#RFANEC Biofuels Policy Panel

nec16-policyThe future of U.S. biofuels policy was the topic of a panel at the 2016 National Ethanol Conference this week in New Orleans.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen moderated the panel, which included industry and government stakeholders, but no representative from the Environmental Protection Agency, even though they were invited to participate. “They had expressed some real enthusiasm for talking about this with us,” said Dinneen. “On December 8th, when we filed a lawsuit (against EPA over the RFS volume obligations), the enthusiasm waned a bit.”

Alicia Lindauer with the U.S. Department of Energy did join the panel, representing the government. “Quite frankly, the Department of Energy is doing far more in terms of the analysis and work on future fuel and technology,” Dinneen said.

Also on the panel was Fuels Institute Executive Director John Eichberger and Jan Koninckx, Global Business Director for Advanced Biofuels with DuPont Industrial Biosciences. Listen to their conversation here: NEC Biofuels Policy Panel

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

RFA Chairman Pleased with #RFANEC

nec16-doyalRenewable Fuels Association (RFA) chairman Randall Doyal believes the 2016 National Ethanol Conference was one of the best ever and he’s very pleased with attendance.

“Attendance is up over last year,” said Doyal. “I’ve heard people who thought that everyone would be depressed because margins are non-existent and we’re looking at some really tough times, but the industry’s kind of matured and people have gotten their feet under them – and it’s not their first rodeo.”

The CEO of Al-Corn Clean Fuel of Minnesota has been in the industry for over three decades and says he’s seen a lot of ups and downs over the years. “Oil’s overproduced, ethanol’s overproduced and the solution to that is low prices and folks slowing down production and that’s the way commodities work,” he said.

Still optimistic about the future for the ethanol industry, Doyal strongly encourages all stakeholders to voice their concerns to the auto industry in support of continued Flex Fuel Vehicle (FFV) production by taking part in the new “Flex My Choice” campaign. “My wife and I own three vehicles, all three are flex fuel, and none of them are flex fuel in the current model year – that’s not okay,” he said. “We like those vehicles, we bought them for a reason, and we won’t buy them again. General Motors, Chevrolet, Ford – they need to wake up and they need to hear our voice.”

The new campaign provides ways for interested parties to send a clear message to the auto makers, to EPA and even to their local dealers that they want to see them continue to make and sell FFVs, which can use up to 85% ethanol blends.

Listen to my interview with Randy here: Interview with RFA Chairman Randall Doyal

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Making #Ethanol the Consumers’ Choice

nec16-willcoxAn expert on consumer marketing offered some recommendations on how to make ethanol the natural choice for consumers during the National Ethanol Conference (NEC) in New Orleans this week.

Matthew Willcox, executive director of the Institute of Decision Making, gave a presentation on how insights from behavioral science can be used by fuel marketers to affect consumer choice at the pump regarding ethanol use. Willcox also released a report on the topic, which was commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

Among his recommendations:

Rather than pitching products on the basis of benefits, ethanol marketers should also consider how to mitigate the feelings of potential losses that may arise when moving from the status quo choice.

Make the example of others adopting the behavior change you require visible to the people whose behavior you want to change. For ethanol, marketers might consider making messages about how many cars are powered by ethanol, how many miles are driven, or simply how many people have chosen ethanol-based fuels more prominent.

Framing benefits in the present is important. So to communicate the benefit that ethanol based fuels are cleaner, think about how that can be made visceral and immediate.

Listen to Willcox’s presentation here: Matthew Willcox at NEC16

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Economic and Octane Benefits of #Ethanol

The latest study on the economic impact of the ethanol industry released at the National Ethanol Conference this week shows the renewable fuel added $44 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product and supported nearly 360,000 jobs last year.

nec16-cooper The study, conducted by ABF Economics, quantified the impact of domestic ethanol production in 2015 on the national economy. “It really highlights the enormous contribution this industry makes to our nation’s economy and workforce, particularly in rural areas,” said Renewable Fuels Association Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper. He notes that the ethanol industry also helped boost household income by $23.5 billion and increased federal, state and local taxes by $8.7 billion.

“We also look at the impact on the economy from displacing oil consumption,” Cooper added. “The industry produced 14.7 billion gallons of ethanol last year, which was a record, and that meant we didn’t need to import 527 million barrels of crude oil.”

Listen to an interview with Cooper here: Interview with Geoff Cooper, RFA

nec16-octane-2While the economic benefits of ethanol may be less significant today with lower oil prices, the higher octane benefits of the renewable fuel are unaffected by price fluctuations. Cooper hosted two panels at the NEC this year focused on those high octane benefits. “Ethanol’s octane rating of about 113 is far superior to the octane rating of other gasoline components that come out of a refinery and that makes ethanol extremely valuable to refiners and gasoline blenders,” said Cooper.

One panel on Tuesday focused on “Octane 101” and a Wednesday panel went into more detail on the economic and environmental benefits of higher octane fuels. Experts on that panel included Robert McCormick with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Confluence Consulting president Vincent Kwasniewski; and Platts biofuels analyst Jordan Godwin.

Listen to that panel here: Second NEC Octane Panel

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

#RFANEC Panel on Marketing Higher Ethanol Blends

nec16-sheetzA really interesting session on getting more higher ethanol blends in the retail market unfortunately got cut a little short at the National Ethanol Conference this week due to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s visit, but you can listen to the presentations by two industry leaders here.

Pennsylvania-based Sheetz, Inc. is a family-owned chain of gas station/convenience stores located in six states. Michael Lorenz, Sheetz executive vice president of petroleum supply, says they made a commitment last year to put E15 in 60 North Carolina stores. “We’re currently actually in 34 stores, so it’s kind of a dubious honor but we’re the single largest retailer of E15 in the country,” said Lorenz to applause. “We also plan to do another 100 locations in four other states.”

In his presentation, Lorenz talks about why they chose to start in North Carolina, why the believe in E15, and how they are educating consumers about the fuel. Michael Lorenz of Sheetz at NEC16

nec16-protecThe job of Protec Fuel is to help retailers like Sheetz get the infrastructure they need to offer higher ethanol blends to consumers.

“We do station infrastructure and conversion, we handle E85 and E15 blending, we handle all the full logistics for them,” said Protec CEO Todd Garner. “So, essentially it’s a turnkey operation that allows the retailer to really not have to lift a finger to use E85 and E15.”

Garner was okay with having to give up some of his time on the program to accommodate Secretary Vilsack, since it is thanks to USDA’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) that they are being able to help more retailers offer higher ethanol blends. “We estimate about an extra 215 stations that we’re going to include into our existing infrastructure, which equates to about another 1000 dispensers that we will install over the next year or so,” said Garner.

Listen to Garner’s presentation here: Protec CEO Todd Garner at NEC16

View the Protec Fuel powerpoint presentation.

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

RFA Honors Iowa Governor for #Ethanol Support

nec16-branstadIowa Governor Terry Branstad has been recognized for his unwavering support of ethanol as the recipient of the RFA 2016 Industry Award. The Industry Award is bestowed annually to individuals that demonstrate great dedication and innovation within the industry.

Since the governor had a conflict and was unable to attend the National Ethanol Conference in New Orleans this week, Absolute Energy president Rick Schwarck presented his award earlier this month in Des Moines. “Governor Branstad, you have been one of the most passionate, articulate, and effective advocates for value-added agriculture, farmers, and ethanol,” said Schwarck in a video of the presentation shown at the NEC.

Gov. Branstad at first National Ethanol Conference

Gov. Branstad at first National Ethanol Conference

Gov. Branstad is the longest-serving governor in American history, and is currently serving his sixth non-consecutive term after first being elected to office in 1983. Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO, noted that the governor has been a stalwart champion of the Renewable Fuel Standard since its inception.

“Governor Branstad was a founding member of the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition, and throughout his career he has worked tirelessly on behalf of our nation’s ethanol producers and farmers,” said Dinneen. “I can think of no better recipient for this year’s RFA Industry Award. The people of Iowa are lucky to have a man of such vision and character leading their state.”

Dinneen noted that Gov. Branstad attended the very first National Ethanol Conference held in Des Moines in 1996, during his first stint as Iowa’s governor, and was presented with an award at that time as well.

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

High Octane Discussion at #RFANEC

nec16-panel-1With “Fueling a High Octane Future” as the theme for the 21st annual National Ethanol Conference, it was appropriate that the first panel focus on ethanol’s high octane properties and how they translate into high performance.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper moderated a panel of experts including Brian West with Oak Ridge National Laboratory; MathPro president Dave Hirshfeld; and Tom Leone, Powertrain Research & Advanced Engineering for Ford Motor Company.

The discussion included the basics of what octane is, how octane is measured, and how ethanol fits into that equation. Listen to the panel here: NEC16 Octane/Performance Panel

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

USDA Secretary Visits #RFANEC Again

nec16-vilsack-bobAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the National Ethanol Conference for the last time in the position he has held under President Obama for both terms.

During his appearance, Vilsack announced some good news for the ethanol industry – new research showing significant improvement in ethanol production efficiency.

“This study we just published today looks at the ratio of the energy used to produce a gallon of ethanol and the energy that it creates, and the ratio has improved significantly,” said Vilsack.

According to the study, between 1991 and 2010, direct energy use in corn production has dropped by 46 percent per bushel of corn produced and total energy use per bushel of corn by 35 percent. Moreover, between 2005 and 2010, direct energy use fell by 25 percent and the total energy use by 8.2 percent per bushel—meaning that between 2005 and 2010, the energy required per bushel of corn produced dropped by about 5 percent.

“The bottom line is, today, more energy is being produced from ethanol than is used to produce it, by factors of 2 to 1 nationally and by factors of 4 to 1 in the Midwest. There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of the bio-economy and the role biofuels and advanced biofuels will play in that future, and I am confident this administration has acted aggressively to expand the groundwork to support that brighter future,” Vilsack said.

Listen to Vilsack’s address to the NEC here: USDA Secretary Vilsack at NEC16

Vilsack answers press questions on Cuba, FFVs, ethanol efficiency and more – Sec'y Vilsack NEC press avail

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

RFA Launches #FlexMyChoice Campaign

nec16-flexThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) launched a new campaign today at the National Ethanol Conference (NEC) designed to help the industry voice support for flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs).

The “Flex My Choice” effort is aimed directly at automakers, auto dealerships, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to the fact that automakers have begun to limit FFV models as the government phases out CAFE credits for producing FFVs.

“The auto companies claim there has not been meaningful consumer demand for these vehicles and the incremental cost, albeit trivial, cannot be justified in the absence of a more balanced CAFE regime,” said RFA CEO Bob Dinneen during his state of the industry address. “The ethanol industry needs to demonstrate the continued enthusiasm for FFVs. We want to raise our voices so that E85 and other mid-level ethanol fuels remain viable options for consumers.”

As part of the campaign, RFA intends to distribute 75,000 postcard pamphlets to targeted parties across the country in the hopes of changing the conversation on the future of FFV production. The postcard pamphlets will contain five panels: the first panel is a brief introduction to the issues; panels 2 through 4 are individual postcards to General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (the “Detroit Three”); and the fifth panel contains a pledge that consumers can drop off at their local auto dealership. Additionally, the campaign launched two petitions on www.Change.org directed at the automakers and the EPA respectively.

RFA vice president of industry relations Robert White says the campaign intends to ensure that consumers have choices when it comes to buying and fueling their vehicles. “Thanks to USDA, the ethanol industry, and agriculture, 2016 will mark the largest expansion of E85 stations in history; it is not the time to stop the momentum,” said White. “This campaign will send a clear signal to the automakers, their auto dealerships, and the EPA that there is a real demand on the part of consumers for more vehicle choices, more choices at the pump and increased access to higher ethanol blends.”

White explains more about the need for the campaign and how to participate in this interview: Interview with Robert White, RFA

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Former Oil Company President at #RFANEC

The former president of a big oil company was very critical of the oil industry during his keynote address at the 2016 National Ethanol Conference in New Orleans Tuesday.

nec16-hofmeisterJohn Hofmeister was president of Shell Oil Company for three years, but after he left the company in 2008 he founded Citizens for Affordable Energy and wrote a book called “Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an energy insider.” Straight talk was definitely what Hofmeister shared with attendees at the NEC.

“Oil is a contrived market,” Hofmeister began, talking about the current state of low oil prices and how Iran and Russia are impacting the situation with Saudi Arabia. “This is a contrived situation that has been created because of geopolitical considerations…and which can’t last very much longer.”

“What does this have to do with ethanol?” he asked. “I think it has everything to do with the United States’ absolute requirement to become fully energy independent to not be the victim of a contrived oil market.”

Hofmeister questioned why the United States imports seven million barrels of oil a day instead of developing “the alternative fuels we have in this country that can dismiss any dependency on foreign oil forever.”

Listen to Hofmeister’s insights here: John Hofmeister NEC16 Keynote Address

2016 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album