Tiny Taste of Indy

Marina and Rebbecca BravoJust being able to snag a ticket to the race means a huge Indy experience for most racing fans. But, some race-goers are lucky enough to snag tickets for the Hot Lap, taking their Indy experience one step further. The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council holds a raffle for every member racing event. For the Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 here in Kansas, EPIC sent 5 members and guests for a spin around the track.

Mike Sobetski with LifeLine Foods brought his brother Bob along for the pace car ride. Kurt Bravo with Midwest Ethanol gave his tickets to his mother and fiance, Marina and Rebecca. Each of them jumped at the chance to circle the track twice at over 100 mph. And, each of them said they would do again… in a heartbeat.

You can listen to Marina and Rebecca’s reactions here:

2008 Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 Photo Album

Ryan Has High Hopes for “Home” Race

Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-ReayTeam Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay knows that the ethanol industry started here, in the nation’s heartland. That’s why he fondly refers to the Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 as a “home” race. He knows that the Midwest is where most of ethanol production begins. He said a high finish for today’s race at the Kansas Speedway would be a great start to the 2008 racing season. And, he says there’s no reason Team Ethanol can’t snag a great position… which he hopes will be a top 5 or even a top 3 finish.

You can listen to Ryan here:

2008 Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 Photo Album

Rahal Shares in Pre-Race Excitement

Bobby Rahal of Rahal Letterman RacingEarlier today, Bobby Rahal addressed the members of EPIC who came out to enjoy the Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300. Rahal said he felt good about today’s race and he was confident in Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, despite the tendency for crowding out on the Kansas Speedway’s 1.5 mile oval. There’s already been three delays due to Indy cars bumping and grinding out there on the track. So far, Ryan has avoided the trouble.

You can listen to Rahal here:

2008 Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 Photo Album

Beatn’ the Heat on Ethanol

EPIC Food and Fuel DiscussionThere’s no question that there’s been a media barrage giving ethanol a bad rap. Just today, the Kansas City Star’s cover story focused on criticism of the alternative fuel. That story came just in time for today’s Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300. The entire IndyCar Series runs on nearly 100 percent ethanol fuel. And, leading representatives of the ethanol industry say there’s a reason why the IndyCar series backs ethanol. In fact, they say there are numerous reasons why. More importantly, they say there are a handful of reasons why consumers should support ethanol, despite the media’s recent ethanol scapegoating for rising food and fuel costs. The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council hosted a panel discussion at the Kansas Speedway today to address the recent abundance of “misinformation” about ethanol.

The panel included EPIC’s new Executive Director Toni Nuernberg, CEO and President of ICM Dave Vander Griend, Mike Sobetski with LifeLine Foods, and Greg Krissek with ICM. They argue that ethanol has a negligible impact on food prices, specifically corn. They talk about new technology that proves there isn’t a debate about “food versus fuel” but a discussion about “food and fuel.” And, they say that, despite what critics in the media suggest, ethanol actually keeps gas prices lower.

You can listen to the entire panel discussion here:

2008 Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 Photo Album

Turbo Racing

Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300The Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 is officially underway and the ethanol flag once again signaled “green” for go. Ethanol has been the center of a lot of criticism in the media lately, but that couldn’t be further from the truth out here on the race track. In one of the media events earlier in the day, Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay commented how he even loved the smell of burning ethanol.

Team EthanolIt’s been a busy day with ethanol being the focus of a lot of debate. I’ll have interviews posted shortly. For now, tune into ESPN to catch the race live on tv. Ryan has already been putting on pressure against his components…

2008 Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 Photo Album

Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 in KC

kc-indy08-01.jpgIt’s a cold one out on the track at the Kansas Speedway today. I’m here covering the Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300. Fortunately, the clouds and mist are breaking up and a bit of blue sky is peeking through. Hopefully, that mean things will heat up. Right now it’s 45 degrees and that’s causing some delays. Official Indy rules require the thermometer to hit 50 degrees before cars are allowed on the track. The Indy Lights qualifications have already been canceled do to the chilly temperatures.

In the meantime, the ethanol fuel tanks are standing by… ready to feed the speed racers. And, I’ll be running around covering the various activities the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council has planned for race day.

2008 Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 Photo Album

Wind Capital Gets $150 Million Investment

ntr.jpgAn Irish renewable energy and sustainable waste management company has made a significant investment into a St. Louis-based wind energy company.

windcapitalgroup.gifThis story from the St. Louis (MO) Business Journal says that NTR plc is putting $150 million into Wind Capital Group and will supply 150 megawatts of wind turbines on behalf of Wind Capital to help move forward the company’s development projects:

The investment will help St. Louis-based Wind Capital expand beyond the Midwest region and into a major national player in wind energy development in North America, the company said in a statement.

NTR’s supply of 150 megawatts of wind turbines will be delivered to Wind Capital in 2010, according to a release.

Wind Capital is currently developing wind farm projects in eight states across the Midwest with a development pipeline of more than 2,000 megawatts.

As you might remember from my post earlier this week (April 21), Wind Capital is behind making Rock Port, Missouri the first community in the nation to be powered 100 percent by wind energy.

MO Governor Says Ethanol Not to Blame

blunt.jpgMissouri Governor Matt Blunt says don’t blame ethanol for the rising cost of food for people… or animals for that matter.

In this story in the Springfield (MO) News-Leader, Blunt defended the state’s new 10 percent ethanol mandate… a measure that has come under fire in the state legislature this spring:

At a news conference in Springfield on Thursday, Blunt said soaring grocery bills are more due to higher energy costs for producing it and the “rapidly escalating worldwide demand for food.”

As more people on that planet “try to eat like Americans,” Blunt said, “food’s going to become more expensive.”

Blunt used China as an example of a nation with a hungrier population. The Republican governor said the average Chinese resident is eating 200 more calories per day today than just a few years ago.

“If you do the math, 1.3 billion times 200 calories is a lot of calories.”

Actually, it’s 260 billion more calories per day.

Blunt has promised he won’t sign any measure that repeals Missouri’s four-month-old mandate. Since he’s not running for re-election, it could be an issue that whoever succeeds him will have to tackle. The two main Republican and one main Democrat gubernatorial candidates have also said they are dedicated to renewable energy.

EBB, NBB Get Into Biodiesel Fight

ebbnbb.gifMembers of the European Biodiesel Board have asked the European Union to impose punitive tariffs on American biodiesel over complaints that U.S. subsidies on the green fuel are unfair. But their American counterparts at the National Biodiesel Board aren’t taking the threats lightly as they promise to hit back on what the NBB says are unfair trade barriers by the Europeans.

This Reuters story says at the heart of the dispute are the U.S. subsidies for “B99″ biodiesel. It’s blended with a small amount of mineral diesel, and the Europeans say that breaks World Trade Organization rules. In addition, U.S. exports qualify for EU subsidies as well:

The head of a U.S. biodiesel group accused the EU sector of trying to use litigation for protectionist ends and said his group would “aggressively challenge” EU trade obstacles.

“It is hypocritical for the European Biodiesel Board to cry foul while they benefit from a blatant trade barrier,” said Manning Feraci, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board.

He called EU biodiesel fuel specifications discriminatory.

“Our industry will aggressively challenge existing EU trade barriers — such as the EU’s discriminatory biodiesel fuel specification — and other EU biofuel policies that are inconsistent with WTO rules and provide preferential treatment to European fuel producers,” Feraci said in a statement.

U.S. trade representatives remind the Europeans that everyone benefits from a dynamic biofuel industry, worldwide.

EU officials now have 45 days to decide to start an investigation into the complaint, and then they would have nine months to impose tariffs.

New Buick Lucerne to be FlexFuel

General Motors is adding the 2009 Buick Lucerne sedan to its lineup of flex-fuel vehicles that can run on up to 85 percent ethanol.

2009 Buick LucerneGM Vice President of Environment, Energy and Safety Policy Beth Lowery says the Lucerne, the first flex-fuel capable Buick passenger car, will be among more than 15 GM models with flex-fuel capability in 2009.

“We continue to believe that ethanol used in high blends like E85 offers the best near-term solution to offset increased oil demand,” Lowery said at the Department of Energy’s Biomass Conference. “There are more than 7 million vehicles today that can use E85. The key is to increase the number of stations that offer the fuel.”

GM has 11 flex-fuel vehicles in its line up this year.

Georgia Looks to Renewables to Reduce Energy Usage

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue this week announced a commitment that Georgia’s state government will reduce its energy usage 15 percent by 2020 over the 2007 energy use levels through energy efficiency or in combination with renewable energy.

To support further development of alternative energy in Georgia, Governor Perdue is creating an Energy Innovation Center that will enhance the economic development of Georgia by leading the commercialization of bioenergy with feedstocks grown or available within the state, furthering the generation of alternative energy and promoting energy sector manufacturing.

Sonny Perdue“The state of Georgia is quickly becoming a recognized leader in alternative energy and fuel,” said Governor Perdue. “Our goal is to develop a bioenergy industry that provides substantial economic benefit to Georgia and produces 15 percent of the state’s transportation fuels by 2020 from locally produced biofuels.”

In addition, Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority Executive Director Chris Clark announced that $282,968 in E85 Retail Infrastructure Grants have been awarded to 21 fuel stations throughout the state.

“The E85 grant program will help expand the availability of E85 fuel across the state of Georgia, said Chris Clark. “When these projects are complete, E85 will be available to thousands of Georgians with flex fuel vehicles who didn’t previously have a station offering E85 near where they live and work.”

Corn Growers Oppose Texas Ethanol Request

The National Corn Growers Association is voicing strong opposition to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s request for a waiver from the Renewable Fuels Standard.

“If granted, the waiver request made by Gov. Perry today will hurt, not help, U.S. consumers by increasing fuel costs and sending a signal to farmers to plant less grain,” said NCGA President Ron Litterer. “A waiver from the RFS would undoubtedly result in higher gasoline prices and it seems very improbable that grain prices or food prices would be reduced.”

NCGANCGA points to a study released this week by the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development at Iowa State University which found that, “the growth in ethanol production has caused retail gasoline prices to be $0.29 to $0.40 per gallon lower than would otherwise have been the case.”

Given record global demand for corn, a waiver from the RFS would have little or no effect on grain prices for livestock and poultry feeders, Litterer said. Speculative investment in commodity futures markets, record demand for U.S. grain exports, heightened U.S. and global feed demand, and weaker than expected grain crops in Asia and Australia are among the other factors that must also be considered when looking at current grain prices.

Ethanol Group Challenges Texas Request

The governor of Texas is asking the federal government to cut “skyrocketing” food prices by waiving half of the renewable fuel standard for ethanol made from grain.

Governor Rick Perry said in a statement that such a waiver was “the best, quickest way” to ease rising food costs before lasting damage was done.

RFAThe Renewable Fuels Association criticized the governor’s action, saying that reducing the use of ethanol will not appreciably reduce grain prices for livestock producers and food processors in Texas.

“But eliminating 4.5 billion gallons of fuel from the marketplace – as the 50% waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard sought by Governor Perry would do – will increase gasoline and diesel prices even more. While this may benefit Texas oil companies, it will certainly hurt consumers in Texas and the rest of the country.”

RFA says that Governor Perry is ignoring the conclusions of a Texas A&M report he himself requested. According to the findings of that study, “relaxing the RFS does not result in significantly lower corn prices.” The Texas A&M report also stated that, “The underlying force driving changes in the agricultural industry, along with the economy as a whole, is overall higher energy costs, evidenced by $100 per barrel oil.”

According to RFA President Bob Dinneen, “Tampering, adjusting or removing the requirements will not have the impact on grain prices that Governor Perry seeks, nor will it bring the food price reductions he claims. The skyrocketing price of oil, surging global demand for grains and meat, poor harvests around the globe, and a weakened US dollar are the real factors determining world grain and food prices.”

CNBC Focuses on Ethanol

Ethanol’s role in higher food prices was the focus of CNBC’s Street Signs program on Friday.

One segment featured Ethanol Promotion and Information Council director of operations Robert White, along with Sean McBride of the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association and New York Times columnist Roger Cohen.

CNBC Street SignsWhite and Cohen were in the position of defending biofuels. Leading in with a story that the Texas governor is calling for waiving half of the Renewable Fuels Standard to help cut food prices, White noted that there have been multiple studies, “including one from the great state of Texas this past month that clearly state that it’s energy prices, in particular petroleum prices, that are driving up food prices – three times as much as anything that commodity prices could do – ethanol just being one of those components of the corn market.”

Cohen, who has a column today about the issue, noted that there are many issues driving food prices up and he is “worried about this hysterical scapegoating of ethanol and all biofuels.”

“My fear is that we are going to throw out the baby with the bathwater,” Cohen said.

The reporter questioned why the ethanol industry needs subsidies to be competitive and White made the point that the main subsidy is a blenders credit to encourage oil companies to use ethanol, while the tariff on ethanol imports is to offset that credit meant to encourage domestic production of the fuel.

GMA’s McBride admitted that there are other factors driving food prices but claimed that as much as a third of the food price increases were due to “our food to fuel mandates that were passed in 2007.” Cohen disputed that figure. “For every theory, there is an institute putting out a report backing it up,” he said.

Listen to the CNBC segment here.

Nebraska Ethanol Plans E85 Workshops

NE EthanolThe Nebraska Ethanol Board, the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition and the Clean Fuels Development Coalition are holding a series of E85 Direct Marketing Workshops next month.

NEVCThe aim of the workshops is to promote direct marketing relationships between ethanol producers and fuel retailers and reduce costs for all parties involved. Ethanol plants, petroleum equipment suppliers, petroleum marketers and auto dealers are encouraged to attend these free workshops. Presentations will address E85 handling and storage, regulations and safety procedures, applying for the ethanol blender tax credit, and direct marketing of E85 from ethanol plant to retailer.

The workshops will take place on May 6 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Norfolk at Northeast Community College, Utility Line Building; May 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Kearney at the UNK Student Center Cedar Room; and May 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Omaha at the Steamfitters and Plumbers Union No. 464.

Registration and other information is available on the “Events” page at www.ne-ethanol.org.

The project is funded in part by a grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development administered by the Nebraska Rural Development Commission.