Ethanol was a major topic of discussion for members of the National Farmers Union meeting this week in Washington DC.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke to the NFU members by phone and pledged his support for new investments in renewable fuels and other policies that would benefit rural America. Obama also reiterated his support of the Renewable Fuels Standard. “I am strongly committed to advancing biofuels as a key component of reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” he told the NFU members.
“America’s farmers are ready, willing and able to play a vital role in reducing our dependence on foreign oil. With the right policies in place we can continue to feed the world while fueling the future,” NFU President Tom Buis said.
The NFU members also visited the U.S. Department of Agriculture to meet with Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner and other USDA officials. Conner told them that “the corn-to-ethanol equation has to continue to be a key part” of the nation’s energy plans and he will continue to defend it.
Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer says that ethanol is an important part of the nation’s plan for energy security, but he expects that ethanol incentives such as the blenders tax credit will eventually be phased out.
During an appearance this week in Kansas City, Schafer said ethanol producers need to prepare for an eventual end to these kinds of incentives. “Because they have been built in today, I think we can’t just shut them off,” Schafer said. “I think it’s important to say here’s the target, we are going to gradually reduce them so that you can adjust your operations to operate without them.”
He says that should start happening when the ethanol industry becomes profitable enough to operate on its own and when production begins to approach 34 billion gallons per year – which could be 13-14 years down the road.
Schafer also defended the Renewable Fuels Standard and noted that ethanol blended gasoline actually saves consumers between 20 cents and 35 cents a gallon. And he said that there continue to be promising developments in cellulosic ethanol.
The world’s largest ethanol producer is opening two new 65 million gallon per year ethanol production plants this month.
POET will host a grand opening event for POET Biorefining – North Manchester, Indiana on Thursday, September 11. The $105 million ethanol production facility will be the 24th POET production facility.
On September 30, POET will host a grand opening event for POET Biorefining – Fostoria, Ohio. The $130 million plant will be the 25th POET production facility and the second in the state of Ohio, making POET the largest ethanol producer in the state of Ohio, in addition to being the largest producer in the world.
Both events will feature the Vanguard Squadron – the world’s only 100 percent ethanol-powered aerobatic fleet, as well as speakers and plant tours open to the public.
To celebrate ethanol and all renewable fuels, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman will declare September Renewable Fuels Month at Husker Harvest Days on Wednesday, September 10.
Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, says the economic impact of ethanol on rural communities in Nebraska and many other areas of the nation has been significant.
“Ethanol has brought thousands of jobs to mostly rural Nebraska, which creates wealth that flows into rural communities,” Sneller said. “Nebraska ethanol production is more than a $4 billion industry – and it’s getting bigger each year.”
Sneller estimated that by the end of next year, four expansion projects at existing plants and five new projects under construction will add 816 million gallons of capacity, bringing the state’s total ethanol capacity to some 2.4 billion gallons.
A 2008 study by LECG LLC reported that an average 100 million gallon ethanol plant directly employs 50 people and supports hundreds of additional jobs locally and across the country. The plant also buys more than $100 million in goods and services, mostly from the local area, and increases household income some $77 million.
At the Husker Harvest Days event on Wednesday, Governor Heineman will make a few remarks, as will members of Nebraska commodity organizations, including the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Soybean Board.
The Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy is out to inform the nation’s policy makers that American agriculture is fully capable of producing both food and fuel with no trade off.
The alliance was formed in July and includes Archer Daniels Midland, DuPont, John Deere, Monsanto, and the Renewable Fuels Association. ADM Vice President for Government Relations Greg Webb says because government formulates food and energy policy, it is important that they be well informed. “We think that the alliance will help educate and draw attention to agriculture’s capability to produce and meet increasing demands,” Webb said. “A lot of folks are seeing the increased demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel and they kind of freeze the production capability in time and think that we’ll never produce another pound more than what we do now.”
Alliance representatives attended both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and ads from the alliance were featured in publications at both conventions.
The alliance is trying to make it known through advertising and lobbying efforts that by growing more crops and developing more efficient ways of processing them, we can produce enough to meet the world’s needs for both food and energy. All of the agribusinesses involved are working in that direction by improving seed varieties, crop protection methods, harvesting and processing equipment and techniques.
Consumers, farmers and agribusiness people are all offering up suggestions on ways to create renewable energy as part of the 2008 Farm Bill.
USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas Dorr, who held a public meeting last week to work on implementing renewable energy programs authorized under the farm bill, says the rapid commercialization of renewable energy is a high priority.
“These things are now clearly within our reach, we are far beyond the basic research stage in this effort,” Dorr said. “Renewable energy is clearly of age. More has been accomplished on renewable energy in the last eight years than in the previous 40.”
The 12 sections regarding renewable energy under Title 9 of the farm bill are open for public comment. The sections include such broad topics as assistance in biorefineries, bioenergy, rural energy and biomass. USDA plans to implement the farm bill’s energy provisions in consultation with the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies.
VeraSun Energy has announced the start up of its 110 million gallon per year ethanol biorefinery located near Dyersville, Iowa. The Dyersville production facility marks the 14th VeraSun biorefinery in operation and the fifth in Iowa, increasing the company’s annual production capacity to more than 1.4 billion gallons.
“We are pleased to bring another large-scale, environmentally friendly ethanol production facility on-line in the state of Iowa,” VeraSun CEO Don Endres said. “The state continues to be a leader in renewable fuels production, helping our nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We commend the Dyersville community, its leadership, and the local corn producers for making this day a reality.”
According to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, VeraSun Dyersville is the 32nd operating biorefinery in Iowa, increasing overall annual production capacity in the state to almost 2.5 billion gallons.
Edgar the E-Man will be partying with Albert and Sebastian this weekend in Gainesville, Florida when the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council kicks off its sponsorship with the Fox Tailgate Tour at the Florida vs. Miami football game.
Visitors at the tailgate tour will have the chance to compete in the Ultimate Ethanol Challenge, where competitors face off to test their ethanol knowledge. The winner of each contest gets a free fuel card. Edgar E-Man will be passing out scratch off cards giving people a code to enter online for a chance to win free fuel for a year. Tailgaters can also register by texting a code or dropping their name in a registration box.
A process used in breweries and wastewater treatment facilities could make corn ethanol more energy efficient.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are exploring the use of oxygen-less vats of microorganisms that naturally feed on organic waste produced from the ethanol fermentation process.
According to a university release, a WUSTL team has tested anaerobic digestion on waste from ethanol plants and found that the process could cut down an ethanol facility’s use of natural gas by 50 percent. They published the results in the recent issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
A complete story on the research is available at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review.
With ethanol continuing to be such a political issue, it was especially important this election year for the ethanol industry to have a clear presence at both recent political conventions. In this Ethanol Report podcast, Matt Hartwig with the Renewable Fuels Association and Randy Doyle with Al-Corn Clean Fuels in Claremont, MN discuss how and why the ethanol industry was involved in the Democratic and Republican conventions and the AgNite event at the RNC.
You can subscribe to the “The Ethanol Report” podcast by following this link.
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