Biofuels Leaders Ask President for Meeting

A dozen organizations and companies representing biofuels interests this week sent a letter to President Obama asking for a meeting on proposed rules under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) due to come out next month.

fuels-americaThe letter comes on the heels of an analysis from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) showing how EPA delays in setting volume requirements (RVOs) under the RFS have resulted in the loss of some $13.7 billion in investment in advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol. The letter was signed by BIO, the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, Advanced Ethanol Coalition, National Corn Growers Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, POET, DSM, Novozymes, and Abengoa.

“The EPA’s proposal in 2013 was an enormous disservice to you and your legacy, Mr. President,” the letter states. “Prior to the release of that proposal, we had asked to meet with the EPA, but were rebuffed. We would like to work with you to ensure that the mistake is not repeated.”

In addition to the letter and the analysis from BIO, the Fuels America coalition is running digital ads this week on Politico’s Environment & Energy section that say, “Will the next generation of biofuels be created in the United States or China? It’s up to you, Mr. President. Support the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

EPA Sets Timeline for RFS Volume Requirements

epa-150Under a court settlement with the oil industry, the Environmental Protection Agency today announced they will propose the 2015 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) renewable volume obligations by June 1, 2015, and issue the final 2014 and 2015 RFS blending targets by November 30, 2015. In addition, EPA will also release the proposed 2016 RFS RVOs by June 1 and the 2016 numbers will be finalized by Nov. 30.

The biofuels industry reacted immediately to the announcement. “This consent agreement is a good start,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “We are particularly pleased that the Agency has committed to addressing the 2016 RVO in the same time frame even though that is outside the scope of the consent agreement.”

“By taking this action, they are ensuring that the RFS is back on a path to certainty for the biofuels industry, providing the necessary guidance for the industry to continue to thrive and advance alternative fuel options for American consumers,” Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said.

“ACE has consistently said it is much more important for EPA to get the RFS done right than it is for them to get the RFS done quickly, and that bears repeating given today’s announcement that the RFS will be getting back on track for implementation,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive VP Brian Jennings.

National Biodiesel Board is pleased the EPA announcement said they would “re-propose volume requirements for 2014, by June 1, that reflect the volumes of renewable fuel that were actually used in 2014.”

“The volumes for Biomass-based Diesel in 2014 were approximately 1.75 billion gallons so EPA reaffirming its commitment to “actual use” appears to be a step in the right direction,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel.

Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) executive director Brooke Coleman says the announcement sends a good signal to the advanced biofuels industry. “Now that we have a better idea of when it will happen, we look forward to working with EPA to make sure that the new RFS proposal supports the commercial deployment of advanced biofuels as called for by Congress.”

EPA intends to issue a Federal Register Notice allowing the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed consent decree.

Think Tank Ponders Cellulosic Ethanol Link

3rd-wayA new report from centrist think tank Third Way ponders the quest for cellulosic biofuels and concludes that the pathway is via corn ethanol.

This report confirms what the biofuels industry has been saying for some time now – that you cannot have cellulosic ethanol without the continued production and support of grain-based ethanol,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis.

One of the takeaways from the Third Way report is that, “proposals to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would discourage engagement from the corn ethanol industry” and thus delay commercialization of cellulosic ethanol and steer investment overseas.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen says the report highlights the importance of consistent policy for the continued evolution of biofuels. “Legislative efforts to undermine either will set the nation’s energy and economic future back generations,” said Dinneen. “Third Way should be commended for adding a thoughtful component to this ongoing discussion and I can only hope that it is read with interest by Senators Feinstein and Toomey.

“(T)he biggest point, coming from a thought leader in the space like Third Way, is that Congressional intervention on the RFS would be highly detrimental to the deployment of cellulosic biofuel,” said Brooke Coleman of the Advanced Ethanol Council.

“The success of the conventional ethanol industry has driven serious investment in the cellulosic industry and there is an important linkage between them,” says Adam Monroe, President Americas for Novozymes which produces enzymes used for cellulosic ethanol production. “Tinkering with the corn portion of the RFS now will only hurt both industries.”

The report also concludes that “companies with an extensive background in the corn ethanol industry are cracking the cellulosic code,” and continued investment from these companies in facilities and innovation is critical to growing U.S. cellulosic capacity.”

Advanced Ethanol Progress and Concerns

nec15-advance-panelWhile it’s making progress, there are still plenty of questions and concerns regarding advanced ethanol production. During the the 20th National Ethanol Conference, a panel of advanced ethanol producers talked about the challenges and opportunities facing their industry.

Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman moderated the panel which included Bill Feehery of DuPont Industrial Biosciences (pictured at the podium), Adam Monroe of Novozymes, Paula Corollo with Beta Renewables, and Abengoa’s Chris Standlee. Coleman said while there are naysayers, who try to talk down the cellulosic industry, saying it’s not going fast enough or isn’t successful enough, he sees incredible progress over the last five years for the industry. But it’s not going to get easier.

“This is a crossroads and the part where it gets hard. This is the part where we diversify feedstock, introduce new technologies, and the [Environmental Protection Agency] has to look down and decide if we’re going to change the fuel markets at a fundamental level or just change them to where the oil industry is comfortable,” Coleman said.

Feehery’s presentation focused on the progress cellulosic ethanol has made, calling the recent advancements that are delivering a cleaner, more sustainable transportation fuel that’s also invigorating rural America’s economy. “It’s a victory of science, industry policy, and plain good, old-fashioned hard work, and it’s an accomplishment we all share together.”

Looking ahead, Feehery said it’s also important to look back at what has been successful to see the path forward. He pointed to efficiencies and technologies, such as enzymes, that are making cellulosic more affordable and more commercially viable. He’s also excited by how celluslosic ethanol is being embraced by American companies not just within the fuels markets, such as Procter & Gamble, which is using cellulosic ethanol in its formulation for Tide laundry detergent. He concluded that these technologies and adoptions by industry are key drivers in how cellulosic ethanol will grow in the years to come.

“What we see is the beginning of a bioeconomy in action,” Feehery said.

Listen to Feehery’s presentation before the group here: NEC 15 Advanced Ethanol Panel

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Hear Biofuels Reps Talk About RFS Delay

epa-150Biofuels industry representatives spent Friday afternoon fielding calls from reporters to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency decision to put off finalizing 2014 volume standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard program until next year.

Domestic Fuel caught up with four of the industry groups, starting with Bob Dinneen with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), already posted previously.

Listen to the interviews below:

American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE)Interview with ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings

Growth Energy
Interview with Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis

National Biodiesel Board (NBB)Interview with NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel

On Monday, biofuels industry leaders will hold briefings for Capitol Hill staff and the media to discuss the implications of the decision and where we go from here. The Fuels America briefing will feature Buis, Dinneen, Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman, and Brent Erickson with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

EPA Decision Impacts Advanced Biofuels

The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to hold off on issuing a final rule for 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) continues the atmosphere of uncertainty for the advanced biofuel industry, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

BIO logo“We appreciate that EPA will not be finalizing a proposed 2014 RFS rule containing a flawed methodology for setting the renewable fuel volumes,” said BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood. “Unfortunately, the delay in this year’s rule already has chilled investment and financing of future projects, even as first-of-a-kind cellulosic biofuel plants are right now starting up operations. The industry needs a final rule that is legally appropriate and continues to support our efforts.”

aeclogoAdvanced Ethanol Council (AEC) Executive Director Brooke Coleman says that pulling back on the 2014 RFS rule is “the right thing to do at this stage in the game when it comes to preserving the integrity of the program.”

“While the cellulosic biofuel industry will not get the policy certainty it needs from this decision, it does suggest that the Administration is listening when it comes to our concerns about giving oil companies too much power to avoid its obligations under the RFS going forward,” Coleman added. “This battle was never about the 2014 volumes for the oil industry, and we appreciate the Administration’s willingness to pivot in the right direction this late in the game. The key now for advanced biofuel investment is to move quickly to fix what needs to be fixed administratively so we can reestablish the RFS as the global gold standard for advanced biofuel policy.”

abfaThe Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) president Michael McAdams says the announcement was a surprise.

EPA hit the big reset button. Given the fact that we are already at the end of 2014, we appreciate EPA’s recognition that the real importance is to set the program on a clear glide path for 2015 and 2016. The numbers do matter, and utilizing the actual production will be a positive step from what was a proposed. We appreciate how EPA recognized that cutting requirements for advanced biofuels would be a mistake. This emerging industry deserves better considering it has already demonstrated the capacity to generate 3.2 billion gallons of advanced biofuel annually. But, at least EPA’s decision leaves the glass more than half full and allow us to get back on track next year.

Is Obama is Own Worst Enemy on Climate?

The People’s Climate March” has received worldwide attention to kick off Climate Week in New York and an ad in the New York Times is asking if President Obama is his own worst enemy when it comes to climate. The ad tells the president that if his administration accepts the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to alter the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFScreen Shot 2014-09-22 at 11.37.27 AMS) he “will have inadvertently done more to damage [his] climate legacy than [his] worst enemies.”

The ad warns that the proposal would let oil companies off the hook for blocking competition from American renewable fuels, and prompt an exodus of investment in cellulosic ethanol—the world’s cleanest motor fuel—to China and Brazil.

In the ad, the Advanced Ethanol Council and Biotechnology Industry Organization caution President Obama that investments in additional cellulosic production beyond these four plants will likely shift overseas if the President adopts the flawed methodology of the EPA proposal, regardless of whether he decides to actually raise the renewable fuel targets in the rule. This month, two commercial scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries came online in Iowa and Abengoa will be hosting a grand opening for its cellulosic ethanol plant in Kansas in October.

Senate Committee Considers Energy Tax Reform

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing today on Reforming America’s Outdated Energy Tax Code, led by chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“It’s past time to replace today’s crazy quilt of more than 40 energy tax incentives with a
modern, technology-neutral approach,” said Wyden at the start of the hearing, adding that the disparity in how the tax code treats energy sources needs to end. “Traditional sources benefit from tax incentives that are permanently baked into law. But clean energy sources are stuck with stop-and-go incentives that have to be renewed every few years.”

The main goal of the hearing is to focus on extending the dozen or so tax incentives for alternative energy sources such as advanced biofuels, wind, and solar.

aeclogo“The title of the hearing is right,” said Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman. “Investors are highly sensitive to protections offered by tax law, and today’s energy tax regime drives investment away from viable petroleum alternatives like cellulosic biofuels because oil tax breaks are richer and permanent. The short term fix is extending recently expired and existing tax incentives for clean energy this year, to buttress against those offered to fossil fuels permanently. But any broader discussion about America emerging as the leading energy innovator in the world starts and ends with the federal tax code. It simply won’t happen without serious energy tax reform.”

Among those testifying at the hearing today was former Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), now a lobbyist who has represented several energy companies, who spoke against continuing wind energy tax incentives.

Ethanol Report on Advanced Ethanol Concerns

ethanol-report-adAdvanced Ethanol Council (AEC) executive director Brooke Coleman commented last week on a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) so we got him on the phone for this edition of “The Ethanol Report.”

colemanIn this interview, Coleman talks about his take on the CBO report, as well as Phantom Fuels legislation in Congress, and the delay on EPA issuing a final rule for 2014 volume obligations under the RFS.

You may recall that EPA officials said earlier this year that they expected to have a final rule by the end of spring, or at least the end of June, but that has not happened yet and Coleman explains they now have until the end of September. “They were saying the end of June because they had to get it done by July 1st because they had extended the RFS compliance year through June,” he said. “They then extended it again through September.

Ethanol Report with Brooke Coleman, Advanced Ethanol Council

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

CBO Releases RFS Report

The Congressional Budget Office has released a new report, “Renewable Fuel Standard: Issues for 2014 and Beyond“. The evaluates how much the supply of various types of renewable fuels would have to increase over the next several years to comply with the CBO RFS report June 2014Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has yet to finalize its 2014 proposed rule, that if finalized based on initial numbers, would set the growth of biofuels backwards. The report also examines how other issues, such as fuel prices and emissions would vary by 2017, under three RFS scenarios:

  • The EISA volumes scenario, in which fuel suppliers would have to meet the total requirement for renewable fuels, the requirement for advanced biofuels, and the cap on corn ethanol that are stated in EISA for 2017—but not the requirement for cellulosic biofuels, because the capacity to produce enough of those fuels is unlikely to exist by 2017;
  • The 2014 volumes scenario, in which the EPA—which has some discretion to modify the mandates of EISA—would keep the RFS requirements for the next several years at the same amounts it has proposed for 2014; and
  • The repeal scenario, in which lawmakers would immediately abolish the RFS.

The report finds that food prices would be similar in all scenarios, including the dismantling of the RFS. However, the report finds that advanced biofuels must increase substantially to meet requirements, and that the increased use of all biofuels would increase the price of fuel at the pump.

In response to the report, Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) noted that the report fails to take into account basic realities when it comes to assessing the program.

“Some reports are simply not worth reading, and this is one of them. You cannot assess the impacts of the RFS without looking at the benefits of reducing consumer demand for gasoline and diesel fuel,” said Caeclogooleman. “That’s the entire point of the RFS and the CBO simply states that ‘it did not account for that effect in this analysis.’ To put that omission in perspective, an oil economist recently concluded that the RFS saved motorists at least hundreds of billions of dollars in 2013 by adding the equivalent of an additional OPEC country to U.S. gasoline supplies during times of extreme tightness between supply and demand.”

“Whatever the savings are, an analysis of a foreign oil displacement program that does not look at the benefits of displacing foreign oil demand should be dismissed out of hand. The gas price claims are really strange as well,” continued Coleman. “A cornerstone assumption in the report has RFS-RIN prices so high that gasoline retailers could give renewable fuel blends away for free and still make a profit. Needless to say, this is never going to happen. CBO reports are supposed to be impartial and objective, and therefore informative.”

Coleman concluded, “This particular report appears to detail a fantasy world that does not inform the current debate.”