Several recent media reports have reported that the “blend wall” cost refiners nearly $1.35 billion last year. The blend wall is the amount of ethanol that can be blended into the fuel supply. Today is this considered “E10″ and for the most part this has been achieved. The next step to hurdle the so called blend wall is to either increase the amount of ethanol blended into the fuel supply, such as E15 which is a voluntary blend (retailers can choose to blend E15 and consumers can choose to purchase E15) or to promote mid-level or higher blends of ethanol such as E85, which can be used in flex-fuel vehicles.
In response to these reports, Ron Lamberty, senior vice president for the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) called them “incomplete and misleading”. A recent Reuters article said that was the amount nine companies paid for Renewable Identification Number (RINs), which are credits refiners provide to EPA to prove they bought the amount of renewable fuels required by law. RINs are free to refiners who blend biofuels, while refiners who choose not to blend biofuels can buy RINs from companies that blend more than the law requires.
“Those refiners made a business decision to purchase credits instead of ethanol. Reports aren’t honest if they fail to point out that those nine refiners paid $1.35 billion dollars to other refiners for those companies’ excess RINs.” said Lamberty. “The “blend wall” provided $1.35 billion dollars of income to some refiners, which reduced their cost of fuel.”
Lamberty said ACE would like to see more RINs generated by retailers, since they generally use the additional funds to reduce prices at the pumps. “Unfortunately, at the same time oil companies are complaining about RINs and the “blend wall,” they enforce policies that won’t allow their branded marketers to sell E15 and higher ethanol blends,” Lamberty said. “Station owners who offer E15, E85, and other blends generally sell about 20% ethanol overall, making more RINs available. And when they sell RINs, they pass most of the value of those RINs on to customers in the form of lower pump prices.”
The cellulosic biofuels industry was very pleased to see the Senate Finance Committee markup of a package of tax extenders that includes the Producer Tax Credit (PTC) and the special depreciation allowance for advanced biofuels.
“The cellulosic biofuel industry is just breaking through at commercial scale. Today’s markup sends a clear signal to the marketplace that Congress is making progress on extending its support for one of the most innovative, low carbon industries in the world,” said Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC). “It will be very important to move this package along quickly, as executives in our industry are weighing the pros and cons of developing the next wave of projects here or abroad.”
“We applaud the Finance Committee and Chairman Wyden for supporting the advanced biofuels tax incentives included in the extenders legislation,” added Advanced Biofuels Association president Michael McAdams. “These extenders send a significant signal to the advanced and cellulosic industry and to the markets regarding the sustained support at the federal level, and our members appreciate the certainty of a two-year extension.”
Companies like Novozymes that are members of these organizations are very happy with the action. “When you’re on a road trip, you don’t stop every 10 minutes to put in one gallon—you fill up for the long haul. That’s what these tax credits and renewable fuel policies like the RFS need too: Fuel for the long haul to drive investment, create jobs and move our economy forward.” said Adam Monroe, Novozymes President, Americas.
The Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit all expired at the end of 2013. This package extends them through 2015 adding certainty for the advanced biofuel industry and its investors.
The American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) has released The Outlook for Renewable Energy in America: 2014, jointly authored by U.S. renewable energy trade associations from the power, thermal, and fuel sectors. The Outlook assesses the renewable energy marketplace and forecasts the future of each renewable energy technology sector, from the perspectives of each of the associations, and provides a list of policy recommendations by the respective associations that would encourage continued industry growth.
“ACORE applauds the unity of the renewable industry community and this united front as reflected in The Outlook for Renewable Energy in America: 2014,” said ACORE President and CEO, Michael Brower. “The report demonstrates the many public and private sector opportunities that exist at the national, regional and local levels for continued industry advancement and investment; however, they are not one-size-fit-all solutions for every renewable technology.”
Bower noted that the articles in the report detail specific market drivers for the biofuel, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, waste and energy sectors.
Jeffrey Holzschuh, Chairman of Institutional Securities at Morgan Stanley said that greater American consumer interest in renewable energy, along with more private sector investment, have caused the financial markets to respond. “Spurred by growing individual as well as business demand, private sector investment in the U.S. clean energy sector surpassed $100 billion in 2012-2013, stimulating significant economic development while supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
The trade associations who participated in the Outlook are: Advanced Biofuels Association; American Wind Energy Association; Biomass Power Association; Biomass Thermal Energy Council; Energy Recovery Council; Geothermal Energy Association; Growth Energy; National Hydropower Association; Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition; and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The Outlook for Renewable Energy in America: 2014 shows the potential of America’s renewable energy economy to extend beyond one fuel choice or pipeline, to provide the country with an unparalleled opportunity to reinvigorate the U.S. economy while protecting our environment.
Our latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “Do you think farm movies can help the public image of agriculture?”
It looks like the majority polled believe these farm movies can play a positive role in improving the agricultural industries image. Getting people to theaters to watch them might be tricky, but the old fashioned word-of-mouth advertising could be the ticket. I, personally, am eager to watch them and share with friends and family.
Our poll results:
- Definitely – 38%
- Maybe – 27%
- No – 11%
- Not sure – 4%
- Can’t hurt – 15%
- Other – 5%
Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “What’s the largest percentage of your 2014 marketing budget?”
Next week is the annual Agri-Marketing Conference in Jacksonville, FL. Agribusiness/agency/media and more will be networking and participating in professional development activities. We’re pretty sure this question will be a part of the conversation.
The new biodiesel requirement north of the border is pleasing farmers in that area. The trade group Grain Farmers of Ontario welcomed its province’s new 2 percent biodiesel mandate, expected to be a boon for soybean farmers.
“The creation of an Ontario Greener Diesel mandate will reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by the
transportation sector and will help build a market for made-in-Ontario soy biodiesel,” says Henry Van Ankum, Chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario. “Local fuel made from soybeans reduces greenhouse gas emission in vehicles up to 85 percent and the mandate will provide a potential market for 680,000 tonnes of soybeans.”
Creating new markets takes a commitment and collaboration between government and industry. “We were pleased we could work with our partners at the Ontario government and the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association to initiate this Greener Diesel mandate and grow this market for our Ontario farmers,” added Van Ankum.
The mandate started at 2 percent this week and moves up to 4 percent in 2017. It’s expected to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 280,000 cars per year off the road.
A measure that would renew the federal $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive has cleared a congressional committee. The credit, which expired at the end of 2013, passed the Senate Finance Committee as part of a package of tax provisions. The news was welcomed by the National Biodiesel Board, which still appeared miffed it expired in the first place, as Congress let happen in 2010 and 2012.
“This is the third time in five years that the biodiesel incentive has lapsed, making it incredibly difficult for biodiesel businesses to plan for expansion or build infrastructure,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, the industry trade association. “We applaud the Senate Finance Committee for taking the first step toward extending it and urge the House and Senate to continue the committee’s bipartisan work by acting quickly to extend this credit so the biodiesel industry can get back to work.”
“The U.S. biodiesel industry has plants in almost every state in the country, and this tax incentive is something Congress can pass today to stimulate growth and economic activity at all of them,” Steckel added. “This incentive is a job creator, and it also pays tremendous dividends in terms of reducing harmful emissions and strengthening our energy security.”
The measure calls for the incentive to be restored retroactively back to Jan. 1, 2014, and extended through the end of 2015.
SheerWind Inc., had commissioned a pilot project at Dubai Aluminium PJSC (DUBAL). The 250kW INVELOX wind power generation pilot project will help sustainably offset the company’s carbon emissions.
“We are very pleased to be the pioneer in this innovative pilot project in the GCC, especially as the project will contribute measurably to environmental conservation,” said DUBAL’s Tayeb Al Awadhi. “As a responsible corporate citizen, we are committed to sustainable principles. Moreover, the project is closely aligned with our corporate emphasis on continuous improvement through innovation.”
According to Sheerwind, its INVELOX technology offers high-performance, cost-efficient wind energy. When compared to average wind turbine technology:
- Produces 600% more electrical energy (kWh)
- Operates at wind speeds as low as 1 mile per hour
- Reduces installation capital cost to less that $750 per KW
- 90% less land use than traditional wind power generation utilities
- Increases energy production capacity to record high of 72%
- No harm to humans, animals, or flying creatures
Steve Hill, COO of SheerWind, added, “This installation is very exciting for SheerWind. We see this as the beginning of a great partnership with a company that is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and finding ways to make a difference globally. This partnership will assist in SheerWind’s mission to provide affordable, clean, electrical energy to anyone—anywhere.”
A recent edition of the New York Times and Politico have published what the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy are calling “good-humored, but factual takedown of Big Oil’s false, hypocritical attacks against clean, renewable ethanol”.
In response to American Petroleum Institute’s (API) current national anti-biofuel campaign, the two ethanol associations have published an ad that is an open letter to Jack Gerard, API president in Politico and all DC editions of the New York Times.
Dinneen and Buis write, “Despite the millions of dollars your industry has spent on bogus TV ads, there hasn’t been a single reported case of engine damage from ethanol blended fuels like E15. But last week, Exxon admitted selling customers in Louisiana more than 5 million gallons of oil-based gasoline that was so bad that it’s been stopping cars dead in their tracks. In fact, one auto shop reported 40 or 50 customers who had trouble starting their engines as a result of Exxon’s contaminated gas. That’s 40 or 50 more cases of engine problems than have been reported in the entire country from E15, and that’s just one shop in Baton Rouge!”
With summer around the corner consumers are getting their boats ready for the waters and API has taken the opportunity to run ads about boats not being able to use E15 or other higher blends of ethanol. However, what API does not acknowledge is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not approve E15 for small engines or boats.
Going directly at the current API boat ads, the open letter continues, “While your ads are misleading people about the impact of ethanol on marine engines, boats in Houston are in dry dock because of your oil spill! In fact, that one company has been fined for 77 different oil spills since 2008, which means they have averaged more than one oil spill per month for the last six years. That’s a lot of boaters impacted by oil spills, Jack.”
The open letter is summed up in one simple closing thought, “You see, Jack, the real environmental peril is oil, not renewable fuels like ethanol.”
Five Clean Cities Coalitions were awarded with the first ever Outstanding Propane Supporter awards at the Energy Independence Summit in Washington, D.C. by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). The award recipients included Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, Greater Indiana Clean Cities Coalition, Clean Fuels Ohio, Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities, and Virginia Clean Cities. They were given the award in recognition of their promotion of the use of propane autogas and other alternative fuels through grants, training programs, and community outreach. Their support of clean, American-made propane autogas has led to major adoptions of propane autogas vehicles in their states and across the U.S.
“For 20 years, Clean Cities has built partnerships with local and statewide organizations to encourage the adoption of alternative fuels and new transportation technology,” PERC President and CEO Roy Willis said. “Our Outstanding Propane Supporter award winners are examples of how public and private partnerships in the transportation sector are creating a cleaner future for fleets and communities nationwide.”
About the award winners:
- Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition works with a large number of propane stakeholders, including propane retailers AmeriGas, Blossman Gas, Ferrellgas, and Heritage Propane in addition to the Alabama Propane Gas Association and propane vehicle manufacturer Roush CleanTech. They also promote propane vehicles on their website by listing applicable vehicle purchase incentives.
- Greater Indiana Clean Cities Coalition managed a Recovery Act grant that has put more than 1,300 propane vehicles on the road in Indiana to date. The coalition also helped facilitate the construction of 120 alternative fueling stations in partnership with eight other project partners, and has secured more than $22 million in federal and state grants since 2002 for coalition member projects.
- Clean Fuels Ohio helps organize the state’s Energy Independence Day event and actively promotes the use of alternative fuel vehicles. They’re also working on a $16 million project that would provide funding for conversions and infrastructure.
- Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities is a major participant in organizing the Texas Alt Car Expo and helps fleets identify and obtain Texas grant funding for conversions. The group also works with the Texas Department of Transportation, Dallas County Schools, the City of Fort Worth, and other fleet managers on new vehicle purchases and training.
- Virginia Clean Cities manages a Recovery Act grant to convert more than 1,200 vehicles to propane autogas. The coalition created a propane subcommittee and hosts frequent webinars and events promoting propane autogas.
A maker of biodiesel equipment has donated a processor to a center dedicated to sustainable farming practices. California-based Springboard Biodiesel gave the Center for Sustainable Energy Farming (CfSEF), a nonprofit research organization, its industry-leading biodiesel processor.
The processor, a BioPro™ 380, is an appliance that converts a wide variety of vegetable and animal oils into premium-grade biodiesel. This fully automated biodiesel processor is capable of producing 100 gallons (or 380 liters) of biofuel every 48 hours.
Springboard’s CEO, Mark Roberts, said in a statement: “We are impressed by the research that CfSEF is doing into alternative non-food-based seed crops that can be economically grown and converted into renewable fuels. We are hopeful their research, specifically with Camelina and Jatropha, will be enhanced by Springboard Biodiesel’s equipment and that American farmers will continue to benefit from their findings.”
“The Center is very pleased to receive this donation from Springboard Biodiesel,” says CfSEF’s President & CEO, Richard Palmer. “We are planning to use this equipment to demonstrate the effectiveness of local farmers growing, processing and utilizing biodiesel on their own farms. This unit has the potential to help farmers achieve true sustainability by eliminating their need for diesel fuel to power their farming equipment. They can grow their own non-food-based energy crops, such as Camelina sativa and Jatropha curcas, and process it on-farm for their own use.”
Springboard Biodiesel is known for its small-scale biodiesel production equipment.
A crop that has had an undeserved stigma attached to it could now become a source for biodiesel and ethanol. The recently passed and signed Farm Bill contains a provision that would allow hemp to be grown for research purposes, including making it into the green fuels.
“Hemp is a great crop for biodiesel, and we’ve already started experimenting with [cellulosic ethanol made from hemp],” explained Ben Droz with Vote Hemp, a group trying revitalize industrial hemp production in the U.S., at last week’s National Agriculture Day in Washington, D.C. He pointed out that hemp goes back a long ways in this country’s history, including being grown by the Founding Fathers and the founder of our modern automobile industry. “Henry Ford was actually doing research on hemp fuels and hemp biocomposites. And now today we are looking back to see if we can grow hemp once again.”
Ben said the Farm Bill defined industrial hemp, not to be confused with marijuana despite its similar appearance, as having 3/10 of a percent or less of THC – the active ingredient in the drug. Even if you smoked a hemp joint the size of a telephone pole, Ben said you still wouldn’t get high. But it’s only legal to do the research at universities and state ag departments in the 10 states where hemp is already legal to grow. He’s hoping that positive results in those locations will allow the effort to go nationwide.
“Those results will then encourage lawmakers to change the law so farmers can grow this profitable crop. There’s literally thousands of uses for hemp.”
Listen to all of Cindy’s conversation with Ben here: Interview with Ben Droz, Vote Hemp
2014 Ag Day Photo Album
Soybean growers are welcoming news of a couple of important measures moved forward in legislation for biodiesel. The American Soybean Association says a two-year extension of the dollar-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive and a reinstatement of the pre-2014 expensing amounts for farm infrastructure and equipment under Section 179, both in the Senate Finance Committee Chairman’s Tax Extenders Package, are key issues for group’s members.
ASA First Vice President Wade Cowan, a farmer from Brownfield, Texas, issued the following statement on the committee’s proposal:
“The extension of the biodiesel tax credit is huge. Biodiesel blenders create a renewable and safe domestic energy source for our country and a valuable market for the soybean oil American farmers produce. The credit further encourages the development and sustained success of the biodiesel marketplace, and much credit goes to Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Hatch and specifically Sens. Grassley and Cantwell for recognizing the importance of the biodiesel tax incentive and including it in their proposal…
“The proposal’s Section 179 reinstatement is also important. This enables farmers and other small business owners to expense investments made in new technology, equipment and infrastructure in their operations. Given the land-based and capital-intensive nature of farming, not to mention the ever-advancing technology we need to farm sustainably and competitively, this program helps us to stay on the cutting edge of our industry.”
Cowan also pointed out the biodiesel industry has been operating without the credit since the end of the fiscal year in September and called on the full committee to take up the measures quickly and move them on to the full Senate and House for final approval.