“The biodiesel industry can do much more to make the whole program stronger,” said National Biodiesel Board (NBB) CEO Joe Jobe in an interview at the hearing. “Biodiesel is the only domestic, fully commercialized, advanced biofuel and we’ve helped the advanced biofuel category meet its goals nearly every year of the program.”
Biodiesel falls under the Biomass-based Diesel category of the RFS, which is a subset of the overall Advanced Biofuels category. The EPA proposal would gradually raise biodiesel volumes by about 100 million gallons per year to a standard of 1.9 billion gallons in 2017. Because of biodiesel’s higher energy content, this would count as 2.95 billion ethanol equivalent gallons under the RFS. The overall Advanced Biofuel standard would rise to 3.4 billion ethanol equivalent gallons in 2016. NBB had requested more aggressive growth to a biodiesel standard of 2.7 billion gallons by 2017, along with additional growth in the overall Advanced Biofuel category.
The EPA recently released a new proposal for biofuels volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard – one that has made no one happy but particularly corn farmers and ethanol producers who note that the agency is not implementing the law as intended. EPA held a public hearing to get comments on the proposal but will it lead to a change? Half of those who took our recent poll believe that the EPA won’t change RFS volumes. Time will tell.
Here are the poll results:
No – 50%
Yes – 29%
Maybe – 21%
Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What’s on your grill this 4th of July?
Beyond fireworks, grilling seems to be a top priority when families and friends gather to celebrate Independence Day. July is also known as National Hot Dog Month. So, will you be joining the tradition by eating hot dogs on the 4th or will you be grilling up something else?
A train line in Sweden has plans to convert its fleet to run on biodiesel. This article from Global Rail News says Inlandsbanan AB wants to make the conversion by the year by 2020.
Inlandsbanan AB has received funding from the EU to assess the feasibility of converting its diesel trains to RME, a biodiesel produced from rapeseed.
The initiative would allow Inlandsbanan AB to commit to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions without footing the substantial cost of electrifying the 1,300-kilometre railway between Kristinehamn and Gällivare.
Conversion to biodiesel would reduce the operator’s carbon emissions by 60 per cent, Inlandsbanan AB has said.
In what’s been a roller coaster ride for a biodiesel refiner in Canada seems to be on the upswing now. This article from the Welland (Ontario) Tribune says the former Great Lakes Biodiesel plant, which closed last year after falling into receivership, has officially reopened as the 45-million-gallon-per-year Atlantic Biodiesel.
“In a very short time, we’ve taken the assets and built up a business with a new management team,” said Michael Paszti, chief operating officer of the new company.
Paszti said the 25 people who had worked for Great Lakes Biodiesel were rehired to work at the plant, which is expected to be among the top 20 largest producers of biodiesel in North America after production begins at the end of July.
“There was a conscious commitment to the employees and they were kept on right through the process,” he said. “The operations workers are the same experienced workers we had before and they’re going to be critical to our success going forward. We need their experience to run this plant.”
The new owners do plan to expand the plant’s capacity down the road.
The public hearing in Kansas City, Kansas last week on EPA’s proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard was a who’s who of the biofuels industry and then some.
A total of 254 people on 43 panels testified in two different rooms for about seven and a half hours. It was over twice as many people who testified at a public hearing in Arlington, Virginia in December 2013 on EPA’s first proposed RVO for 2014 that was ultimately withdrawn.
The vast majority of those testifying at the hearing were biofuels supporters, less than a dozen represented the oil industry or others opposed to increasing use of biofuels. Ethanol and biodiesel producers, corn growers, agribusiness interests and fuel retailers from across the nation testified, in addition to several state lawmakers, two governors and their agriculture secretaries.
RFA senior vice president Geoff Cooper urged the agency to implement the statute as Congress intended and abandon its blend wall methodology in setting the 2014–2016 renewable volume obligations.
“We continue to believe EPA is overstepping the bounds of its legal authority by proposing to partially waive the RFS based on perceived distribution capacity constraints,” Cooper said. “Nothing in the statute allows EPA to set the renewable volume obligations (RVOs) based on the so-called ‘blend wall’ or alleged infrastructure limitations. Congress considered measures that would have allowed waivers based on distribution infrastructure. But they rejected those concepts because they knew allowing such off-ramps would allow oil companies to hold the RFS program hostage.”
In addition to corn farmers and ethanol producers, EPA officials will also hear from the biodiesel industry at the public hearing Thursday on the agency’s latest proposal establishing volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
According to the National Biodiesel Board, about two dozen biodiesel representatives from across the country are slated to testify at the hearing to thank the EPA for increasing volumes in the latest proposal while calling for further growth in the final rule set to be released in November.
Bob Morton, co-owner of Newport Biodiesel in Rhode Island and a member of the National Biodiesel Board’s governing board, planned to highlight biodiesel’s success as an Advanced Biofuel under the RFS and to emphasize biodiesel’s potential for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the RFS.
“We appreciate that EPA has improved the numbers and that the volumes increase with time; however, the volumes remain well below what the industry can produce and they are far from an aggressive approach to expanding biodiesel production and thereby significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Morton says in his prepared testimony. “There is little we can do regarding 2014 and 2015, but we can take a more aggressive stance in 2016 and 2017.”
NBB Vice Chairman Ron Marr, director of government affairs at Minnesota Soybean Processors, planned to emphasize the industry’s strong potential for growth with the right policy.
“Our message to EPA is simple,” Marr says in his prepared testimony. “The biodiesel industry has, can and will deliver on the goals of the RFS, particularly those for Advanced Biofuels. We are poised to expand production and continue building this industry with the right policy signals, but we need stronger biodiesel and Advanced Biofuels volumes in the final rule to make that happen.”
Biodiesel users in Iowa will soon be saving some money on their gas tax. The Iowa Biodiesel Board says that as of July 1, diesel blended with at least 11 percent biodiesel (B11) will enjoy a tax exemption of 3 cents a gallon compared to regular diesel.
“This state policy represents another link in the chain that secures Iowa’s energy and economic future,” said Grant Kimberley, executive director of IBB. “This incentive, along with other state policies that encourage biodiesel production and use, shores up support for a fuel that delivers jobs, diversifies our fuel supply and reduces greenhouse gases.”
Prior to 2015, the tax for diesel was $0.225 a gallon. The new diesel tax, already in effect, is $0.325 a gallon. Users of B11 or higher will now pay tax of just $0.295 a gallon.
Kimberley added that this won’t automatically mean B11 is less expensive at the pump than diesel, but: “All of the pro-biodiesel policies in Iowa working together, plus federal programs that encourage energy independence, add up,” he said. “This is likely to make B11 pretty competitive at the pump.”
Nearly 120 biodiesel industry leaders from California to Florida are in Washington DC this week calling on lawmakers to push for a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) during the comment period for the recently released proposal from EPA.
“We want to show Congress that the RFS is working and that thousands of jobs are at stake in this pending EPA rule,” said Anne Steckel, National Biodiesel Board vice president of federal affairs. “We want lawmakers to see first-hand how these issues are playing out in their states and districts. The RFS is not some political football. It’s a successful policy that’s driving innovation, creating jobs and building competition in the fuels markets.”
The EPA recently released its draft RFS proposal that provides modest growth for biodiesel over several years. The proposal would increase the Biomass-based Diesel sector of the RFS by about 100 million gallons per year to 1.9 billion gallons in 2017.
“The proposal is a step in the right direction, and we appreciate the Administration’s efforts to strengthen and grow the RFS,” Steckel said. “However, there is plenty of room for improvement before it is finalized in November. We intend to make sure policy makers in Washington understand biodiesel’s full potential to help grow the economy and strengthen our energy security while sharply reducing pollution.”
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and ag delegation meet with officials in Brussels
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is on an agricultural trade mission trip to the European Union with stops in Italy, Belgium, and Denmark. The trade mission, being coordinated jointly by the Nebraska Departments of Agriculture and Economic Development, includes a number of representatives from the state’s agriculture and biofuels industry.
“As the number two ethanol producer in the country, we have a big interest in seeing what we can do with ethanol and one of the concerns in the industry is being able to export,” said Ricketts during a conference call with reporters on Friday from Brussels. “We’re just starting the conversion with regard to how we can expand that and export our ethanol into the European Union.”
In Brussels, the trade team met with executives from Ghent Port Company, TOTCO, Sygenta Brussels, and a consultant for Belgian Biodiesel Board to promote Nebraska’s biofuels industry and build relations between firms in Europe and the U.S.
Save the date for the Biodiesel and Bioheat Forum taking place August 19, 2015 in Mankato, Minnesota.
States up and down the East Coast have ventured into new markets and uses for biodiesel that offer significant potential for Minnesota and U.S. soybean farmers as well as the entire biodiesel industry. One market includes the Bioheat market – nearly 6.2 million homes rely on heating oil in the winter months. In fact, the average home can use more than 1,000 gallons in one winter.
The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council will host a delegation from the East Coast, as well as local and national biodiesel leaders. The group will include representatives from the New York Oil Heating Association, National Association of Oil & Energy Service Professionals, National Oilheat Research Alliance and the Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association, ready to share their experiences with biodiesel and explain the market potential in all arenas.
While much of the debate around biofuels revolves around future technologies and future uses, this round table discussion will look at opportunities available now for the biodiesel industry to grow and solidify its success.