Advanced Biofuels Industry Weighs in on #RFS

The advance biofuels industry is fairly positive about increased volumes in the final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules that were released yesterday but leaders are stressing that this isn’t enough to keep the advanced biofuels industry growing and get investor confidence back on track. In the past year, four commercial scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries went online and when they are in full production will produce more than 100 million gallons of advanced biofuels each year.

Leaders continue to express frustration with the EPA and legislators- especially when they point out that the #RFS is the most effective energy policy ever implemented. So what exactly is the industry saying? Read some of their responses below:

Brooke Coleman, Advanced Biofuels Business Council Executive Director:
abbc“What we’re seeing in the RFS final rule, volumetrically at least, is continued growth in renewable fuel blending. That counts for something, predominantly in markets already inclined to offer consumers more renewable fuels. But it is frustrating that the Administration missed this opportunity to fix two waiver issues that are undercutting U.S. investment in low carbon, advanced biofuels. Waivers are absolutely critical to U.S. investment, because they define for investors when the field of play can be altered. It is confounding that the Obama Administration would side with the oil industry against Democratic members of Congress and the advanced biofuels industry in reinterpreting its waiver authority to allow for “distribution waivers,” which would permit EPA to waive the RFS if the oil industry refuses to make arrangements to distribute renewable fuel and comply with the law.” Click to read entire ABBC statement.

Brent Erickson, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO):
bio-logo“Today’s rule is a severe blow to American consumers and the biofuels industry. To date, BIO member companies have invested billions of dollars to develop first-of-a-kind advanced and cellulosic biofuel production facilities. EPA’s two-year delay in finalizing the rule created untenable uncertainty and shook investor confidence in the RFS program. BIO estimates that investment in the advanced biofuel sector has experienced a $13.7 billion shortfall due to EPA’s delays and proposed changes. Unfortunately, this final rule exacerbates the problem.”

Michael McAdams, President, Advanced Biofuels Association:
Advanced Biofuels Association logoThe Advanced Biofuels Association applauds EPA’s support of next-generation biofuels…While we appreciate EPA’s efforts, we continue to believe that legislative reform is required to address ongoing hurdles facing next-generation biofuels. Congress needs to strengthen the RFS to help focus and expedite the production of advanced biofuels. Outdated definitions, cellulosic waivers, as well as overall program uncertainty have created significant barriers to entry for the advanced and cellulosic industry. That’s why ABFA will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to reform and strengthen the RFS so it can deliver on the promise of next-generation renewable fuels.”

Does EPA Biofuels Rule Measure Up?

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “Does your agribusiness/operation have a crisis communications plan?”

There is no doubt agribusinesses, farms/ranches and agriculture organizations need to be proactive in communicating our products to our consumers. I was a little shocked that a small majority believe they have no need for a crisis communications plan. In my opinion, you can never be too prepared.

Here are the poll results:

  • Yes – 33%
  • No, but needs one – 28%
  • No, don’t see a need – 39%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What’s your opinion of EPA rule for biofuels volumes?

The EPA has released a final rule for biofuels volumes under the Renewable Fuels Standard for 2014-2016, which increased the obligations for refiners to use ethanol, biodiesel and advanced or cellulosic biofuels. While it is an increase over the proposed rule, some in the agriculture and biofuels industries say it still does not measure up to the intent of Congress, while others are mostly satisfied, and still others believe it goes too far. What do you think?

#COP21 Attendees Travel Carbon Free

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 12.07.22 AMThere is an incredible amount of news this week coming from Paris during COP21. Much of the focus this week is getting commitments from 143 countries to significantly reduce their carbon emissions, and many key attendees are practicing what they are preaching – traveling carbon free to and from the events. This week a network of carbon-free trains arrived in Paris from Asia and across Europe and many of these trains are also contributing to producing new renewable energy due to an agreement between ECOHZ and the International Union of Railways.

“We are delighted to support carbon-free travel to a United Nations COP meeting. The use of renewable energy is a key issues for our future. The UIC strategy for 2030 and 2050 aims at carbon-free railway operation in Europe and very-low carbon rail transport worldwide,” said Nick Craven from the International Union of Railways.

ECOHZ has provided Guarantees of Origin (GO) to the Train to Paris project and provided certificates to the International Union Railways. In addition, ECOHZ has delivered a GO2 solution that will unleash financing of new renewable energy production.

“We know that many people traveling to Paris really care about their carbon footprint. Choosing to travel by train is clearly more environmentally friendly than by air or private cars. Unfortunately a significant share of the electricity on the European grid comes from fossil fuels. So traveling by electric trains or electric cars is not clean unless you have a guarantee of origin,” explained ECOHZ CEO Tom Lindberg.

“Our solution GO2 has the additional benefit of contributing to unleashing financing of new renewable energy sources,” continued Lindberg. “Hundreds of renewable energy projects are not realized because they lack top-financing, and we have established a mechanism to funnel funds through to new renewable energy production. Our vision of the future is that individuals will demand to consume products and services that are clean from fossil fuels. The tools exist today and more and more leading companies adopt renewable energy solutions as part of their business strategy.”

Renewable Energy has been, in fact, a key focus to reducing carbon emissions with two major initiatives launched leading up to the official start of COP21: Mission Innovation and Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

More #Ethanol Groups Disappointed with #RFS Rule

While ethanol industry representatives agree that the EPA final rule for volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard is an improvement, most still are disappointed.

aceAmerican Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive Vice President Brian Jennings says the final rule protects the oil industry from meeting the requirements that Congress intended.

“When Congress enacted the Renewable Fuel Standard it voted to side with those of us who said ‘yes we can’ reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor fuel, ‘yes we can’ allow consumer access to E15 and flex fuels, and ‘yes we can’ spark innovative ways to produce cleaner fuels,” said Jennings. “While we appreciate that the Administration made incremental improvements compared to the proposed RFS rule, unfortunately, today they are choosing to side with those who say ‘no, we can’t’. Regrettably, EPA’s final RFS rule protects the old way of doing business by obstructing consumer access to cleaner fuels, stifling competition in the marketplace, and undermining innovation.”

Iowa RFA logo-newIowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw says the final rule is a blow to farmers and fuel choice for consumers. “Given EPA’s stated rationale for these numbers, one of the most successful energy policies in our nation’s history has been put squarely in the stranglehold of the petroleum industry,” said Shaw. “As a result, consumers will see higher prices at the pump and Iowa farmers will likely continue to see commodity prices below the cost of production.”

Iowa has 43 ethanol refineries capable of producing 3.9 billion gallons annually, including nearly 55 million gallons of annual cellulosic ethanol production capacity.

NEB logoNebraska Ethanol Board administrator Todd Sneller, who is also chairman of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition, called the final rule “disappointing but not unexpected” and said it means biofuels must move beyond government imposed limits and establish new value based on performance and environmental benefits. “The RFS was, and remains, a foundation to provide a solid base for biofuels to continue to develop,” Sneller said. “All this means is EPA will limit the amount of biofuels they intend to manage under this particular program. Ethanol’s high octane and cleaner-burning properties make it an extremely valuable fuel and we expect increasing demand for those reasons.”

“Our challenge and wake-up call is to provide a valuable product that does not depend on levels established by the EPA,” said Doug Durante, CFDC executive director. Although the EPA has chosen to limit the amount of fuels like ethanol under the RFS, Durante says the EPA could choose to increase biofuel demand by limiting toxic compounds in gasoline, which the agency is required to do under the Clean Air Act.

AESI logoFormer United States Senator and Americans for Energy Security and Innovation (AESI) Chairman Jim Talent said that this midterm modification to the RFS flies in the face of the intent of Congress when it passed the law, and says the President is saying that if oil companies refuse to comply with the law, then the EPA can waive the obligation.

Talent added, “It is clear that the Obama Administration and Democrats have once again abandoned Rural America by finalizing a new rule that undermines the Renewable Fuel Standard and threatens the 850,000 well-paying American jobs that have been created by this successful law. With billions invested in this industry thus far, the Obama Administration’s new lackluster standards threaten the already frozen $13.7 billion in investments in advanced biofuels and discourage new investments in clean energy.

#Ag Industry Split on Final #RFS Rules

The #Ag industry is split on the final #RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard) rules that were released yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While the RVOs (renewable volume obligations) were an improvement over the proposed rules released in May of this year, the #Ag industry is calling on the EPA to further strengthen the legislation and increase the amount of corn ethanol blended into America’s fuel.

USDA logoAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the final rules for 2014, 2015 and 2016 a move in the right direction. “This unprecedented commitment is part of the reason why, even in recent years when there has been some uncertainty with RFS, we have seen continued growth in biofuels production and consumption,” said Vilsack in a statement.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Chip Bowling reacted to the news with mixed feelings. “While we are pleased to see the EPA take a step forward and revise NCGA-Logo-3its original proposal, the fact remains that any reduction in the statutory amount will have a negative impact on our economy, our energy security, and the environment.”

Despite the volumes increasing over 2014 numbers, none of the four renewable fuel categories are at statutory levels. As a result, Bowling said NCGA and other organizations are evaluating their options to protect farmers and consumers and hold the EPA accountable to meet statutory requirements.

National Farmers Union logoNational Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson sharply criticized the EPA for issuing final volume targets well below their statutory level. “The administration’s decision to issue RFS volume obligations below their statutory requirements exacerbates the serious damage already done to the renewable fuels industry and America’s family farmers,” said Johnson. “Clearly the administration has accepted Big Oil’s talking points and paved the way for a weaker RFS to the detriment of economic prosperity in rural America and the administration’s own climate change goals.”

AFBF-logoThat sentiment was shared by American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “We need more biofuels, not less, and Farm Bureau called on EPA earlier this year to protect the RFS,” said Stallman. “We are disappointed to see the agency move forward with a decision that will stall growth and progress in renewable fuels as well as the broader agricultural economy.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1Renovate America, the leading provider of residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing in the U.S., has announced the nation’s first-ever “green bonds” securitizing PACE bonds. This is Renovate America’s fifth securitization of PACE bonds in the U.S., issuing $201,532,000 in Class A Notes rated AA (sf) by Kroll and AA (sf) by DBRS, and represents 8,939 home improvements made that reduce energy or water consumption or produce renewable energy.
  • The Cleantech Open has announced Vartega Carbon Fiber Recycling LLC as the recipient of the National Emerging Technology Award at its 2015 Global Forum at Herbst Theatre on November 19th.
  • A startup company in the New York University Tandon School of Engineering clean-tech incubator called NYC ACRE recently launched a design and technology race to build the first beautiful solar panels. In the latest step toward reality, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it will help take Sistine Solar’s technology the last mile, to production, by means of a $1 million grant. The grant is part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources (MIEW) have selected six projects to receive $5.1 million under the 2015 Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Energy program. Each project is conducted by a U.S. and an Israeli partner. Selected projects address energy challenges and opportunities of interest to both countries, while focusing on commercializing clean energy technologies that improve economic competitiveness, create jobs, and support innovative companies.

McD’s Cooking Oil Biodiesel Runs to Mars and Back

UAEflagBiodiesel made from McDonald’s used cooking oil in the United Arab Emirates hit an impressive milestone: running the equivalent of the distance to Mars and back. This article in the UAE’s The National says McDonald’s UAE fleet completed 5 million kilometres this month fueled entirely by biodiesel. The green fuel is possible thanks to a four-year partnership between Mickey D’s and Dubai-based biodiesel producer Neutral Fuels.

Sixteen vehicles collect cooking oil from McDonald’s 135 outlets up to twice a day, which is then converted into a renewable fuel, or biodiesel.

It is the first quick service restaurant in the Mena region recycling all of its “waste cooking oil for refuelling the company’s logistics fleet to transport its goods throughout the emirates”, said Rafic Fakih, managing director and partner at McDonald’s UAE.

Each litre of cooking oil can make about one litre of biodiesel, according to Karl Feilder, chairman of Neutral Fuels. And the price matches what customers would pay at the pump, although the company declined to comment on wholesale prices and discounts for providing the feedstock.

McDonald’s is not the only company using the alternative fuel. Neutral Fuels says there has been an increase in biodiesel purchased in the UAE, doubling sales each year for the past three years.

This month, the company produced and sold 400,000 litres of biodiesel to hotels, restaurants, transport companies, schools and for power generators.

Neutral Fuels’ one biodiesel refinery in the UAE produces about 120,000 gallons per month.

Researchers Sequence Algae Genome for Biodiesel

chrysochromulinaResearchers at the University of Washington have sequenced the genome for a type of algae and found important information for biodiesel production. This news release from the school says the scientists sequenced the complete genetic makeup of the important and plentiful algae, known as haptophytes.

“Haptophytes are really important in carbon dioxide management and they form a critical link in the aquatic foodchain,” said senior author and UW biology professor Rose Ann Cattolico. “This new genome shows us so much about this group.”

The haptophyte Cattolico and her team studied is Chrysochromulina tobin, and it thrives in oceans across the globe. The researchers spent years on a series of experiments to sequence all of Chrysochromulina‘s genes and understand how this creature turns different genes on and off throughout the day. In the process, they discovered that Chrysochromulina would make an ideal subject for investigating how algae make fat, a process important for nutrition, ecology and biofuel production.

“It turns out that their fat content gets high during the day and goes down during the night,” said Cattolico. “A very simple pattern, and ideal for follow-up.”

She believes that that these extreme changes in fat content — even within the span of a single day — may help ecologists understand when microscopic animals in the water column choose to feast upon these algae. But knowledge of how the algal species regulates its fat stores could also help humans.

“Algae recently became more familiar to the general populace because of biofuel production,” said Cattolico. “We needed a simple alga for looking at fat production and fat regulation.”

The research was published Sept. 23 in the online, open-access journal PLOS Genetics.

Growth Energy Reacts Positively to #RFS Final Rules

Growth Energy reacted positively today after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) under the 2014, 2015 and 2015 Renewable Fuel Standard (#RFS). While the volumes were higher than in the proposed rules, on behalf of its members, Tom Buis, co-chairman, said that their members are pleased to see the #EPA moving the renewable fuels industry past the so-called ‘blend wall’.

growth-energy-logo1However, Buis said during a press call today that the EPA is still relying on flawed methodology that sets RVOs below the levels set by the legislation, “It is an important improvement from the proposed rule, and moves us closer to getting America’s most effective climate policy back on track and providing certainty for biofuels in the marketplace.”

“This final rule makes it possible to drive the growth of higher ethanol blends through the so-called blend wall, giving consumers choices at the pump, such as low-cost E15. Additionally, the numbers for 2016 represent a final rule closer to the statutory levels established by Congress, avoid the “reset” and indicate a more certain future for renewable fuels.

Buis continued, “However, we remain concerned that the final rule continues to rely on the “distribution waiver” that redefines supply as demand and was rejected by Congress when the RFS was enacted into law. Of particular concern is that by using such a waiver, the oil industry is being rewarded for its unwillingness to follow the law and invest in infrastructure to move toward cleaner, renewable fuel, which sets a dangerous precedent for the future of the program. The uncertainty this waiver will create risks sending investment in the next generation of renewable fuel overseas just as this new, homegrown industry is taking off.”

Jeff Broin, co-chairman of Growth Energy added during the press call, “In the future, we need to see a stronger and more consistent commitment to renewable fuel from Washington if we are ever going to realize the true potential of renewable fuels, including the development of cellulosic ethanol.”

Listen to the press call here: Growth Energy #RFS RVO Reaction Presser

Final #RFS Numbers Disappoint @EthanolRFA

rfalogo1The Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule for volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) “puts the future of biofuels and climate policy in the hands of the oil industry,” according to Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen.

“Let’s give EPA props, I guess, for recognizing that gasoline demand is increasing and that they needed to increase those numbers accordingly,” said Dinneen. “But they didn’t change anything with respect to the methodology … they still reduced the numbers from the statutory levels and embraced the notion of the blend wall … they are effectively turning the nation’s renewable energy program over to the oil companies.”

Dinneen says the ethanol industry will be evaluating its options when it comes to taking EPA to court over the final rule. “What EPA has done here is a dramatic departure from a program that was working,” he said. “I believe when we finish our review of the final rule that we will want to stand up for the program, stand up for consumers, stand up for carbon reduction, stand up for rural America and put this program back where it belongs.”

With President Obama in Paris this week for the COP21 climate change summit, Dinneen considers today’s announcement ironic. “How in the world can the president speak with any credibility on climate change when he is ripping the guts out of a climate change program in his own backyard?” Dinneen asked.

Listen to interview here: Interview with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen on final RFS rule