#ACE15 President’s and Media Awards

ace15-presidentsAmerican Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) president Ron Alverson of Dakota Energy surprised his friend Steve Roe with Little Sioux Corn Processors in Marcus, Iowa with this year’s President’s Award. This honor is awarded to individuals or organizations who display principled dedication and support to ACE and to the U.S. ethanol industry.

Little Sioux is a grassroots ethanol plant started in 2003 with local community investors. The company has grown to include over 800 investors and is currently undertaking its third expansion which will bring its capacity to over 135 million gallons per year.

ace15-riterACE Director of Communications Chuck Beck awarded the Excellence in Media award this year to Tom Riter of WNAX in Yankton, SD.

Riter is a veteran farm broadcaster and a native of Rock Rapids, Iowa. He is a regular contributor to the National Association of Farm Broadcasting news service on issues pertaining to the ethanol industry.

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

First Power by People Award at #ACE15

ace15-power-awardIn honor of its successful photo campaign featuring the people of the ethanol industry, the American Coalition for Ethanol awarded its first “Power by People” award at last week’s annual meeting.

The award was presented to Husker Ag of Plainview, Nebraska for the plant’s continued efforts to provide consumers access to higher ethanol blends. The new award was created to recognize a plant or an individual who has gone the extra mile to help get ethanol’s message out to the public.

“Everyone is very proud to have worked together to receive this prestigious award,” said Seth Harder, Husker Ag general manager. “We are proud to be members of Husker Ag.”

ACE Executive Director Brian Jennings said Husker Ag’s recent response to a Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) public hearing made them a perfect fit for the inaugural Power by People Award. According to Jennings, when the RFS hearing was announced, Harder and his team immediately stepped forward with a group of employees, shareholders, investors and a fuel retailer to testify in Kansas City despite short notice.

In addition to addressing policy issues, Husker Ag provides support for flex fuel infrastructure throughout northeast Nebraska. In 2012, Husker Ag passed a resolution to promote higher ethanol fuel blends at the retail level. Since then, the Plainview ethanol plant has provided grant money and ethanol for several retail locations including Creighton, Crofton, Hartington, Osmond, and Pierce at two locations. Plainview and Norfolk locations are in various stages of flex fuel pump installation, and equipment is ready for installation at possibly four more locations.

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

#ACE15 Success, Jennings Highlights What’s Next

The 28th Annual American Coalition for Ethanol’s (ACE) Ethanol Conference was a huge success. At times the room was stand-up only and the content was engaging and informational for attendees. I had a chance to sit down with Executive Vice President Brian Jennings who kicked off the conference and closed the conference and he said that there were a few presentations that really stood out.

The first was the retailer panel that featured Kum & Go and what they are doing to promote the use of E15 and other ethanol blends to consumers in the Midwest, along with Protec and what they are doing in a totally different way and different part of the country (South/Southwest) to bring ethanol to consumers.

Brian Jennings EVP of ACE“There are a lot of smart, progressive companies out there that see the advantage, that see the price advantage, see the other advantages that E15 and higher blends bring to the table,” said Jennings. “I know it’s frustrating for some in our industry because the progress of E15 is going as quickly as any of us like but progress indeed is being made and it’s a testament to the work that ACE and others are doing with the Kum & Gos in the world and the Protecs of the world.”

Another panel that was very informative, noted Jennings, was the panel of ethanol producers who are adopting new technologies and becoming pioneers of emerging technologies. These plants, he said, are leading the way in production improvements, in new product developments, bring in new revenues and help them diversify. Jennings hopes that other ethanol producers both at their conference and not, will look to these plants as examples and also embrace these new technologies and co-products.

The conference really focused on emerging technologies and wins in the industry but none the less talk of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was common among attendees. I asked Jennings what the next step was for ACE, on behalf of the industry, to keep the fight for the RFS front and center. He said that the industry has until November 30th to continue engaging with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and they will continue to do just that. “They have mountains of comments they have to sift through and we’re proud of ACE and the ethanol industry on how many comments were submitted.”

“I am enormously frustrated with the EPA,” said Jennings. “I have to be honest. We try to be constructive, we try to be helpful, and they just really want to continue to base this thing on the blend wall. So we have our work cut out for us.”

ACE hopes to engage in a Power to the People campaign this fall in the beltway and around the country to educate consumers about the benefits of ethanol.

To learn more about the Ethanol Conference and what’s next for ACE, listen to my interview with Brian Jennings here: ACE's Brian Jennings Conference Review

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

Protec Takes Unique E15, E85 Approach

Todd Garner, CEO of Protec Fuel, has more than 30 years in the fuel business. As such, he has been able to launch an interesting model in how they bring more choice at the pump by helping retail stations offer E15 and E85. The company started offering E85 in 2006 and has made incredible strides in getting more ethanol into the marketplace. But they do more than just distribute biofuels. They are also a large fuel logistics provider, basically, they do all of the aspects that any oil company might do but work primarily with small to midsize retailers and companies. Attendees were able to learn about their business model during the ACE Ethanol Conference last week in Omaha, Nebraska.

Todd Garner ProtecProtec is the largest supplier of ethanol to the military in the U.S. and has E85 stations on nearly every naval base in the country. And for the first time, they have begun to supply the rental car companies at the Nashville, TN and Charlotte, North Carolina airports. Garner said rental car companies used to buy their own fuel. Today it’s all done together and outsourced. So Protec has convinced these rental car operations to change to E15 because nearly all cars on the road can use this ethanol blend. Gardner said that they will continue to push this program with other rental car agencies located at airports across the country.

To learn more about how Protec is promoting/selling E15 and E15 listen to Todd Garner’s remarks here: Todd Garner, Protec

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

Kum & Go, E15 Leader #ACE Award Honoree

Jim Pirolli Kum and GoKum & Go is well known in the Midwest, especially in states like Iowa and Nebraska where this year’s #ACE annual Ethanol Conference took place (Omaha). During the event, Jim Pirolli, Vice President of Fuels for Kum & Go talked about his company’s commitment to rolling out E15 stations as well as their efforts to continue to sell more E85. The retailer opened their first E15 station in Des Moines, Iowa recently with 6 more planned over the coming months.

How are they successful? Well, for starters they are price competitive at the pump. Pirolli said that Kum & Go recognizes that alternative fuels such as ethanol support local economies, better for the environment and help them deliver more to the customer than they might expect via an expanded product portfolio and also offering the economic and performance benefits. This summer they have done a very aggressive promotion campaign for E85 in Omaha and also for E15 in Des Moines. He did ask for help in helping to educate consumers about E15.

Listen to Jim Pirolli’s presentation here: Jim Pirolli, Kum & Go

Paul Dana Marketing Vision Award

American Coalition for Ethanol’s (ACE) Ron Lamberty (left) awards Jim Pirolli with Kum & Go the Paul Dana Marketing Vision Award.

Also during the event, Kum & Go was awarded the Paul Dana Marketing Vision Award, to honor a retailer who is supportive of ethanol. Ron Lamberty with ACE noted that the retailer has been an ongoing leader in ethanol selling E10 back in 1979, today as 170 E85 stations in 11 states. He praised them for stepping up for ethanol and for marketing the fuel aggressively and for being a leader in offering E15 to consumers.

Listen to Ron Lamberty’s remarks about Kum and Go here: Kum & Go Honored with Paul Dana Marketing Vision Award

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

NREL Studies E15 Infrastructure

Kristi Moriarty NRELThe National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been studying current gas retailer’s infrastructure to determine if the equipment is already certified for E15 and flex fuels such as mid-level ethanol blends (E30, E40, E85). If so, the cost to a retailer adding E15 and other ethanol blends will be much less than a retailer who has to upgrade all his/her equipment – a definite cost barrier to more stations adopting emerging ethanol blends.

During the American Coalition for Ethanol’s (ACE) annual Ethanol Conference, held in Omaha, Nebraska, NREL Senior Analyst Kristi Moriarty, discussed the study and demonstrated how retailers can identify opportunities with their current fueling equipment and begin the process of adding E15 as one of their fuel choices.

Listen to Kristi Moriarty’s presentation here: Kristy Moriarty, NREL

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

Producer Panel at #ACE15

The theme of this year’s American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) convention was “Quiet Ingenuity, Bold Advance” and one of the last sessions of the event featured three ethanol producers who embody that slogan.

ace-15-delayneDelayne Johnson of Quad County Corn Processors has the distinction of being CEO of the plant to produce the country’s very first gallons of commercial cellulosic ethanol just last year. The plant has produced about two million gallons of the fuel in the past year.

Johnson gave an update on what’s new with the 15 year old company and how they are innovating to stay profitable. Delayne Johnson, Quad County

ace15-oestmannJeff Oestmann with East Kansas Agri-Energy is excited about their renewable diesel project under construction.

“Product diversity is key,” said Oestmann. “One of the nice things about renewable diesel is that it can run on its own. Obviously we’re building the plant to run on corn oil, but it can run on any kind of oil, animal fat, or greases.”

Listen to Oestmann give his update here: Jeff Oestmann, East Kansas Agri-Energy

ace15-rayRay Defenbaugh of Big River Resources talked a lot about the future of the industry, both for agriculture and ethanol.

“What I’m really concerned about is saving the family farm,” said Defenbaugh. “What we’re doing here is an important job.”

Defenbaugh is involved in many organizations, from ACE to RFA to the U.S. Grains Council and more – and he encouraged everyone to get involved as well. Ray Defenbaugh, Big River Resources

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

NCGA CEO at #ACE15

ace15-novakThe still new CEO of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) addressed the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) annual meeting last week with strong message that they stand behind the industry all the way.

Chris Novak, who took over as NCGA CEO in October of last year, told the ACE members that the state corn grower organizations recently solidified their vision going forward and part of it includes the idea that the ethanol industry is part of feeding the world. “Because the by-products, the DDGS, that are coming through your plants contribute tremendous value and gains to the livestock industry,” he said. “So, not only are you fueling America, you’re also feeding America.”

Novak talked about the latest crop production forecast from USDA for this year’s corn crop, calling for the third largest crop in history, and how that makes the EPA’s decision on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) more important than ever. “Our primary challenge is the size of the corn crop and what we are going to do about that,” he said. “We look at the EPA’s decision with respect to the RVO (Renewable Volume Obligations) basically taking away about 1.5 billion bushels of demand over the next three years.”

Depending on what EPA makes as a final decision in November, Novak says NCGA is already considering legal options. “Our board has … recognized that EPA violated the law, the statute is clear in terms of what the renewable fuel levels should be, and we think the methodology that the EPA chose is wrong – and so we are looking at what legal options we may have to continue to challenge that rule,” said Novak.

Listen to Novak’s address to ACE and an interview with him summarizing those remarks below –

NCGA CEO Chris Novak at ACE Interview with NCGA CEO Chris Novak

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

#ACE15 Honors America’s Renewable Future

L-R: Absolute Energy CEO Rick Schwark, ARF co-chair Bill Couser, ARF coordinator Eric Branstad, and ACE EVP Brian Jennings

L-R: Absolute Energy CEO Rick Schwark, ARF co-chair Bill Couser, ARF coordinator Eric Branstad, and ACE EVP Brian Jennings

America’s Renewable Future (ARF) is less than one year old, but what the coalition has accomplished in that short time has been so impressive that the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) recognized them with the organization’s policy and legislative leadership award this year. The coalition was established in January of this year for the sole purpose of educating 2016 presidential candidates about agriculture, biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Accepting the award at the ACE annual meeting in Omaha this week were two Iowa ethanol advocates – Rick Schwark of Absolute Energy and Bill Couser with Couser Cattle Company who serves as ARF co-chair, as well as the son of Iowa’s governor who was instrumental in the formation of the coalition.

Eric Branstad says right now they are focused on the Iowa caucuses in February. “We are building a team of pledged supporters…pledging to come and caucus for an RFS supporting candidate,” he said. “Right now we have surpassed 25,000 caucus goers and our goal by November 1 is to have 50,000.”

ARF has been very busy this past week at the Iowa State Fair talking to visiting candidates, including Republican front runner Donald Trump. “We had a 40 minute, one-on-one meeting with him,” said Branstad, who added that Trump’s knowledge about ethanol going into the meeting was negligible. By the end of the meeting, after getting a short course on the history and advancements of the industry, Branstad felt they had made an impression. “He said ‘I want to invest!’ so I guess that’s the best compliment we could get from Mr. Trump,” said Branstad.

Listen to my interview with Eric Branstad here: Interview with Eric Branstad, America's Renewable Future

I also talked with ARF co-chair Bill Couser about the organization’s first eight months. “I think one thing we’ve been able to bring out in these candidates is ‘who are you really?’,” said Couser. “You talk about their wives and their kids – we want to know that here in the Midwest.”

Couser says he still wants to get Hillary Clinton out to his operation near Nevada, Iowa. “To get her out on our farms and ranches and actually show her about corn production and show her where ethanol’s made and show her what that’s done for our schools and our roads and how important that is for our country,” he said.

In this interview, Couser also talks about his testimony at the EPA hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard, his unique perspective as a cattle producer and ethanol advocate, and why he is so involved with the American Coalition for Ethanol: Interview with Bill Couser, America's Renewable Future

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

NEB’s Todd Sneller Awarded #ACE Merle Anderson Award

Todd Sneller was honored with the Merle Anderson award during the American Coalition for Ethanol’s (ACE) 28th annual Ethanol Conference in Omaha, Nebraska. Well-deserved, Todd Sneller, executive director of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, has had a long and prosperous career in the ethanol industry. He became the first person to run the state organization (the one and only of its kind) back in the late 70s when he was 25 years old. At the time ethanol was still known as gasohol and had no idea how far ethanol would go.

Doug Durante presents Todd Sneller, with the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) the Merle Anderson Award during the 28th Annual ACE Ethanol Conference in Omaha, Nebraska. (Todd Sneller on left and Doug Durante on right.)

Doug Durante presents Todd Sneller, with the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) the Merle Anderson Award during the 28th Annual ACE Ethanol Conference in Omaha, Nebraska. (Todd Sneller on left and Doug Durante on right.)

Sneller has traveled the country working with committees, testifying and working with younger ethanol organizations to help ethanol take off. Back in the 70s there were no ethanol plants in Nebraska. Today Nebraska has the second largest ethanol nameplate capacity and is the second largest ethanol producing state in the country with 25 ethanol plants producing more than 2 billion gallons of ethanol.

When asked how it felt to win such a prestigious award, Sneller replied, “Well I think anytime one is in a room with one’s peers, that’s really that special moment to be acknowledged for something to be around the people you have enjoyed working with and respect.”

Going forward, Sneller is mentoring the younger generation – young men and women who are just entering the industry. He is also excited to see how the ethanol plant will evolve to become a biotech campus, producing fuel, feed, fiber, chemicals, and more and plans to be involved in this process.

Todd, on behalf of the entire ethanol industry, here’s to another 30 years in the ethanol industry!

Listen to Todd Sneller’s interview here: Todd Sneller on Winning Merle Anderson Award

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos