New Biodiesel Techs, Feedstocks Help Expand Bioheat

Doug Root works in the world of biofuels in his role with the Ag Utilization Research Institute (AURI) where he looks for new opportunities for Minnesota commodities and co-products. One example: biodiesel. Root spoke during the Biodiesel/Bioheat Forum in Mankato, Minnesota where East met Midwest, or the home of Bioheat met the home of soybean production.

biodiesel-bioheat-15-rootThere are new technologies, explained Root, including new technologies to make biodiesel, new opportunities to utilize the biofuel, and new markets to expand to. There are also opportunities for reduced cost, quality and alternative feedstocks for manufacture of biodiesel or sale into the bioheat market and into the transportation fuels market.

Root said its been exciting to see the biodiesel industry mature and see the improvements in biodiesel quality, year after year to the point where there are virtually no longer low-temperature issues with the biofuel.

You can listen Chuck Zimmerman’s interview with Doug Root here: Doug Root, Ag Utilization Research Institute

Biodiesel/Bioheat Forum Photo Album

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

Hart Home Comfort Adds Bioheat to Usurp Competition

biodiesel-bioheat-15-hartRay Hart with Oakdale, New York-based Hart Home Comfort, is a Bioheat dealer who distributes the biodiesel heating oil blend across New York and Long Island. He spoke during the Biodiesel/Bioheat Forum that took place in Mankato, Minnesota and hosted by Minnesota Soybean. His company was an early adopter of Bioheat and thought it would be a great renewable fuel to set themselves apart from their competition. And it worked.

His company started with one truck and only a few customers and today his company has a fleet, hundreds of customers and their own terminal where they blend the biodiesel into the heating oil. Hart said that along the way there were a few obstacles. At the time they began selling Bioheat no one had heard of the product before. Education is an ongoing challenge, said Hart, who has been selling Bioheat for nine years but noted that more and more customers are asking for the fuel.

Hart said that they try to do everything possible to source the biodiesel as local as possible. He added that the event was a great opportunity to meet some of the people, including the farmers, who are growing the soybeans to make the biodiesel that has helped his business become successful.

You can listen Chuck Zimmerman’s interview with Ray Hart here: Ray Hart, Hart Home Home Comfort

Biodiesel/Bioheat Forum Photo Album

Reign in the EPA Say Republican Candidates

The last batch of Republican presidential candidates took the Soapbox stage during the last weekend of the Iowa State Fair.

Chris ChristieNew Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) took a different approach and only answered questions. His overall statement was that the government needs to enforce the laws currently in place – not just the laws we like- but all laws. Speaking of a law he doesn’t like: the Clean Power Plan. His state has submitted a request to end the program and believes that each state should set their own legislation and develop their own plans. For example, he noted that Iowa is a land of wind, but in the most dense state in the country, solar works better. New Jersey uses solar, natural gas and nuclear and has already met their 2020 clean power goals.

When asked about the Renewable Fuel Standard (#RFS), he said he supports the RFS. The problem is that the Obama Administration along with the EPA is not enforcing the law. He stressed that he is a huge supporter of more energy options and the RFS provides just this and he called out to other candidates to make up their mind on their RFS position.

Listen to why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to be president: Chris Christie at the Iowa State Fair

U.S. Senator from Texas Ted Cruz (R) took much of his time to crack jokes about the Democrats andTed Cruz the rest of his time to talk about all the U.S. government executive orders he would rescind along with government organizations he would dismantle including the IRS, Department of Education and all the other ABCs. And Cruz promised he will reign in the regulatory agencies that “descend like locusts on farms and ranches and small businesses.” As for energy, not sure if reigning in the EPA includes revisions (or trying to overturn) the Renewable Fuel Standard, Clean Power Plan or WOTUS.

Listen to why Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz wants to be president: Ted Cruz at the Iowa State Fair

Bobby JindalLouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) went back to the “by the bootstraps” message. He said this election is all about the American dream, like most other candidates, and how to bring it back. He wants to evolutionize the economy, stop illegal immigration, buff up our military power and curb the power of regulatory agencies such as the EPA who is regulating the “water in our backyards”. He concluded, “I ask you to believe again. Let’s rescue the idea of America before it slips away.”

Listen to why Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wants to be president: Bobby Jindal at the Iowa State Fair

Mark EversonThe very last presidential candidate to take the stage was Mark Everson (R) who is the former IRS Commissioner. Who better to call for tax reform than the person who knows it best. He said that this campaign, this country, needs a new type of politician (one could argue Donald Trump and Ben Carson are proving this to be true). In that he meant one who isn’t a life-long politician but rather one who knows how to run a business. He stressed that tax reform would get the economy going.

Listen to why Mark Everson, former IRS Commissioner wants to be president: Mark Everson at the Iowa State Fair

And thus concludes our #Energy and #Ag coverage of the Des Moines Register’s Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair. The election is long so the candidates (especially the Democratic candidates) who chose not to address these concerns head on will have some time to get their messages straight before the caucus tentatively scheduled for Monday, February 1, 2016.

#Biodiesel Update at Biodiesel & Bioheat Forum

During the Bioheat and Biodiesel Forum in Mankato, Minnesota, attendees learned about the benefits and opportunities of Bioheat, and also heard an update on the biodiesel industry. Bioheat is heating oil that is blended with biodiesel to reduce its carbon emissions. Bioheat has been on the rise with state legislation that has passed in many northeastern states in an attempt to reduce emissions from all forms of energy. The result of great Bioheat demand? Greater biodiesel demand.

biodiesel-bioheat-15-session-2The second portion of the Forum kicked off with a call-in from Larry Schafer with the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) who gave a state and federal policy update that included a behind-the-scenes look at the political winds in Washington, D.C. He also discussed the fate of the biodiesel tax credit and reviewed policy initiatives in Minnesota.

Listen to Larry Schafer’s remarks here: Larry Schafer, NBB

Doug Root with the Ag Utilization Research Institute and Steve Howell with MARCIV Consulting took the stage next to discuss how the evolution of the industry paired with emerging technologies and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has spurred the biodiesel industry to improve its optimization strategies. Remaining competitive, said Root and Howell, is an integral aspect of keeping domestic biodiesel production competitive.

Listen to Doug Roots remarks here: Doug Root, Ag Utilization Research Institute

Listen to Steve Howell’s remarks here: Steve Howell, MARCIV Consulting

The session was rounded out by Gary Koch with Gislason & Hunter LLP who discussed what’s happening in the marketplace when it comes to investing in biodiesel production ranging from venture capital markets to private companies.

Listen to Gary Koch’s remarks here: Gary Koch, Gislason & Hunter

Biodiesel/Bioheat Forum Photo Album

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

Bioheat Great Option for Winter Heating

biodiesel-bioheat-15-huberJohn Huber is the President of the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA), the checkoff program for the oilheat industry. This week he was in Mankato, Minnesota participating in the Biodiesel & Bioheat Forum. His organization does research and development to create new equipment and new products for the industry and educates consumers on how to save energy. One solution, especially for those living in the Northeast? Bioheat.

Huber says Bioheat, heating oil blended by 2-5 percent biodiesel, has been a educational priority for them because it enables consumers to being integrating renewable energy into their home or businesses. In the Northeast in particular, many states have adopted an 80 percent carbon reduction by 2050 and Bioheat is a great solution to meet this goal.

To learn more about the benefits and growth opportunities for Bioheat, listen to Chuck Zimmerman’s interview with John Huber here: John Huber, NORA

Biodiesel/Bioheat Forum Photo Album

#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

E15 Update at #ACE15

ace15-lambertySteve Jobs once said “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” and American Coalition for Ethanol Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty believes that applies to E15 (15% ethanol blended gasoline) and other higher blends.

“What we’ve seen in the places where E15, E30, E85 have been shown to people, they like them,” said Lamberty during his industry update at the annual ACE conference this week in Omaha. “We need to keep doing what we’re doing and keep showing people the light.”

Lamberty talked about the experiences of some successful higher ethanol blend retailers like Charlie Good in Iowa and Bruce Vollan in South Dakota.

Listen to Ron’s update at the ACE conference here: Ron Lamberty, ACE Senior VP

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos