Happy New Year from ZimmComm!

2015 was a great year and 2016 promises to be even better! In 2015, the ZimmComm team covered over 70 events in 18 states and four countries, including Australia and New Zealand. We uploaded almost 16,200 photos and 65 videos and did over 5,000 posts on our own five websites and several others. Our Flickr photo albums now have almost 14.7 million views! Thanks to our wonderful clients and friends who make our work a joy!

Look for the golden microphone to get back on the road right away in 2016, heading to Orlando and the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting on January 10. See you down the agriblogging highway!

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USDA Highlights 2015 Energy Achievements

USDAAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has released a list of USDA’s top achievements in 2015 in the areas of trade, food security, conservation, energy, research, rural development, and more.

“Even with challenges in 2015, including an unprecedented animal disease outbreak and lower commodity prices, America’s rural communities have proven once again that we are a nation of makers, creators and innovators, and our economy and security are stronger because of it,” said Vilsack. “As we look to 2016, USDA will continue to seek out new and innovative ways to expand opportunity for America’s farming families and rural communities.”

Among USDA’s 2015 highlights in the area of energy:

Made available $100 million in grant funds, with matching funds from state and private partners, which will provide $210 million to nearly double the number of fueling pumps nationwide that supply American-made renewable fuels, such as E15 and E85.

Through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, USDA provided assistance to 890 growers on 49,000 acres for costs associated with harvesting and transporting agriculture or forest residues to facilities that convert biomass crops into energy.

Announced 10 Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry, which, by 2025, will reduce net emissions and enhance carbon sequestration by the equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road.

Read more here.

Carson Supports RFS through 2022

carson-nwDuring a recent campaign stop in Iowa Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said the promise of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) needs to be kept through 2022.

“(A)s far as the Renewable Fuel Standard is concerned, there were certain promises that were made that extend out until 2022. And many people, you know, invested a lot of time, energy and resources based on those promises that were made. Those promises have to be kept,” said Carson during an appearance at Northwestern University in Orange City, Iowa on December 18.

According to America’s Renewable Future (ARF), Carson made similar comments at stops in Council Bluffs and Carroll, Iowa this month.

“Carson’s grasp of the issue of the RFS has tightened and we are glad to see him recognize the importance of keeping the promise made to investors and the 73,000 Iowans whose livelihoods depend on it,” said America’s Renewable Future State Director Eric Branstad.

ARF will be releasing a final report card in early January designating each candidate as either good or bad on the RFS. ARF will let Iowans know where the candidates stand through paid media and grassroots efforts.

Listen to Carson’s comments here: GOP candidate Ben Carson on RFS

Ethanol Report Looks at 2015 in Review

ethanol-report-ad2015 was another year of highs and lows for the ethanol industry. Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen says many of the positives, such as record production and increased exports, were offset by negatives like tighter margins and trade barriers.

In this Ethanol Report, Dinneen takes a look back at some of the good news and bad news for the ethanol industry in 2015 as we prepare to enter another new year.

Ethanol Report on 2015 Year in Review

Huckabee Talks Energy During Debate

debate-huckabeeThe CNN Republican Presidential Candidates debate from Las Vegas this week was focused entirely on national security issues, but the word biofuels was actually uttered by one of the candidates who put forth the idea of using energy as a weapon.

“We ought to be challenging not only Russia, but the Iranians and the Saudis, on the point of energy,” said former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee during the first debate panel. “We ought to be drilling every bit of oil, getting all the coal out, we need to be going after our natural gas and biofuels, and become the energy exporter of the world.”

Huckabee argued that such an approach would “destabilize” the enemies of the United States. “We need to take an offensive approach by using our energy, the one weapon we have,” he said. “Let’s use it as an offensive weapon to change the dynamics of the entire globe and especially change the dynamics of the Middle East.”

Listen to Huckabee’s comments here: Huckabee energy comments during CNN debate

Tax Extenders Package Includes Renewables

The broad spending and tax legislation compromise unveiled by House Republicans Tuesday night includes federal tax incentive extensions for renewable energy, including biodiesel, wind and solar.

nBBThe National Biodiesel Board (NBB) commended congressional leaders for reinstating the expired biodiesel tax incentive in the tax and spending proposal released late Tuesday but continued pressing to reform the incentive as a domestic production credit

“Restoring this tax incentive will create jobs and economic activity at biodiesel plants across the country, so we want to thank leaders in the House and Senate for proposing this extension,” says NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “Unfortunately the impact would be muted because this proposal would continue allowing foreign biodiesel to qualify for the tax incentive. This not only costs taxpayers more money but it paves the way for foreign fuels that already receive incentives in their home countries to undercut US production.”

Under the current blender’s tax credit, biodiesel produced overseas that is blended with diesel in the US qualifies for the $1-per-gallon tax credit. This has caused imports to rise sharply in recent years. In 2012, the US imported fewer than 100 million gallons of biodiesel. This year, imports will exceed 650 million gallons, and the Energy Information Agency recently estimated that volume will grow to more than 700 million gallons in 2016. Most of the imports are coming from companies in Argentina, Asia and Europe.

rfalogo1Bob Dinneen, CEO and President of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) said of the package, ““By including these important tax incentives in the spending bill, congressional lawmakers sent a strong signal that they are interested in ensuring and encouraging the continued growth and innovation of our nation’s biofuels industry” said Dinneen. “These incentives are crucial for leveling the playing field in a tax code that is, unfortunately, overwhelmingly tilted toward the oil and gas industry. Oil companies have long benefited from billions in accelerated depreciation, intangible drilling expenses, and countless other tax breaks that are permanently imbedded in the tax code. Fundamental tax reform is critical to correct this imbalance.”

Extensions for wind energy’s $0.023/kWh production tax credit (PTC) and solar energy’s 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC) are also part of the package. The wind PTC would be extended through 2020 and would decline in value each year after December 2016 until it is phased out entirely. The solar ITC would be drawn down gradually through 2022. Continue reading

Ethanol in Ag Economic Outlook

astacss15-basseAt the ASTA CSS 2015 and Seed Expo last week, AgResource Company president Dan Basse presented his economic outlook for agriculture during the opening general session for the fifth year in a row, and once more biofuels figured into the picture.

Basse talked about a “world awash in grain” with record global wheat and soybean crops and second largest corn crop, and a mature U.S. ethanol industry. “They (biofuels) are not going away, they’re not getting any bigger, but we are mature and still utilizing somewhere around 5 to 5.1 billion bushels of corn in this country for biofuels,” he said.

Basse says that the new standards from EPA under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will drive some growth but not much. “It will have a little impact,” he said. “We think it adds maybe 170 million bushels of corn demand in 2016 … it’s a help, we’ll take anything we can get, however it doesn’t change the fabric of the agricultural markets. We still have too much supply both domestically and internationally.”

He does see some increase in ethanol exports. “But today we’re only shipping out about six and a half percent of our ethanol that we produce in this country for export,” he said. “It may grow slowly but it’s not a game changer.”

Listen to my interview with Basse here: Interview with Dan Basse, AgResource Company

Cruz Talks Ethanol at Iowa Event

cruz-rts-1Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has gotten a sudden bump in the polls, showing him now leading front runner Donald Trump among committed Iowa caucus goers.

On Friday, Trump criticized Cruz’s lack of support for ethanol, but on December 5 the senator appeared at the FreedomWorks Rising Tide Summit in Cedar Rapids and spoke very favorably about ethanol, saying in his speech that as president he would “take on the EPA’s blend wall that is preventing ethanol and biofuels from having a larger share of the marketplace.”

Asked about ethanol by reporters at the event, Cruz expanded on that comment. “One of the things I am committed to doing is expanding market access to ethanol,” he said. “Right now you see federal regulatory barriers, you see EPA blocking ethanol’s ability to access the market. As president, I will remove those barriers.”

Cruz specifically said he supports all sources of energy, including ethanol. “I think God has blessed this country with abundant natural resources,” he said. “But you shouldn’t have government picking winners and losers. My tax plan that I’ve introduced eliminates every subsidy across the board for energy,” he added, including oil.

Asked if ethanol can survive without the Renewable Fuel Standard, Cruz said, “Not only would ethanol survive without the RFS, ethanol can and will grow. There is a market demand for ethanol. Ethanol adds octane to gasoline in an environmentally responsible matter, and right now the barrier to ethanol expanding is the federal government.”

Listen to Cruz’s comments here: Cruz comments on ethanol in Iowa

Trump Hits Cruz on Ethanol

trump-iowaDuring an appearance at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Friday, Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump talked about his support for ethanol and how his primary rival in the state, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, supports oil.

“Where are the ethanol people?” Trump asked the crowd, which cheered in return. “I was here a month ago, I met with them all and they do a fantastic job – I toured the plants….it’s so important.”

Trump says he doesn’t understand why Sen. Cruz is doing so well in Iowa when he is against ethanol. “He’s got to come a long way because he’s right now for the oil,” Trump said. “I understand it. Oil pays him a lot of money. He’s got to be for oil, right? The oil companies give him a lot of money. But I’m with you. I’m with everybody. Look, I’m self-funding. I have no oil company. I have no special interest.”

After a question about Cruz and his lack of support for ethanol, Trump added, “If Ted Cruz is against ethanol, how does he win in Iowa, because that’s very anti-Iowa.”

Listen to Trump’s comments here: Trump comments on ethanol in Iowa

Global Groups Call on COP21 to Support Biofuels

Biofuels organizations representing multiple nations may have their differences but they have come together in a call for world leaders attending the COP21 in Paris to set a goal for increasing use of biofuels for transportation.

climate-summitThe call for a global commitment to replace at least 15 percent of the world’s total oil use in transport with sustainable biofuels by 2030 was issued by five biofuel and biotech organizations in conjunction with a joint industry event held at the World Climate Summit on Sunday in Paris during COP21. The event was organized by five biofuel and biotech organizations that collectively represent over 330 companies responsible for 90 percent of the world’s biofuels production.

At the Summit, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) released a new report showing the significant contribution that biofuels have made to greenhouse gas reduction worldwide and could make in the future. According to the report, total GHG emission reductions from biofuels for 2014 was estimated at 169 million tonnes CO2 equivalent. Projecting a conservative annual growth rate of 2.8 percent in biofuel production and use through the year 2030, the report forecasts that emission savings could increase to 264 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, a 56 percent increase.

“This report sends a clear message to policy makers around the world that while the GHG emission reductions currently being delivered by biofuels are substantial, the sector can deliver much more,” said GRFA president Bliss Baker.

The COP21 United Nations climate change conference concludes December 11.