EPA Chief Defends #RFS Decisions

house-mccarthyDuring a hearing on Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee members questioned EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, on many agency actions, including decisions made regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In her opening statement, McCarthy defended the volume obligation requirements under that RFS that EPA set last year, “The final requirements boost renewable fuel production and provide for robust, achievable growth of the biofuels industry,” McCarthy said. “The EPA took steps to improve the administration of the RFS program and continues to approve new agricultural feedstocks, increasing the number of pathways that biofuel producers may use to qualify their biofuel under the program.”

McCarthy was questioned heavily by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) about various aspects of the RFS decision making process, including whether EPA has the authority to abolish the blend wall. “These numbers actually push through the blend wall,” McCarthy answered. King then began to question her about approval to sell E15 year round, which McCarthy said it had, but she backed off when King noted the vapor pressure requirements that keep E15 from being sold in many markets during the summer months.

Listen to McCarthy’s testimony and some of the questioning by committee members here: House Ag Hearing with EPA Chief

#RFS is a Top Issue for Ag Equipment Makers

nfms16-aem-panelThe Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) hosted an Ag Executive Outlook panel during the opening day of the 2016 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville this week and one of the top issues for the organization is maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

AEM’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Nick Yaksich says building demand is vital for the agriculture economy right now and that is why the RFS is important. “There’s great opportunities with corn ethanol and beyond,” he said. “There is a push from the oil industry to fight back and repeal that. So, top of our list is to maintain what the government has put into law.”

Industry executives on the panel with Yaksich included Todd Sutcke with Kubota, Leif Magnusson of CLAAS Global Sales Americas, Jim Walker with Case IH NAFTA, and Great Plains Manufacturing president Linda Salem who each gave their perspectives on industry issues including the RFS, government regulations and trade.

AEM stresses industry involvement in policy issues with the I Make America campaign, which is dedicated to advocating for policies that strengthen their industry and economic vitality. “The key is grassroots involvement by voting members,” said Yaksich. “We started the I Make America campaign to reach beyond the corporate CEOs.” The campaign is in its fourth year and is equipped with a mobile marketing tour featuring a video game component to reach different groups within companies.

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Nick Yaksich, AEM

ICM, Inc Names New VP of Technology

icm-hartigICM, Inc. has named Steve Hartig vice president of technology development.

ICM, Inc. CEO Dave VanderGriend says Hartig brings 35 years of experience leading global businesses with much of his career spent working in biofuels, coatings, resins, biomedical materials and polymers. “We strive to build the best team in the industry … and we feel confident Steve will be a key factor in our continued growth,” said VanderGriend.

“Our company continues to use our know-how to improve processes and efficiencies across the entire renewable energy sector,” added company president Chris Mitchell. “Steve’s substantial track record of driving growth and building productive teams should only accelerate our desire to continue to be the technology company of choice.”

Hartig recently served on the advisory boards of the Department of Energy Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and the University of Illinois Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory.

Energy in the Budget Proposal

2017-budgetAs promised, energy was a focus of President Obama’s 2017 budget proposal, officially unveiled on Tuesday, with a promise to “move our economy away from energy sources that fuel climate change.”

The budget provides for $7.7 billion in discretionary funding for clean energy research and development across 12 agencies, including $106 million for USDA to “support development of biobased energy sources that range from sustainable and economical forest systems and farm products to increased production of biofuels.”

According to USDA, the budget proposal includes a $25 million increase in competitive research funding to support development of biobased energy sources and earmarks $450 million for the Rural Energy for America Program to assist agricultural producers and rural small businesses in developing renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvements, and renewable energy development through loans and grants.
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Budget Expected to Double Clean Energy Funding

The president’s budget to be released today would double funding for clean energy research and development by 2020, according to President Obama’s weekly address made on Saturday.

obama-address-2-6“This will include new investments to help the private sector create more jobs faster, lower the cost of clean energy faster, and help clean, renewable power outcompete dirty fuels in every state,” said Obama. “And while Republicans in Congress are still considering their position on climate change, many of them realize that clean energy is an incredible source of good-paying jobs for their constituents. That’s why we were able to boost clean energy research and development in last year’s budget agreement. And I hope they support my plan to double that kind of investment.”

The president also plans on proposing a $10-a-barrel tax on oil to fund clean energy initiatives.

McConnell Urges Senate to Move Energy Bill

mcconnellSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor on Monday to urge his colleagues to move the bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act forward after Democrats blocked the bill and the amendment process last week over an impasse on including aid to address the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

“The Energy Policy Modernization Act is the product of a year’s worth of constructive and collaborative work,” said McConnell. “In the Energy Committee, it passed overwhelmingly with the support of both parties…(and) more than 30 amendments from both Democrats and Republicans have been adopted already.”

McConnell encouraged Democrats to reconsider actions taken last week. “The Energy Policy Modernization Act is broad, bipartisan legislation designed to help Americans produce more energy, pay less for energy, and save energy — all while helping strengthen our long-term national security,” he said. “I’m asking colleagues to take ‘yes’ for an answer and allow the open amendment process to continue — so we can pass it, which is so important to helping our country prepare for the energy demands of today and the energy opportunities of tomorrow.”

Novozymes Organization Restructuring

Novozymes_logoNovozymes has announced changes in the company’s organizational structure and executive leadership team with the formation of three distinct divisions – Household Care & Technical Industries, Agriculture & Bioenergy and Food & Beverages. The aim of the organizational change is to enhance Novozymes’ ability to deliver more innovation to customers with more speed and commercial impact.

To lead the three divisions, Novozymes has appointed former Vice President of Sales Tina Sejersgård Fanø as Executive Vice President, and former Vice President of Sales Anders Lund to head the Agriculture and Bioenergy division.

The three divisions will be supported by one central Research, Innovation & Supply organization headed by COO & EVP Thomas Videbæk and Corporate Functions headed by CFO & EVP Benny D. Loft. Peder Holk Nielsen will continue as CEO & President.

Phibro Animal Health on Ethanol and FSMA

PhibroEthanol performance and animal health go hand in hand at Phibro Animal Health Corporation, which is why the revised FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations are an important focus for the company right now.

Phibo Animal Health Senior Vice President for scientific and regulatory affairs Richard Coulter says many ethanol producers are concerned about what impact the new regulations have on their plants and the distillers grains by-products they produce that are used for animal feed. “We see a lot of confusion at the moment in producers looking to adopt FSMA regarding the FDA’s approach to antimicrobial use for controlling bacterial contamination in ethanol production,” said Coulter in an interview with Domestic Fuel. “The reason that confusion is arising is that the FDA simultaneously has another initiative, Guidance 209, involving veterinary medicine and the use of antibiotics in food animals.”

phibro-coulterGuidance 209 requires that no antimicrobials may be used after the end of 2016 in food animals without the specific authorization of a veterinarian. “So a number of ethanol producers have thought that since they’re making ethanol, and since they’re making distillers grains, and distillers grain is an animal’s feed, that they may need a veterinarian to write them a prescription or a veterinary feed directive to allow them to use antimicrobial products in ethanol, but that’s not true,” says Coulter, explaining that Guidance 209 relates only to veterinary drugs.

Ethanol plants use antimicrobials such as the Phibro Ethanol Performance group product Lactrol to reduce bacterial contamination during alcohol fermentation and Coulter says regulations are very clear that the use of most antimicrobials in ethanol production are still authorized as safe under the new FSMA regulations.

“Lactrol has a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) designation, so it may be used in ethanol, and when its used in accordance with the label it is GRAS and the distillers grain that arises from that ethanol production may be used in animals with no impact from FSMA,” Coulter explained. “The issue that many producers are concerned about is that if Lactrol is used in ethanol production to control bacterial contamination, would there be unacceptable residues or unhealthy or harmful dangerous resides of Lactrol that would persist into the distillers grains that would cause a hazard to animals or food that they would produce, and the answer is no.”

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Richard Coulter, Phibro Animal Health

#Ethanol Exports Steady as She Goes

growth-exportsThe U.S. ethanol industry exported 836 million gallons of ethanol worth $1.8 billion in 2015, according to a new summary of ethanol trade statistics released by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The final tally for 2015 was identical to the 2014 export total.

The RFA publication, which draws data from several U.S. government entities, offers a succinct overview of U.S. ethanol export and import trends in 2015 and prior years. RFA’s new statistical summary will be distributed to attendees of the upcoming National Ethanol Conference (NEC), including prospective ethanol importers attending the International Buyer Program (IBP).

The RFA report finds that U.S. ethanol made its way to all six inhabited continents in 2015, reaching more than 75 countries. The top five countries receiving U.S. ethanol last year included Canada, Brazil, the Philippines, China, and South Korea. Notably, China emerged in 2015 as a leading destination for U.S. ethanol, and total exports to Asia are up 1,515 percent over 2012. While U.S. ethanol exports had a strong showing in 2015, imports of ethanol continued to sag. The United States imported just 93 million gallons of ethanol last year, with more than one-third entering through California ports.

“Ethanol’s value as an octane booster was in the global spotlight in 2015. Even with falling crude oil prices, ethanol remained the lowest-cost—and cleanest—source of octane in the world,” said RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen, who adds that expanding export markets for ethanol in 2016 is a priority for the industry. “With EPA failing to enforce the Renewable Fuel Standard volumes established by Congress, we must continue to aggressively seek new market opportunities around the world.”

The 2016 National Ethanol Conference being held Feb. 15–17 in New Orleans will help in that effort by serving as host to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Buyer Program (IBP). “The RFA is excited about participating in the IBP, and for the opportunity the program provides to create a pathway that connects domestic ethanol producers with international markets,” said RFA board chairman Randall Doyal, RFA Board of Directors Chairman. “By providing a forum to establish these important business-to-business relationships, the NEC will serve as the premier destination for U.S. ethanol producers who are looking for opportunities to promote their products on the world stage.” Prospective ethanol buyers from Brazil, India, Mexico, Peru, and the Philippines are expected to attend.

More information about the NEC can be found at NationalEthanolConference.com.

Enogen Use Up as Syngenta Announces Sale

syngentaSyngenta made headlines this week with news that ChemChina, a Chinese state-owned company, has offered to acquire the company with the cash purchase of all Syngenta shares. The $43 billion deal must still be approved by two-thirds of Syngenta shareholders and receive regulatory approval.

During a call with reporters, Syngenta Chief Operating Officer Davor Piskof said the offer will allow Syngenta “to continue as a stand alone company,” and keep its commitment to research and innovation. “To ensure that Syngenta remains Syngenta (is) one of the most important elements of this transaction,” said Piskof, adding that it “helps preserve choice for growers at a time when we’re seeing a lot of consolidation.”

Enogen logoAt the same time, Syngenta announced its 2015 year end results, which includes significant growth in Enogen corn for ethanol production, despite an overall decline in sales of 11%.

“We continue to make very good progress with our Enogen trait offer for bio-ethanol plants, with now 18 plants contracted to receive Enogen corn and another 28 prospects that we are confident will be signing up during the course of this year,” said Piskof. The most recent plant to sign an agreement to use Enogen was Midwest Renewable Energy in December.

Learn more about Syngenta’s 2015 results and plans for ChemChina acquisition here: Syngenta COO Davor Piskof