Experts Present Case for Ethanol vs Gasoline

ethanol-plant-rfaLeading experts in the field of lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis and agricultural land use today responded to claims that corn ethanol and other biofuels are somehow worse for the climate than petroleum.

A panel of scientists and economists refuted the suggestion by anti-biofuel advocates that carbon accounting schemes should not credit bioenergy feedstocks for CO2 absorption based on the notion that the feedstock would have absorbed CO2 even if it wasn’t being used for biofuel. Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper, who moderated the panel, called the assertion “illogical” and said “it’s a bit like saying the wind was going to blow anyway, so wind energy shouldn’t be counted as carbon neutral; or the sun was going to shine anyway, so we shouldn’t assume that solar panels are harnessing ‘free’ energy from the sun.”

California-based Life Cycle Associates (LCA) just released a new report on how biofuels have helped reduce GHG emissions in the United States since 2008 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). “The lifecycle approach is the best metric for greenhouse gas emissions for biofuels because it takes into account the fact that this is short cycle carbon that was recently removed from the air,” said LCA Senior Partner Stefan Unnasch. “The alternative system means that you have to have global accounting of all agriculture… that’s simply impossible and the opportunities for fraud are present everywhere.” Even if such a carbon flow approach was possible, if done correctly it would show that bioenergy reduces GHG emissions compared to petroleum.

LCA scientist Susan Boland explains that their recent study actually found greater GHG emissions reductions from biofuels than expected. “We found that the RFS2 has resulted in significant GHG reductions, with cumulative CO2 savings of 353 million metric tonnes over the period of implementation. These emissions savings occurred even though cellulosic biofuels have not met the RFS2 production targets,” said Boland.

University of Illinois-Chicago economist Steffen Mueller noted that much is made about land going into biofuels production. “But that land area is really relatively small,” he said. “There’s a lot of other land available that we can use to optimize sequestration potential.” Commenting on the latest Department of Energy analysis, Mueller said “…ethanol produced from corn grain and corn stover provides substantial greenhouse gas benefits over gasoline.” The latest version of GREET shows life cycle emissions for corn ethanol in the range of 63.5‒66.4 gCO2e/MJ, which is over 30% less than the 94 gCO2e/MJ for gasoline.

Meanwhile, Purdue University economist Dr. Wally Tyner takes issue with the assumption land used for biofuel feedstock production would have grown the same feedstock for some other purpose or reverted to a natural state in the absence of biofuels demand. “If we hadn’t have had biofuels in the United States, we might still be paying farmers not to grow as we were before biofuels came along,” said Tyner. “So the assumption that all of this would have happened anyway I think is absurd.”

Listen to the call here: RFA GHG conference call

Growth Energy Intros ‘Bachelor’ Chris Soules RFS Ad

During a press call this morning, Growth Energy launched a week-long TV ad campaign featuring Iowa Farmer Chris Soules of “The Bachelor” and “Dancing with the Stars” fame. The ad focuses on the economic benefits of ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in rural America. The spot hits airwaves just days before the Obama Administration is due to announce its final rule on the RFS. The ad is airing in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana.

“I’m proud to be a part of something that protects something important to my family farm operation as well as thousands of others,” said Soules about why he became involved in efforts around promoting the positive benefits of the RFS. “I’ve been able to see first-hand the benefits of renewable fuels and how they affect my family’s enterprise and other families who haven’t even been involved in farming by providing jobs in clean energy that helps our country diversify our energy resources.”

Soules noted that in light of the recent events in Paris, it re-emphases the need for the U.S. to become energy independent with a diversified energy portfolio.

Soules was joined on the call by Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy who noted that the RFS is a great American success story.

“We know our opposition is out there saying anything and doing anything in every possible way to keep the administration from rolling out an implementation of the volumetric standards of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 that are beneficial to this great nation,” said Buis.

The RFS proposal, as it currently stands, contains volumes that are below the legislative mandate. Biofuel supporters have been working to get the volumes back on track and moving forward as the law intended. Buis also noted that many eyes are on Paris for COP21 to see how countries, including America, identify strategies to reduce carbon emissions. Buis said the RFS has been a successful policy in doing just this.

Listen to the full press call here: Growth Energy-Chris Soules Ad Press Call

Fuels America Launches RFS Climate Ad Campaign

Leading up to COP21 in Paris in a couple of weeks Fuels America has launched a climate campaign targeted at President Obama. The campaign encourages him to tout the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) during the climate talks. Fuels America is calling on the administration to get the RFS back on track. During the call biofuel industry representatives discussed how the decision on the RFS will be critical in determining if the U.S. will lead by example on climate action. The campaign includes full page ad in the New York Times and digital ads in the Beltway.

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 9.57.22 AM“If the President doesn’t reverse course on the disastrous proposal, he will effectively be letting the oil industry and climate deniers in Congress dictate our climate policy,” said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, during the press call. “It will upend America’s most successful policy cutting greenhouse gas emissions and combatting climate change, and stifle investment in advanced biofuels in America.”

Speakers noted the threat to the advanced biofuels industry is significant with $13.7 billion in investment in advanced biofuels currently frozen according to a report from BIO. Chris Standlee, executive vice president of global affairs at Abengoa Bioenergy, noted during the call that Abengoa is looking to deploy its cellulosic ethanol technology overseas due to the uncertainty caused by the current state of the RFS. The company’s first cellulosic ethanol plant went online last October in Hugoton, Kansas.

“This Administration’s proposal inserts a loophole into the RFS—our country’s most aggressive climate policy in force today—and allows oil companies to continue ignoring their obligations under the law,” explained Standlee. “Our industry has fought and won this battle before—this waiver was sought for years by the oil industry and would allow them to control the RFS and restrict the deployment of the lowest carbon fuels in the world.”

Listen to the presser here: Fuels America Launches Biofuel Climate Ad Campaign Presser Continue reading

Propane Expands Production, Use Options

nafb-15-percPropane is expanding in production and the options for its use. During the recent National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) convention in Kansas City, Missouri, Cindy caught up with Cinch Morgan from the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) who said that there are 102.4 million barrels of propane in storage right now – a nearly 30 percent increase from a year ago. He credited strong production and a mild grain-drying season for the big inventories right now.

“We’re most of the way through harvest, and most of the grain that has come in is pretty dry,” he said, adding a possibly warm winter ahead could make the situation even better for consumers. “Propane prices right now are very good. So it’s a really good time for rural homeowners and ag operation owners to consider what they should do about this.”

Morgan said new propane engines offer lots of advantages, especially in the ag markets. He added the positive supply outlook for propane and its domestic, environmentally friendly profile, as well as more machinery running on the fuel, make propane a great choice. Morgan said consumers should talk to their local dealers or go to PERC’s website for more information.

“You really owe it to yourself to look at what’s out there.”

Cinch Morgan, Propane Education and Research Council

RFA Updates

e85-pricesThe Renewable Fuels Association has unveiled a redesigned version of its popular fuel market website

According to RFA Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White, the layout of the site has been updated for easier navigation and redesigned with a modern interface for a cleaner presentation. “The all new website and mobile app make it easier than ever to locate E85 stations, search for the best prices for ethanol blends, and post your personal pricing experiences,” said White. “Both the website and the app are optimized for use on any device and allow easier interaction than ever before. It is our hope that these upgrades will lead to increased usage and reporting.”

nafb15-rfa-whiteDuring an interview at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting last week, White said they have been working on the upgrade since they acquired earlier this year. “We think this will allow consumers and fleet operators a better ability to find E85 stations to use the fuel and find the best deal they can on E85,” White said, noting that 85 percent ethanol is approved for use only in Flex Fuel vehicles, of which there are now over 19 million on the road in the nation. is now better integrated with Google for optimal search results that link back to the website. In addition, the mobile app also includes an updated interface that makes it easier for users to share the latest prices for the fuel in their areas.

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, White talks about the update, as well as the increasing number of flex fuel vehicles on the road, the growing number of stations offering E85, and other topics related to higher ethanol blends in the marketplace.

Listen to this edition of the Ethanol Report here: Ethanol Report on Updated

Iowa Biodiesel Makers Take to DC

nafb15-nbb-grantIowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) members joined their National Biodiesel Board colleagues in lobbying lawmakers to renew and restructure the federal $1-per-gallon credit for biodiesel and renewable diesel. IBB pointed to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s proposal that would correct a loophole in the existing program and save U.S. taxpayers $90 million.

“Nowhere is the success of the tax credit more evident than in Iowa. Our state’s 13 plants produced more than a quarter of a billion gallons of biodiesel last year, supporting jobs and economic development while replacing foreign oil and diversifying our fuel supply. The federal tax incentive has played a key role in enabling those plants to stay operating and profitable, benefiting all levels of our economy,” said Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board.

But Kimberley isn’t just looking at the benefits for Iowa. During an interview with the recent National Association of Farm Broadcasting meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, he said that Iowa biodiesel can be a real help to California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

“California … wants to have all of their transportation fuels fit under the [LCFS], where it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is better for the environment,” said Kimberley. “Renewable fuels, including biodiesel, can play a key role in that.”

He said biodiesel producers have had to educate California officials just how good biodiesel can be. Initially, California scored biodiesel just above conventional diesel. But education efforts improved that score.

“Now they’ve moved that score higher, so now it’s up to 50-80 percent better than petroleum-based diesel, which means biodiesel can play a really strong role in the [LCFS]. It could be up to 600 million gallons of biodiesel per year that could be utilized in California,” said Kimberley.

He also pointed out that since California doesn’t produce much of the green fuel, it opens up many possibilities for Midwest producers.

Listen to all of Cindy’s conversation with Kimberley here: Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board

Biodiesel Leaders Push for Tax Credit Renewal

Biodiesel leaders from across the nation descended on Washington, D.C., to push lawmakers to renew the federal $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax credit. The National Biodiesel Board points out producers have been without the credit for all of 2015, and that’s the fourth time in six years Congress has allowed it to lapse.

nafb15-nbb-gregDuring the recent National Association of Farm Broadcasting meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, NBB board member Greg Anderson, a soybean producer from Nebraska, said they’d like to get the tax credit done for two years – retroactive for 2015 and for the upcoming 2016 calendar year. He said it’s important to get this passed.

“It levels the playing field,” said Anderson. “We know that oil is subsidized, and biodiesel is a young industry [in comparison]. It would give incentives and confidence to the plants out there that have the production capacity, want to make new hires, provide great jobs and energy independence. We’re lacking when [the tax credit] is not in place.”

Anderson feels confident it will get done, because he knows the NBB’s Washington office has been working legislators hard. He hopes those lawmakers will realize just how valuable the fuel is and how it fits with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“Biodiesel is the tip of the spear toward the RFS’ success. We’re the only advanced biofuel commercially available,” showing success from coast-to-coast, heating homes and fueling vehicles cleanly, he noted.

Anderson added the NBB is also working with the Environmental Protection Agency that could see more aggressive RFS growth for biodiesel than what the EPA is currently proposing.

Listen to interview here: NBB board member Greg Anderson

Ethanol Report on the RFS and COP21

ethanol-report-adThe Renewable Fuels Association sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry this week urging him to highlight the role of the Renewable Fuel Standard in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions as he prepares to head to the international climate conference COP21 in Paris.

nafb-rfa-cooperAt the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper talked about the importance of the United States promoting biofuels as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the conference, how successful the RFS has been, the U.S. corn crop, and much more.

Listen to this edition of the Ethanol Report here: Ethanol Report on the RFS and COP21

ARF Releases 2016 Prez Candidate Midterm Report

America’s Renewable Future (ARF) released a 2016 Presidential Candidate midterm report card today during a press call putting candidates into three categories: good, needs work and bad. Scores were based on the candidates’ support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ethanol in particular. Candidates who received good grades included Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump (who is visiting an ethanol plant in Gowrie, Iowa this week), Bernie Sanders, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Lindsay Graham, George Pataki, and Martin O’Malley.

The midterm report was published to serve as a guide for voters come February 1, 2016 to understand where candidates stand on biofuels.

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

“Ethanol and the RFS are top concerns for Iowa caucus-goers and Americans everywhere, because renewable fuel like ethanol is making America cleaner, stronger, and more secure,” said ARF Co-Chair Rep. Annette Sweeney in a press release following the press call. “We will make sure Iowans know where candidates stand, and ensure all of our supporters see this report card.” The RFS enjoys broad support from Iowa’s Democrat and Republican caucus-goers, with 76% and 61% respectively saying in a recent poll that they would be more likely to support a candidate who is pro-RFS.

For a candidate to receive a “good” score, he or she must have demonstrated consistent support for the RFS and Iowa farmers. A “needs work” candidate is one is has given inconsistent and undefiend positions on the RFS. These include: Marcio Rubio, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and John Kasich. A “bad” candidate is one who has stood against Iowa Farmers and the RFS and includes Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Bobby Jindal.

“The midterm report card is not the final word, but it puts everyone on notice that Iowans can see whether candidates are preparing to stand with them or against them,” added Sweeney. “We will be releasing a final report card in January, when the middle category will be gone and candidates will either be designated as with us or against us.”

ARF State Director Eric Brandstad said during the press call that ARF plans to notify their list of 45,000 supporters and other allies about these results at ethanol plant caucus trainings, phone calls from field staff, and other one-on-one grassroots efforts. In addition, ARF will utilize a mix of paid media tactics including direct mail, digital, and radio advertisements and Brandstad said they also plan to release caucus instructional videos.

Listen to the press conference audio here: ARF Midterm Candidate Report Score Card Press Conference

NFU Poll: Rural Voters Support the RFS

On a press conference call yesterday, the National Farmers Union (NFU), released a poll that showed popularity and support within rural congressional districts for political candidates that support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). NFU President Roger Johnson said that the poll demonstrates the importance of the Obama Administration getting the RFS back on track as it sets the RFS volume obligations for 2014-2016, due out by the end of this month.

National Farmers Union logoJohnson noted that support for the RFS outweighed opposition in five out of the six districts surveyed by the poll. “Rural America seems to have taken note of the measurable gains in climate change resiliency, energy independence and the rejuvenation of rural economies across the country that are directly attributable to the RFS.”

When asked if this meant Democrats were also supportive of the RFS, Andrew Drechsler, president of HaystaqDNA a “democratic-centric” firm who conducted the poll, responded that the poll findings are very important for moderates, who the poll found support the RFS. “One thing that could make a difference on the position of the leadership is this issue, and for the Democrats, that’s the president,” he said during the press call.

Johnson added, “Self-identified moderates constituted 39 percent of the electorate surveyed in the poll, and by a two-to-one margin, these voters said that support for the RFS will make them more likely to vote for a congressional candidate versus voters who say it will make them less likely to support that candidate.” In other words, RFS support among voters is bi-partisan.

This poll, along with several other RFS polls released over the past few weeks all demonstrate a strong support for the RFS – even among city-dwelling voters.

The take-away? Johnson summed it up: “The RFS is a rare issue that cuts across party lines and deals directly with rural economics. This poll demonstrates the importance of the RFS to rural voters. The President, both because it is the right public policy and it is the right political move in rural America, needs to show his support for a strong RFS. And that begins by issuing volume obligations that comply with the RFS statute.”

Listen to the press conference audio here: NFU RFS Poll Press Conference