toxicity among others, shows that coal is more expensive than the highest retail electricity price in the EU. The report puts the figure of external costs of the EU’s energy mix in 2012 at between EUR 150 and EUR 310 billion.
Justin Wilkes, deputy chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said of the findings, “This report highlights the true cost of Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels. Renewables are regularly denigrated for being too expensive and a drain on the taxpayer. Not only does the Commission’s report show the alarming cost of coal but it also presents onshore wind as both cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.”
EWEA said onshore and offshore wind technologies also have room for significant cost reduction. Coal on the other hand is a fully mature technology and is unlikely to reduce costs any further.
“We are heavily subsidising the dirtiest form of electricity generation while proponents use coal’s supposed affordability as a justification for its continued use,” added Wilkes. “The irony is that coal is the most expensive form of energy in the European Union. This report shows that we should use the 2030 climate and energy package as a foundation for increasing the use of wind energy in Europe to improve our competitiveness, security and environment.”
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 attempt 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.”
The National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is underway in Minneapolis. Our first panel is moderated by BBI’s Tim Portz, VP of Content. This panel, talking about “Assessing the Health of Federal Biofuels Policy and Its Long Term Prognosis,” includes Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board, Mike McAdams, Advanced Biofuels Association and Matt Carr, Algae Biomass Organization. I’ll have more from their comments later.
I spoke with Tim to get a preview of what we’ll be doing here. He says it is an interesting time for the industry with some great successes happening in the advanced biofuels category. However, the industry is still struggling with the on-going uncertainty with the RFS. He is interested to hear from industry members who will be participating on panels and talking about this topic.
You can listen to my interview with Tim to learn more about what’s going on at this year’s conference: Interview with Tim Portz
2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Ecotech Institute has released a series of free energy ebooks detailing how to begin a career in wind or solar energy. The guides cover issues from a day in the life of a renewable energy technician to potential salaries to required skills and advice form current professionals working in the solar and wind industries.
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Fuels America is spilling the oil detailing the amount of money Big Oil has spent to “rig the political system” with lobbyists and campaign cash since 2008. Using data from opensecrets.org, the oil industry has spent more than $1.1 billion, $961 million lobbying Congress and $146 million in campaign contributions. This equates to more than $2 million for each member of Congress. The coalition said a significant amount of the funds were used to “block renewable fuels” and to “rig Congress and campaigns” across the U.S.
The oil industry reaped $93 billion in profits last year and continually receives sweetheart tax breaks upwards of $470 billion and counting, while renewable fuels generate $14.5 billion in tax revenue every year.
Meanwhile, said Fuels America, the oil lobby has continued to fight to kill the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which would permanently outsource thousands of American jobs and increase our reliance on foreign oil from hostile and unstable regions. The coalition has urged President Obama to resist pressure from the oil lobby and reject an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to gut the RFS.
The ads, which will run for the next week, link to a page that breaks down the numbers and invites Americans to join the fight against oil industry efforts to rig the system and block competition from renewable fuels. They can be seen on sites such as POLITICO.com, RollCall.com and TheHill.com.
After falling off the last couple of years, biodiesel exports from Argentina are on the rise again. This article from the Business Recorder credits the country’s cut in sales taxes last May that look to allow biodiesel exports to double this year compared to last.
Under pressure to jumpstart activity in the sector, the government cut biodiesel export taxes to 11 percent from 21 percent in May. Now the South American grains powerhouse is on track to double exports of the fuel this year to 1.4 million tonnes versus 700,000 tonnes in 2013, said Luis Zubizarreta, president of Carbio, the chamber of biodiesel producers and exporters.
“In the first four months of this year exports remained very low. Then the tax cut allowed us to become internationally competitive again and we’ve been able ship a good amount of our product,” Zubizarreta said in an interview earlier this week. Carbio expects Argentina to produce 2.35 million tonnes of biodiesel this year, well above the 1.8 million tonnes projected by the chamber at the start of the year. “We are still not at 100 percent capacity,” Zubizarreta said, “but the industry has started functioning well again.”
The article says the Argentine exports have been hurt by Europe’s increased tariffs on biodiesel from the South American country. Argentina used to be the world’s biggest biodiesel exporter before those tariffs stopped much of that business. Argentina is fighting the tariffs at the World Trade Organisation.
A new study shows that a 20 percent biodiesel blend is fine for home heating use. The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) says they tested blends of ASTM D6751 biodiesel with both standard and low sulfur heating oil and found that the 20 percent blend can be used in heating oil without incident.
Field experience with Bioheat® fuel (blended heating oil and biodiesel) has been overwhelmingly positive. A recent service organization survey conducted by NORA and Brookhaven National Laboratory observed that some 35,000 buildings are currently using Bioheat® containing more than 5% biodiesel with no issues…
Winter operability is essential in serving oilheat’s customers. Biodiesel blends can have a significant impact as the feedstock affects its winter characteristics. Wholesale suppliers and retail marketers need to be sure the product they sell is right for the temperatures at which it will be stored at and used. An outside tank in Maine may need a different product than an indoor tank.
NORA says it has been working with the National Biodiesel Board and the oil heating industry state leadership groups to make sure biodiesel used in home heating oil is of the highest quality to eliminate any issues, especially during the coldest weather when homes need to be heated most.