Political Insiders Provide Ethanol Policy Perspective

nec15-insiders-panelRenewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen welcomed back veteran Washington Insiders panelists at the 20th National Ethanol Conference last week, kind of like a Saturday Night Live reunion, he joked.

The panelists were National Corn Growers Association Executive Vice President Jon Doggett, John Eichberger with the National Association of Convenience Stores, Bob Greco of the American Petroleum Institute, Shane Karr with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman. Each offered their views on a number of policy and political topics from what Congress may do regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to who the presidential candidates will be in 2016.

NEC 15 Washington Insiders Panel

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Where RFA and EPA Disagree

nec15-dinneen-grundlerEPA Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality Chris Grundler was sincere and apologetic during his appearance at the National Ethanol Conference last week, but he admits to having areas of disagreement with Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen.

“E15 will never realize its full potential until there is parity with regard to EPA volatility regulations for E10 and E15,” said Dinneen in his State of the Industry speech at the 20th annual ethanol conference. “To date, the Agency has rejected our efforts to secure parity, thereby ensuring that E15 is at best a seasonal fuel, a huge disincentive for marketers to adopt E15 at their stations.”

Asked about this issue by DomesticFuel, Grundler said, “That’s one of the areas that Bob and I have vigorous debates on, because I’m questioning how big a factor that is in terms of the slow uptake in E15.”

Grundler said parity is not an issue in regions where reformulated gasoline is required. “That accounts for between 30 and 40 percent of our fuel supply …. including places like Chicago,” he said, adding that governors have the ability to petition EPA to remove this one pound RVP waiver for their states but they “have received no such petitions.”

I also asked Grundler what he thought about Dinneen’s criticism of the EPA in his speech. “I didn’t think it was too harsh (but) I didn’t agree with everything he had to say,” said Grundler, adding that he thinks all stakeholders in this issue seem to overestimate EPA’s authority. “That’s where (Bob) and I differ. He thinks we can do some things that I don’t think we can,” he said.

Listen to Grundler’s answers to my questions here: EPA's Chris Grundler press questions

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NASCAR Starts 5th Year on American Ethanol

american-ethanol-fuelFuel with 15 percent ethanol, known as E15, has been approved for sale by the Environmental Protection Agency since January 2011. Two months later Sunoco Green E15 debuted at the 2011 Daytona 500.

American Ethanol
celebrated the start of the fifth year of its partnership with NASCAR at the Great American Race this weekend. “They’ve put over six million hard-earned miles at high RPMs on these race cars,” said Tom Buis of Growth Energy at the race on Sunday. “They got better performance, they didn’t lose mileage and they haven’t had a single problem.”

Interview with Tom Buis, Growth Energy, at Daytona 500

NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar says the partnership with American Ethanol has been very positive for them. “What we love about ethanol is not only is it a great renewable but it’s a great racing fuel, higher octane so it’s great performance for the drivers,” he said. “It’s also great for the environment, reduces greenhouse gases, homemade here in America …. it’s a win-win-win and in car races we’re all about winning!”

Dewar lived in Brazil as that country was moving to higher ethanol blends and he hopes to see it grow here in the United States as well. Interview with Brent Dewar, NASCAR, at Daytona 500

Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association, New Holland and POET-DSM are partners in American Ethanol with NASCAR.

Ethanol Conference Scholarship Winner

nec15-scholarshipThis year’s National Ethanol Conference scholarship winner hails from Brazil where she received her master’s degree in international relations in 2012 from San Tiago Dantas, a graduate program supported by three of Brazil’s premier universities.

Lais Thomaz, pictured here with Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen, was pleased to be able to attend the conference to learn more first hand about the U.S. ethanol industry that will help in her research. Her dissertation, which focused on the role of advocacy groups in the shaping of ethanol trade policies, was published as a book by Brazil’s Editora UNESP. Her research previously won the Top Ethanol Award promoted by the Brazilian Sugarcane Ethanol Industry Association (UNICA). She is currently a Ph.D. candidate and a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Government at Georgetown University.

Listen to my interview with Lais here: Interview with NEC 15 Scholarship Winner

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

#NEC15 Wrap Up

nec15-globalRenewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen wrapped up the 20th annual National Ethanol Conference on Friday as optimistic as ever.

“The atmosphere in the room, the attitude of the producers that I talked to, the confidence that they continue to show in their industry,” said Dinneen. “They are braced for whatever comes their way and we’re not going away.”

Dinneen gives an overview of the convention last week and some of his takeaways. NEC15 Wrap up with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Austin Dillon Proud of American Ethanol Affiliation

nh-daytona-dillonAmerican Ethanol NASCAR driver Austin Dillon is proud of his affiliation with homegrown ethanol and pleased with the performance of E15 on the track.

“I really support what we’re doing with American Ethanol,” said Dillon in an interview this weekend. “It’s funny that you wouldn’t think NASCAR would be a “green” sport” but what we’ve done with American Ethanol has helped us be the leader in sports with green American Ethanol.”

Dillon drove the number 33 car in the Xfinity Series Alert Today Florida 300 race at Daytona Speedway on Saturday, finishing 4th, and is driving the #3 car in the Daytona 500 race for Richard Childress Racing. Prior to the race on Saturday, Austin spent some time with a group of New Holland dealers. New Holland is a strong supporter of American Ethanol.

Listen to my interview with Austin here: Interview with NASCAR driver Austin Dillon

NFL Hall of Fame Member Supports Ethanol

nec15-houstonJoining in the golf tournament prior to the start of the Renewable Fuels Association’s National Ethanol Conference last week was NFL Hall of Fame member Kenny Houston.

Houston finished his career with the Washington Redskins in 1980 and played in 12 Pro Bowls and the more than 30 teams at NEC 2015 golf tournament really enjoyed hanging out with him. For his part, Houston enjoyed learning more about the ethanol industry from them. “Being from Texas I definitely know about ethanol so I jumped at the chance (to attend the conference) and I’m glad I did,” he said.

Houston agrees that ethanol has been good for the economy and helped to hold down gas prices. “I think they (the ethanol industry) work for a balance,” he said. “Right now, I think it’s a win-win.”

Listen to my interview with Kenny here: Interview with Kenny Houston

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Panel Explores Progress of RFS and LCFS

nec15-panel1A diverse group of stakeholders gave a diverse set of opinions on the progress to date of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper moderated the panel which featured (L to R) Jeremy Martin with the Union of Concerned Scientists, Chris Highsmith of Eco-Energy, Derek Regal of oil refiner Tesoro, Pacific Ethanol president Neil Koehler, and Michael Rensing with the British Colombia Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Cooper called the RFS “a remarkable success to date…by any metric that you choose” and said despite efforts by California to eliminate corn ethanol “the LCFS has succeeded so far because of grain-based ethanol” but they still have concerns about the program going forward.

Listen to the panelists viewpoints here: NEC 15 Panel on RFS and LCFS

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Former USTR Praises Ethanol for Going Global

nec15-kirkFormer U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk was the keynote speaker at the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) National Ethanol Conference this week where the theme was “Going Global” with an emphasis on exports.

“I want to thank you for your very strong and vocal support for a very smart trade policy for our country over the years,” said Kirk, who served under President Obama in his first term. “You understand the importance of going global.”

Kirk lamented that too many Americans have “gone sour” on international trade, citing a poll that found twice as many Americans said they believe in the existence of UFOs than believed international trade was good for America. “We have got to go out and tell the story of the real benefits of trade,” he said.

Listen to Kirk’s remarks here: Former USTR Ron Kirk at NEC 15

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

EPA Official Apologizes to Ethanol Industry

nec15-grundlerLast year at the National Ethanol Conference, EPA’s Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality told the ethanol industry that the agency intended to finalize the volume requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by the end of spring 2014.

As everyone knows, that never happened and today EPA’s Chris Grundler began his remarks to the ethanol conference with an apology. “I wanted to come to Texas and personally tell you all how sorry I am that we did not get our work done,” he said. “We did not finalize a standard in 2014 that I promised we would when I appeared before all of you in Orlando.”

Gundler offered no excuses but pledged to get the RFS back on track with a three year standard for 2014, 2015 and 2016 that they hope to have done by the end of this spring. “Obviously implementing the RFS has been very challenging for us,” he said, noting that finalizing annual rules has been a “tall order.”

Listen to all of Grundler’s remarks here: EPA's Chris Grundler at NEC 15

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album