Senators Show Support for Biodiesel Industry

durbin-heidiSenator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) led a number of her Democratic colleagues in calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop the continued delays of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule and highlighted the impact that the uncertainty of the past two years has had on biodiesel industry.

“We stand together as Democratic Senators who care about this industry, care about energy independence, care about farm country, and care about the diversity of our energy sources to plead with the President of the United States to participate in this discussion,” said Sen. Heitkamp. “If you really are serious about a diverse energy mix, why do what we’re doing to the biodiesel industry?”

Joining Sen. Heitkamp were Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Al Franken (D-MN), as well as biodiesel producers, who also stressed how the uncertainty caused by EPA’s misguided 2013 rule and delays on farmers and biodiesel workers.

adm-biodieselKent Engelbrecht, the manager of the biodiesel division at ADM, which has a biodiesel plant in Velva, North Dakota and is headquartered in Illinois, as well as Todd Ellis, vice president at Imperium Renewables near Seattle, Washington, discussed how the delays have impacted their own operations and others.

“2014 was poised to be a breakout year for biodiesel, until the 2014 RVO proposal intervened,” said Engelbrecht. “With the subsequent expiration of the biodiesel tax credit, we were forced to cease or slow production at all of our facilities.”

Listen to or download audio here: Comments from Senators and Biodiesel Industry on RFS Delays

The senators’ press conference was held as word came out Thursday that EPA has sent its new RFS volume obligation proposal, which is due to be released on June 1, on to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

National Biodiesel Board Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel thanked the senators for their support and was optimistic about news that EPA may be getting the RFS back on track. “What’s most important, however, is that we see volume growth in this pending proposal,” said Steckel. “The Obama Administration says regularly that it supports renewable fuels and wants America to lead, particularly in the development of Advanced Biofuels like biodiesel. This proposal will show if that’s true. The proof will be in the numbers.”

DDGS Exports to China Returning to Normal

Exports of U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) are starting to return to normal levels, according to the latest numbers for March.

Patriot Renewable Fuels DDGsThe Renewable Fuels Association reports that exports of the animal feed ethanol co-product rose in March for the fourth consecutive month, at 923,515 metric tons (mt), up 15% from February, with half of those shipments going to China. Exports of DDGS to China have been increasing this year after falling off last year due to a biotech trait issue. If normal shipments to China resume on an ongoing basis, 2015 theoretically could see total exports reach the 11 million mt mark. Mexico, Canada, Vietnam, and Thailand account for most of the remaining global market.

U.S. exports of ethanol in March were down slightly from February at 83.8 million gallons (mg), but that still represents the third-highest monthly volume in the last 12 months. Brazil and Canada accounted for half of total U.S. ethanol exports in March, followed by Oman and South Korea. The Netherlands, Tunisia and Nigeria were other key destinations in March.

Biofuels Leaders Ask President for Meeting

A dozen organizations and companies representing biofuels interests this week sent a letter to President Obama asking for a meeting on proposed rules under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) due to come out next month.

fuels-americaThe letter comes on the heels of an analysis from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) showing how EPA delays in setting volume requirements (RVOs) under the RFS have resulted in the loss of some $13.7 billion in investment in advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol. The letter was signed by BIO, the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, Advanced Ethanol Coalition, National Corn Growers Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, POET, DSM, Novozymes, and Abengoa.

“The EPA’s proposal in 2013 was an enormous disservice to you and your legacy, Mr. President,” the letter states. “Prior to the release of that proposal, we had asked to meet with the EPA, but were rebuffed. We would like to work with you to ensure that the mistake is not repeated.”

In addition to the letter and the analysis from BIO, the Fuels America coalition is running digital ads this week on Politico’s Environment & Energy section that say, “Will the next generation of biofuels be created in the United States or China? It’s up to you, Mr. President. Support the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

RFS Uncertainty Chills Advanced Biofuel Funding

biologoA new analysis from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) finds delays in rulemaking for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) have chilled necessary investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels.

According to the analysis, the industry has experienced an estimated $13.7 billion shortfall in investment over the past two years as the Environmental Protection Agency has delayed setting volume obligations for biofuels under the RFS.

(EPA) was nine months late issuing the 2013 RVOs and is more than 17 months late in issuing the 2014 rule. Further, the agency has made cellulosic biofuel producers wait an average of 29 months (more than two years) for approval of production pathways. Currently, 29 companies have unresolved petitions filed with EPA and they have been waiting on average more than 32 months for resolution. A majority of an estimated $13.7 billion shortfall in investment for cellulosic and new advanced technologies should therefore be attributed to EPA’s delays in issuing timely rules.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, notes that the situation came about just as plants were beginning to reach the commercial stage. “The chill in investment has had the heaviest impact on cellulosic biofuel developers,” said Erickson. “The delays in rulemaking have also undercut the industry’s ability to create new employment opportunities, resulting in the loss of more than 80,000 direct jobs.”

According to BIO, the industry has invested more than $5 billion in first-of-a-kind demonstration and commercial-scale biorefineries around the world. The analysis finds that as of April 2015, there are five commercial cellulosic biorefineries with a combined capacity of more than 50 million gallons within the United States and registered to meet the goals of the RFS, along with several pilot and demonstration plants. Additional commercial biorefineries are under construction.

DOT Announces New Rail Car Standards

rfa-railcarU.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced a final rule for the safe transportation of flammable liquids by rail.

The final rule, developed in coordination with Canada, focuses on “safety improvements that are designed to prevent accidents, mitigate consequences in the event of an accident, and support emergency response.”

“Safety has been our top priority at every step in the process for finalizing this rule, which is a significant improvement over the current regulations and requirements and will make transporting flammable liquids safer,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, believes the new rule strikes “a fair balance in setting comprehensive standards while at the same time being sensitive to the limitation of retrofit capacity by giving less hazardous flammables — like ethanol — additional time to retrofit railcars.”

“We applaud the Department of Transportation for working to harmonize these regulations with Canada; for adopting a risk-based approach that prioritizes the most dangerous and highly-volatile flammables like crude oil while giving medium hazard liquids like ethanol additional time to come into compliance, for recognizing the limitations of the retrofit capacity, and, for establishing a regular reporting process for the retrofit schedule,” added Dinneen.

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, however, expressed disappointment with the new rule. “Although we are pleased that this rule begins to acknowledge the difference between cars in ethanol and crude service, we are extremely disappointed that regulators are requiring extensive changes to the ethanol rail fleet, while seemingly ignoring the number one cause of these accidents – broken rails and poor track condition,” said Buis.

The new rule requires a phase out or retrofit of all DOT-111 railcars transporting crude oil and ethanol by May 2023. Specifically, the rule requires a phase out or retrofit of all unjacketed CPC-1232 railcars used to ship ethanol by July 2023. Additionally, a new tank car standard has been put in place that establishes the DOT-117 as the new railcar to ship oil and ethanol. The DOT-117 includes a 9/16 inch steel hull, roll over protection, full height head shields, top fitting protection, and jacketing with thermal protection.

U.S. Ethanol Exports Rebound in 2014

usda-fasUSDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service reports that exports of U.S. ethanol exports rebounded last year after two years of declines. It was the second highest level of ethanol exports in history, making the United States the largest exporter of ethanol in the world, surpassing Brazil for the second time.

Value and volume of ethanol exports were both up approximately 35 percent from 2013, although still below the record set in 2011. At nearly 3.2 billion liters (836 million gallons), U.S. ethanol exports were worth more than $2 billion dollars. Six percent of ethanol produced in the United States was exported last year, shipped to a more diverse range of markets. Exports to Canada accounted for 40% of the total and while exports to Brazil and Europe dropped, dramatic increases were seen in markets such as the Philippines, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates.

On the other side, U.S. ethanol imports (including both fuel and non-fuel ethanol) dropped by more than half in 2014, to less than 900 million liters, the lowest level since 2010. At the same time, domestic ethanol production jumped nearly eight percent in 2014, reaching a record 54 billion liters (14.3 billion gallons).

Read the entire FAS report here.

NBB Talks Biodiesel Issues with NAFB

ww15-nbbThe National Biodiesel Board (NBB) took part in the annual National Association of Farm Broadcasting Washington Watch this week to talk with reporters from around the country about issues important to the industry, number one being get the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) back on track.

“We hope that they not only get it back on track but get those volumes out there, they need to be higher,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel, speaking about EPA’s plan to release overdue volume obligations under the law by June. “EPA has said they want 2014 volumes to be actual production, so for our industry that would be about 1.75 billion gallons.”

Steckel says they hope EPA will add several hundred million gallons to that each year going forward to support industry growth.

In this interview with Agri-Pulse reporter Spencer Chase, Steckel also talks about the status of the biodiesel tax incentive. Interview with Anne Steckel, NBB

Ethanol Report from NAFB Washington Watch

ww15-dinneen-kenMembers of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting were on Capitol Hill this week for their annual Washington Watch, and the Renewable Fuels Association was once again pleased to participate. RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen was interviewed by dozens of broadcasters from around the country addressing a number of different topics.

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, Sabrina Hill of AgNet West in California talks with Bob about several issues, including the California Air Resources Board Low Carbon Fuel Standard, E15 legislation, and why RFA supports farm broadcasters.

Ethanol Report from NAFB Washington Watch

RFA CEO Talks RFS with NAFB

ww15-rfaMembers of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) are on Capitol Hill this week talking with lawmakers, administration officials, and industry organizations about topics important to agriculture, which include the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen had some new information to share with broadcasters about support for the RFS among the general public. “We released a poll (Monday) that shows 62% of voters support the RFS, compared to only 18% that oppose it,” said Dinneen in an interview with Agri-Pulse reporter Spencer Chase. “I hope both EPA and the president and Congress are paying attention to what Joe Public wants.”

In this interview, Dinneen also discusses the proposed EPA timeline for releasing overdue volume requirements for the RFS. “Typically EPA doesn’t act until they absolutely have to so my expectation is that the clock will run until the very last second,” he said. Interview with Bob Dinneen, RFA CEO

American Ethanol Finishes 5 Years with NASCAR

am-ethanol-carOver the weekend at Richmond International Raceway, American Ethanol and NASCAR officially celebrated five years and seven million miles of running on 15% ethanol blended Sunoco Green E15, unveiling a new paint scheme with E15 prominently located on the hood of Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet SS.

Dillon, who has been advocating the benefits of ethanol for three years now, drove his first American Ethanol paint of the 2015 racing season in the Saturday Toyota Owners 400 race, which was delayed by rain until Sunday. While he finished 27th in the race, ethanol still came in first.

“This has been a tremendous partnership,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “Since NASCAR switched to Sunoco Green E15 five years ago, we have seen a very a substantial change in the national dialogue regarding ethanol – when people see NASCAR rely on ethanol week after week in all three of its national racing series, they understand that it is a fuel that they can rely on as well.”

American Ethanol driver Austin Dillon, National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, RCR Racing owner Richard Childress

American Ethanol driver Austin Dillon, National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, RCR Racing owner Richard Childress

During a press conference on Saturday, National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling talked about what the American Ethanol partnership has meant for American farmers. “E15 American Ethanol turns our unrivaled ability to produce corn into a national asset. Consumer demand for ethanol is good for family farmers and fans appreciate that,” said Bowling. “We have grown the 12 largest corn crops in history in the last 12 years so ethanol demand is critical. It means farmers can pay their bills, reinvest in the broader economy and keep family operations like mine viable for future generations.”

Bowling added that according to a 2014 study, NASCAR fans are over 75 percent more likely than non-fans to support the use of ethanol blended with gasoline to fuel their own car.