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?
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at a public hearing in Arlington, Virginia in December 2013 on EPA’s first proposed RVO for 2014 that was ultimately withdrawn.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.”
The Urban Air Initiative (UAI) has released a study that finds ethanol free gasoline blends actually increase the wear and tear on engines including hoses, seals and fuel tanks. In other words, the data supports ethanol blends lead to cleaner engines. The findings were presented at the semi-annual meeting of ASTM by Steve Vander Griend, technical director for UAI who also works for ICM.
The report demonstrated that high aromatic content of gasoline, including toxic aromatics like benzene and toluene, negatively impact engine parts. Vander Griend explained in his presentation that the toxic aromatics create a significant increase in the escape of harmful emissions that can have a devastating impact on public health as these are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency has known and suspected carcinogens.
“What we are seeing is that benzene and toluene are increasing permeation, which means increasing the amount of fuel vapors that seep from a vehicle. For anyone who has a garage at home and smells gasoline, vapors are escaping through the vehicles fuel system or small engine gas tank,” said Vander Griend.
Also during his presentation Vander Griend explained that extensive testing was conducted on fuel lines, gas containers, and plastic components. The materials were each soaked in straight gasoline (E0) and a 10 percent ethanol blend (E10) for extended periods of time. In every case, said Vander Griend, the ethanol free gasoline increased the damage to fuel lines, gas containers, and plastic components, while the materials soaked in E10 were impacted less. Continue reading →
Minnesota’s governor has signed into law a measure that will help fuel retailers sell the 15 percent blend of ethanol, E15. This news release from the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association says the new law kicks in on July 1 and will provide funds for the retailers to convert their pumps to handle the higher blend.
The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association played a key role in getting the E15 Dispenser Bill included in the Agriculture and Environment bill and generated support for it from members of the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives.
Under the bill, $500,000 in grants will be disbursed over a two-year period to help fuel retailers make simple upgrades to their fuel dispensers so that they can offer E15.
These upgrades include simple calibrations, meters, valve assembles, seals, hanging hardware and in some limited cases, a new dispenser.
The measure is part of a larger piece of legislation that has the state setting a goal to reduce GHG emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. E15 produces fewer GHG emissions and could save the state 358,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, the equivalent of removing 75,368 cars from the road.
Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the AgEC, said, “The renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the Farm Bill help rural America create new manufacturing opportunities and stable, well-paying jobs. A new report to Congress, released just yesterday, demonstrates the broad economic impact of innovative biobased technology. The biobased products industry contributes $369 billion annually to the U.S. economy and employs more than four million Americans. The more than 40,000 biobased products already on the market displace about 300 million gallons of petroleum per year, which is equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road. Countless wind, solar, biomass and other projects are making a major impact as well.”
Ritter continued, “Nevertheless, the House Appropriations Committee is seeking to roll back the mandatory funding levels Congress agreed to last year when passing the bi-partisan Farm Bill. For Fiscal Year 2016, the House bill proposes cutting millions from the Section 9003 program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, and the Renewable Energy for America Program.”
“Such reductions in the mandatory funding levels that Congress previously set will undermine the ongoing effectiveness of these programs. The Agriculture Energy Coalition, comprising renewable energy, energy efficiency and agricultural groups, will continue to fight to ensure that these programs are implemented successfully,” concluded Ritter.
While switchgrass is seen as a good candidate for biofuels, the challenge has been producing it in the quantities of biomass yield to make it worth the effort. But this story from the American Society of Agronomy says researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are looking at ways to make the plant more biofuel friendly.
[Michael Casler, a research geneticist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service,] and others are trying to [make a better switchgrass for biofuels] by using alternative breeding methods. Zulfi Jahufer is a senior research scientist in genetics and plant breeding at the AgResearch Grasslands Research Centre in Palmerston North in New Zealand, and was a co-researcher with Casler.
But achieving their goals isn’t easy. The ideal switchgrass wouldn’t possess one trait, but many. It would have a high amount of biomass per acre and be able to produce a lot of ethanol. It would also have low levels of lignin, a material found inside plants that prevents maximum ethanol production…
When the ideal plant would contain more than one important trait, it’s inefficient to select for them one at a time. To combat this issue, and breed switchgrass that has the optimal combination of these traits, the researchers tried evaluating plants using the Smith-Hazel Selection Index.
This index allowed the researchers to estimate and combine information on multiple traits. It also looked at the economic value of each trait, which further maximizes the rating.
The researchers say the next step needed to meet their goals is to use the protocols in an actual breeding program. They will begin to employ the best selection indices over the next few generations to obtain a more ideal switchgrass.
The winner of the 2015 American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen is Erik Jones. This is his fifth victory in 26 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races and first in 2015.
The photo is Erik’s team along with the folks from Syngenta/Enogen. The winner’s circle is THE place to be! In my photo album I’ve got over 300 photos from today’s activities that I hope you will enjoy and share.
It has been a long day so I’m calling it quits now. However, expect to see and hear more from Iowa Speedway this coming week. I have a number of interviews to share that I think you will enjoy.
Today Syngenta announced a major donation to the Prime the Pump fund, an industry initiative to help early retail adopters of high-level ethanol blends through grants to reduce their initial investment in infrastructure. On the pane (l-r) are Chris Tingle, Syngenta; Ray Defenbaugh, Prime the Pump; Kelly Manning, Growth Energy; Delayne Johnson, Quad County Corn Processors and Chris Soule, Iowa farmer and star of ABC’s The Bachelor and Dancing With the Stars.
Syngenta says it will donate approximately $600,000 to the initiative by contributing $1 for every acre planted with Enogen corn enzyme technology. This effort stated in 2013 and is being extended to 2016. Besides the money being raised for the Prime the Pump initiative, the FFA students here today helping collect money for the fund will be receiving matching dollars for the money they raise. So, when you look at the value to the ethanol plants of Enogen corn which already has a vital enzyme for processing which saves the plant money; the fact that farmers growing Enogen corn are receiving a significant bonus incentive on the price of their corn; the fact that this initiative is helping expand the market and use of ethanol and local FFA chapters are benefitting, it seems like a win-win for everyone.
It’s NASCAR race time with the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen. I’m on location at Iowa Speedway and the race is tonight. Right now we’re in a lull between practice sessions. I’m here courtesy of Syngenta Enogen and will be covering their events.
One of this things is the effort Syngenta is doing with Iowa FFA members again this year. They are raising money and awareness for flex fuels and FFA benefits too.
Money raised for flex fuel infrastructure by FFA members at the Iowa Speedway on race day will be matched by Syngenta, with a portion of the proceeds going to participating FFA chapters. “Engaging the public about ethanol and renewable fuels is a good opportunity for my students,” said Miranda Johnson, advisor of the Twin Cedars FFA Chapter. “They are the future and they understand the importance of conservation and preservation of our land and resources – and the vital role farmers play in feeding and fueling our country.”
New polls from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) show support for the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and those presidential candidates friendly toward the RFS. This news release from the group says the RFS and renewable fuels will be key issues for Iowans in the 2016 general election.
The poll, conducted by The Tarrance Group, shows “Iowa voters have an exceptionally favorable view of ethanol, with 72 percent favorable and only 11 percent unfavorable,” stated Tarrance Group President and CEO Ed Goeas. “This is virtually a universal opinion across geography and voter groups. Not a single subgroup of the electorate fails to hold a majority favorable opinion.”
Additionally, the poll results find that 57 percent of Iowa voters are less likely to support a candidate for public office who opposes an increase in ethanol use through the RFS. Similarly, 56 percent of voters oppose EPA’s recent proposal to reduce the RFS. Goeas noted, “Amazingly, not a single subgroup of the electorate favors this action.” He added, “[O]ur findings indicate that once voters hear the facts, the coalition against this is likely to grow.”
Meanwhile, this news release from the group shows that the top five Republican presidential candidates in the state are all backers of the RFS, with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker leading the pack with 19 percent, followed by Ben Carson at 13 percent, Jeb Bush at 11 percent, Marco Rubio at 9 percent and Mike Huckabee at 8 percent.
“As we have seen in other credible surveys of Republican caucus goers, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker continues to set the pace in Iowa,” stated TheIowaRepublican.com Editor-in-Chief Craig Robinson. “In one way or another, each the top five candidates in the poll have either publicly expressed support of leaving the current RFS in place or have backed an infrastructure grant program that would help ensure that consumers are allowed choice at the gas pump. These are vital issues to Iowa’s economy and it should no surprise that the 2016 candidates who understand the importance of renewable fuels issues are in the top tier of the poll.”