Biofuels Leaders Defend RFS

Holding a press conference in advance of the American Petroleum Institute continuing its call to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), representatives of the ethanol and advanced biofuels industry and corn growers defended the law and the fuel.

mess-rfsGrowth Energy CEO Tom Buis said the oil industry is making the same old arguments about ethanol that are simply not true, but he thinks the industry received a good boost over the weekend “when six out of nine of the Republican presidential candidates that came to the Ag Summit expressed support for the RFS.”

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) first vice president Rob Elliott of Illinois talked about how the facts dispel the perpetual myths about food versus fuel. “Corn prices are now below cost of production … so obviously food prices have not followed a similar path,” he said.

Adam Monroe, president of enzyme producer Novozymes, said if Washington gives in to pressure by the oil industry to weaken the RFS it will keep second generation biofuels from going forward. “It makes it tremendously difficult for us to bring in new investors and spend more money,” he said.

Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen says no matter what ethanol critics say, there is now real world data that shows no detrimental effects have occurred as a result of the RFS and he encouraged reporters to question API. “Ask them to explain the fact that the price of corn is lower than it was when the RFS was passed,” he said, noting also that food price inflation has been lower, the dead zone has gotten smaller, and hunger worldwide has fallen.

Conference Call with Renewable Fuel Industry Leaders

ACE Fly-In Coming Soon

ace14-dc-brianThe American Coalition for Ethanol is holding its 7th annual DC Fly-In, also known as the Biofuels Beltway March, on March 24-25.

ACE executive vice president Brian Jennings says talking to Washington bureaucrats and lawmakers about ethanol is more important than ever. “We’re really going to be focusing on some new members of Congress and educating them on the RFS and E15 in particular,” he said. “There were over 70 new members of Congress elected, and when you look at the current members of Congress, just two in five were in office when RFS2 was enacted back in 2007.”

Members of the ethanol industry who attend the ACE Fly-In hear from members of the administration and discuss many current issues, and then go out in groups to visit members of Congress and their staffs. “Last year we had well over 200 meetings with members of Congress, both sides of the aisle and both houses,” said Jennings, who stressed that they encourage members to “tell their stories” to make an impression.

Jennings says registration is still open for the Fly-In and there is no fee to attend.

Listen to my interview with Brian at the recent National Ethanol Conference: Interview with Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol

New USDA Report Shows Ethanol Increasing Efficiency

Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan, Illinois

Patriot Renewable Fuels in Annawan, Illinois

The amount of corn necessary to make a gallon of ethanol is less than previously believed according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

In today’s monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Report (WASDE), corn use for ethanol production was projected 50 million bushels lower based on the new Grain Crushings and Co-Products Production report recently released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), citing “a higher rate of conversion than previously assumed” as the reasoning for the adjustment.

“What is most remarkable about this supply and demand report is the light it sheds on a topic of great concern to U.S. corn farmers – recognition of the growing efficiencies in the ethanol industry,” said National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Chip Bowling, a Maryland corn farmer. “For many years, we have strongly asserted that the ethanol industry continues to improve and those productivity gains should be taken into consideration. With the simple justification offered for the analysis, USDA made a great step forward in showing its growing appreciation for the advances made in ethanol production and, thus, the ever-increasing benefit it offers Americans.”

While USDA estimates for corn use in ethanol production were lowered by 50 million bushels, the overall drop was partially offset by higher than expected production over the winter months. The demand decline was more than offset by projected increases in demand for corn from the export and feed and residuals markets of 50 million bushels each.

Projected ending stocks were lowered by 50 million bushels in light of the other adjustments. Average farm price estimates were raised by five cents at the midpoint to $3.50 to $3.90 per bushel.

Researchers Combine Biomass, Solar Conversion

Photo: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

Photo: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have come up with a new approach to combine solar energy conversion and biomass conversion.

In a study published this week in Nature Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry Professor Kyoung-Shin Choi and postdoctoral researcher Hyun Gil Cha discussed their research to split water into hydrogen, a clean fuel, and oxygen using photoelectrochemical solar cells (PECs).

They developed a novel PEC setup with a new anode reaction. This anode reaction requires less energy and is faster than water oxidation while producing an industrially important chemical product. The anode reaction they employed in their study is the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) to 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA). HMF is a key intermediate in biomass conversion that can be derived from cellulose — a type of cheap and abundant plant matter. FDCA is an important molecule for the production of polymers.

“When we first started this study, we were not sure whether our approach could be really feasible,” Choi says. “However, since we knew that the impact of the study could be high when successful, we decided to invest our time and effort on this new research project at the interface of biomass conversion and solar energy conversion.”

Read more from UMW.

Recovery of China DDGS Market Continues

Patriot Renewable Fuels DDGsEthanol exports from the United States dropped in January and while distillers grains (DDGS) exports were also lower compared to December, the Chinese market for DDGS is showing recovery.

According to Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) vice president Geoff Cooper, U.S. ethanol producers exported 68.7 million gallons of ethanol in January, down 9% from December 2014 and the lowest since September 2014. However, “imports barely registered in January, with only 28,670 gallons coming in from Canada.”

On the DDGS side, exports totaled 708,861 metric tons in January, down 3% from December and still down 22% compared to a year ago. But the good news is that China was the top market for DDGS exports, receiving 24% of the total. Recovery of the Chinese market continues, as January exports to China were 35% above December levels and up dramatically from near zero in November.

RFS in Spotlight at Iowa Ag Summit

iowa-ag-walkerNine potential Republican presidential were asked to address their opinions on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) at the Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines on Saturday. The final score was six in favor, three opposed.

On the plus side were former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Last to speak at the event, Walker said he viewed the RFS as an access issue. “So it’s something I’m willing to go forward on, continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard and pressing the EPA to make sure that there’s certainty in terms of levels set,” said Walker, adding that he would like to see market access issued addressed in the long term and voicing support for blender pumps. “Right now we don’t have a free and open market,” he said. Iowa Ag Summit comments from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

couser-cruzOn the Texas side are former Governor Rick Perry, who sought a waiver from the RFS in 2008 and said it should be left to the states, and Senator Ted Cruz, who said it would “be the easy thing” for him to say he supported the RFS before the Iowa crowd. “But I’ll tell you, people are pretty fed up, I think, with politicians who run around and tell one group one thing, tell another group another thing, and then they go to Washington and they don’t do anything that they said they would do,” said Cruz. He compared the RFS to “corporate welfare” and said the government should not pick winners and losers and said ethanol was a big enough part of the industry that “demand will continue without the federal mandate.”

Cruz is pictured here with Bill Couser, an Iowa cattle producer and ethanol supporter who is co-chairman of America’s Renewable Future (ARF), an Iowa based bipartisan coalition that supported the summit. He invited both Cruz and Perry to visit his operation in Nevada.

“Show them why we do this, how we do this, and say what do you think?” said Couser in an interview at the recent National Ethanol Conference. “I can say, let’s go look at a corn field, let’s go look at a feedlot, let’s go look at some windmills, let’s go look at Lincolnway Energy, and then let’s go to the DuPont plant right next door and I’ll show you what we’re doing with the whole plant and being sustainable.”

Couser says they plan to approach all potential presidential candidates individually and invite them to visit and learn more about agriculture and renewable energy, including Hillary Clinton. “Wouldn’t that be something if she showed up?” he said.

Listen to my interview with Bill here: Interview with Bill Couser, America's Renewable Future Co-Chair

Also opposed to the RFS is former New York Gov. George Pataki, who “supports ethanol”, but honestly doesn’t think “the federal government should require anybody in America to buy anything, whether it’s renewable fuel or Obamacare” and thinks the RFS should be “phased out.”

Leno Anti Ethanol Rant Raises Eyebrows

Former Tonight Show host, comedian, and car enthusiast Jay Leno is being taken to task by automotive experts for a harshly-worded, negative article in AutoWeek entitled “Can’t We Just Get Rid of Ethanol?”

The thrust of the article is to support reform or elimination of the Renewable Fuel Standard and even attacks farmers.

I just don’t see the need for ethanol. I understand the theory—these giant agri-business companies can process corn, add the resulting blend to gasoline and we’ll be using and importing less gasoline. But they say this diversion of the corn supply is negatively affecting food prices, and the ethanol-spiked gas we’re forced to buy is really awful. The big growers of corn have sold us a bill of goods.

leno-e85-corvetteLeno has been a long-time supporter of renewable fuels. This picture from an April 2008 Popular Mechanics article written by Leno shows him with a 2006 Corvette Z06 that he said “has a top speed of 208 mph and runs on a homegrown alternative to gasoline – cleaner-burning E85 ethanol.”

In this interview with DomesticFuel in 2007, Leno talks about biodiesel specifically but all renewable fuels in general about being good for America and agriculture. “We try to support companies that make products here in America,” he said. “To me, it’s a great thing to see people no longer losing their farms because they can’t make a crop that’s viable anymore …you support the farmers, they watch my TV show, I buy their products.” 2007 Interview with Jay Leno on Renewable Fuels

Syndicated car show host and technician Bobby Likis thinks Leno’s article seems uncharacteristic. “I cannot believe “what Jay said” is “what Jay really believes.” His words smack of otherwise invested horse-whisperers who use personal agendas to sway vulnerable-for-whatever-reason people towards their way,” says Likis in an editorial for the E-xchange Blog refuting all of Leno’s claims.

Bob Reynolds, president of Downstream Alternatives and automotive engine specialist, particularly countered Leno’s claims that ethanol causes corrosion in vintage cars. Reynolds cited a study by Hagerty Insurance and Kettering University’s Advanced Engine Research Lab that concluded “with minor updates and proper maintenance E10 will not prevent the ability to enjoy your collector car.”

Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen commented on Leno’s apparent biofuels about-face. “Will the real Jay Leno please stand up?,” said Dinneen. “Unfortunately, it appears Leno has fallen victim to the relentless barrage of myths and misinformation about ethanol and classic cars coming from all of the usual suspects.”

Iowa Governor Visits Golden Grain Energy

gge-branstadGolden Grain Energy officials and employees had the opportunity to thank Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for his support of ethanol when he paid a visit to the plant in Mason City on Wednesday.

“Governor Branstad has always been very supportive of the plant and the industry as a whole. It means a lot to be able to have the governor here in person to give a pat on the back to all of the people who have worked hard to help us reach the billion gallon production mark,” said Dave Sovereign, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Golden Grain Energy.

Governor Branstad toured the plant as to mark Golden Grain Energy’s recent production milestone of producing one billion gallons of corn ethanol.

“The backing and support from the governor’s office and from the local community helps us go a long way as we work towards producing another billion gallons of ethanol,” said Sovereign.

For his part, Governor Branstad had a photo posted on his Facebook page with – “Golden Grain ethanol just produced their BILLIONTH gallon of ethanol. To celebrate, the governor visited and got one of their t-shirts. “Keep calm and fuel on” ‪#‎iagov‬”

Vilsack Stresses RFS Support at #Classic15

classic15-vilsack-1Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke to over 7000 agricultural producers and industry members during his 6th appearance at Commodity Classic on Friday. Sec. Vilsack began by stating that he “was in the presence of greatness” and went on to thank farmers for all that they do on a daily basis. He also thanked farmers for their work on the Farm Bill when it came to grassroots support and involvement in motivating legislation.

Among the many issues Vilsack addressed was the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “There are a multitude of positives about this industry,” said Vilsack, who addressed members of Growth Energy on Thursday. “I’m going to educate my friends at EPA about the importance of this industry.”

classic15-vilsack-rfaThe secretary was applauded when he spoke adamantly in support of biofuels. “There’s a good news story here,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to tell America this is a good, solid industry.”

Strolling through Commodity Classic trade show after his address, Secretary Vilsack stopped by a few booths, including the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) where he picked up a couple of E15 VW bug stress balls for his grandchildren.

Listen to Secretary Vilsack’s complete remarks about biofuels here: Vilsack Addresses Commodity Classic - Biofuels Comments

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Growth Energy Holds 6th Leadership Conference

growth-energy-logoGrowth Energy held its sixth annual Executive Leadership Conference last week in Phoenix, featuring appearances by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative Darci Vetter.

Growth Energy Board of Directors co-chair Jeff Broin delivered a “Chairman’s Report” outlining the current state of the renewable fuels industry and how this year is all about “moving ahead and moving faster” to bring clean, homegrown fuels to the American consumer. Broin noted how 2014 was a historic year for our industry, stating that producers have been selling a “clean, green, high octane, homegrown product at a huge discount.”

In his report to the leadership, CEO Tom Buis highlighted the accomplishments of the industry this past year. Buis stated, “We have always faced challenges, that’s life, but we focused on growing demand for our product. We have doubled the number of retailers offering E15 this past year, it’s only a matter of time before 2015 becomes the year of E15.” He explained that E15 is the “low hanging fruit” we have to promote and get into the marketplace.

“We all know that this is a battle – one over market share, and one that will not be accomplished overnight,” Buis concluded. “The facts are on our side and regardless of the challenges; we are going to win this fight.”