Great Green Fleet Deployed

vilsack-navy-fleetSecretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack kicked off the Great Green Fleet with the deployment of the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCS CSG) during a ceremony Wednesday in California. At the end of the ceremony, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale left the pier to begin its deployment, becoming the first U.S. Navy ship running on an alternative fuel blend as part of its regular operations.

The Great Green Fleet is a Department of the Navy initiative using energy efficiency and alternative fuels to increase combat capability and operational flexibility. “The Great Green Fleet shows how we are transforming our energy use to make us better warfighters, to go farther, stay longer, and deliver more firepower,” said Mabus. “Diversifying our energy sources arms us with operational flexibility and strengthens our ability to provide presence, turning the tables on those who would use energy as a weapon against us.”

The blend fueling the Navy ships contains alternative fuel made from waste beef fat provided by farmers in the Midwest purchased through a partnership between the Navy and USDA. “The Navy’s use of renewable energy in the Great Green Fleet represents its ability to diversify its energy sources, and also our nation’s ability to take what would be a waste product and create homegrown, clean, advanced biofuels to support a variety of transportation needs,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Today’s deployment proves that America is on its way to a secure, clean energy future, where both defense and commercial transportation can be fueled by our own hardworking farmers and ranchers, reduce landfill waste, and bring manufacturing jobs back to rural America.”

The advanced fuel blend was produced by California-based AltAir Fuels from a feedstock of beef tallow – waste beef fat – provided by Midwest farmers and ranchers, and traditional petroleum provided by Tesoro. Pursuant to Navy requirements, the alternative fuel is drop-in, meaning it requires no changes to ship engines, transport or delivery equipment, or operational procedures.

Iowa Governor Blasts Ted Cruz Over Ethanol

irfa-branstadIowa Governor Terry Branstad made national headlines Tuesday at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit with his comments about presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during an impromptu press conference.

“He is heavily financed by Big Oil,” Branstad said about Cruz. “I think it would be very damaging to our state…and I think it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him.”

Branstad noted that Senator Cruz was not invited to speak at the renewable fuels summit specifically because of his views on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “That’s the reason why he hasn’t been invited to this because he hasn’t supported renewable fuels,” said Branstad. “He still supports immediately repealing the Renewable Fuel Standard.” Branstad added that Cruz is “against the wind energy tax credit as well.”

Listen to Branstad’s comments here: Gov. Branstad comments on Ted Cruz

Governor Branstad addressed the 10th Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit, which he has done almost every year that the event has been held. “I have supported ethanol and biodiesel from the very beginning,” he said. Gov. Branstad at Iowa RFA summit

10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

Secy Vilsack: Continue to Tout Biofuel Benefits

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, spent the morning back in his home state of Iowa (Vilsack is a former Iowa Governor) to kick off the 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit. He began his remarks by saying its great to be back in Iowa and great to be back in front of folks who understand the importance of the renewable fuels industry. He also mentioned he is proud of the work the USDA has done to help expand the industry.

The key focus on his speech was the amount of people, both consumers and legislators, who don’t see the benefits of this industry the way we see them, who are attacking the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in the courts, and attacking the Renewable Fuel Standard in the halls of Congress. “But we continue to point out to those who oppose this industry, the benefits of the country.”USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack during 10th Annual Iowa Summit

For example, the ethanol industry has helped reduce the price of gas at the pump, even as gas prices go down, and given consumers choice at the pump. He also noted biofuels benefit the farm and rural communities, and help to reduce the trade deficit.

Vilsack discussed several of the programs the USDA has implemented to help grow and improve the industry including the Biomass Assistance Program, Biomass Research Centers and Loan Guarantees. But he said he was most excited of the new markets that are being developed. He also highlighted the Farms to Fly program that is looking at producing renewable biofuels for the aviation and shipping industry as well as biofuels for our military.

We need consumers to understand that every time they go to the pump, they are helping the industry. He also stressed the importance of the blender pump program and continuing to bring more mid-level blends to consumers.

In closing, Vilsack said expanding the renewable fuels industry is more than just the benefits (choice at pump, environment, national security, etc.). “It’s really about preserving the value system of rural America. This is an industry that allows us the process of diversifying the opportunities in rural America, to support production agriculture, to expand the biobased economy…so that we have more stable farm income and we give people opportunities to live, work and raise their families in rural areas. That is important to me.”

Listen to USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack’s full remarks: Vilsack Remarks During IRFA Summit

10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

IRFA’s Shaw: We Will Not Retreat

“Today, Iowa’s renewable fuels industry – the entire renewable fuels industry quite frankly – is at a fork in the road. We must decide whether to retreat, or whether to fight for victory. I know we will not retreat. It is simply not in the farmers DNA. So we fight,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) during the opening session of the 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit referring to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This legislation, said Shaw, is the key to long-term success of renewable fuels.

IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw“I know the renewable fuels industry will not waiver or retreat or surrender,” said Shaw. “It will continue to battle for market access and to tear down the bogus ‘blend wall.’ I know this because the renewable fuels industry has fought the odds for 35 years – and won.”

He continued, “Keeping the RFS intact is key to near term biodiesel growth, the ability for cellulosic ethanol to have a chance to develop, and to pulling corn ethanol above 15 billion gallons per year. When the RFS finally breaches the artificial blend wall and major markets add the distribution infrastructure necessary for E15, ethanol use won’t increase by just that prescribed amount. Once the hole is in the dam, the octane value of corn ethanol will burst through – pulled by the RFS just as certainly as cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel.”

He also noted there is not a consensus to repeal nor modify the RFS in D.C. Do buy in to the narrative and choose the path of retreat because Big Oil is trying to win, he added.

To view Shaw’s selected prepared remarks, click here.

Why Chris Soules Supports Ethanol

Chris Soules at Iowa NASCAR race 2016

Iowa farmer Chris Soules speaks with race fans about ethanol during the Iowa Iowa NASCAR race last summer.

Iowa native and farmer Chris Soules rose to fame as The Bachelor and his participation in Dancing With The Stars. He has since used his status to spread positive messages about biofuels including ethanol. I spoke with Chris recently to learn why biofuels are so important to him and why he has leveraged his notoriety in partnerships with several ag and biofuel organizations to be a national face and voice for agribusiness.

Q: Was one of the reasons you went on The Bachelor to create a platform to talk about agriculture to consumers?

A: I went on show to hopefully meet someone. However, since then I’ve realized that I have interesting, positive experiences, in particular about being a farmer, that I want to share. I’m thankful that I have been able to work with organizations such as Growth Energy who have given me the opportunity to share my stories about how farmers work every day to provide food and fuel to consumers across the country.

Q: Of all of the issues you can champion, why biofuels?

A: Biofuels are an important way to help America diversify its fuel choices and move away from foreign oil. It’s also a clean burning fuel as compared to gas, so not only is it a good economic choice, but the consumer is also helping the environment at the same time.

Q: Do you use biofuels (biodiesel or ethanol) on your family farm? Do you grow crops for biofuels?

A: Yes, on our farm we use both ethanol and biodiesel. We also grow the crops, corn and soybeans, that are used to produce the biofuels.

Q: How will your farm be affected if the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) doesn’t continue to ramp up?

A: My family began to lose demand for our products resulting in lower prices. It would also end up costing jobs in rural areas. When biofuels were identified as a way to diversify our fuel supply and bring jobs back to rural America, demand for our product rose. So if the RFS doesn’t move forward, demand will drop again hurting not only our family’s livelihood and family farms across the country, but millions in the Midwest who rely on ag-based jobs and a thriving ag community.

*Note, while final volumes for renewable fuels under the RFS were increased for 2104, 2015 and 2016 at the end of last year, they are still not at mandated levels leaving the RFS in jeopardy.

Q: Do you plan on continuing your public awareness efforts around biofuels in 2016?

A: Yes. Biofuels are very important to me and my family, and the nation’s energy security. That is why I an proud to help raise awareness of the importance of biofuels and the RFS.

Biofuel Industry’s United Stand

The biofuel industry continues to maintain its united front on encouraging legislative support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) especially during the presidential campaigns. Leaders from the renewable fuels and agriculture community released a public letter to allies outlining their support for America’s Renewable Future (ARF) to protect the RFS.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.11.31 PMThe letter urges Iowa voters to turn to ARF to know where candidates stand on the RFS. It also designates the organization as the definitive voice on the issue. This letter comes as Sen. Ted Cruz has been under fire for his confusing stance on ethanol and the RFS. In a statement from ARF, they said they are committed to continuing let Iowans know that despite his change in tone, Cruz is still anti-RFS and he will destroy Iowa’s agriculture economy and Iowa farmers.

The letter was signed by the following leaders: Tom Buis, CEO – Growth Energy; Bob Hemesath, President – Iowa Corn Growers Association; Tom Brooks, President – Iowa Renewable Fuels Association; Jeff Broin, CEO – POET Biorefining; Bob Dineen, President & CEO – Renewable Fuels Association; Wayne Fredricks, President – Iowa Soybean Association; Joe Hrdlicka, Executive Director – Iowa Biotech Association; Grant Kimberly, Executive Director – Iowa Biodiesel Board; Will Rogers, Director of Government Affairs – Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealers; Bruce Rastetter, CEO – Summit Agricultural Group; and Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President – American Coalition for Ethanol.

Renewable Fuels Marketing Awards Presented

Darin Schlapia from Farmers Cooperative Company based in Afton, Iowa and Kevin DeGoey from New Century FS in Grinnell, Iowa have won the Secretary’s Biodiesel and Ethanol Marketing Awards by Iowa Secretary of Ag Bill Northey. The awards honor fuel marketers who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to promote and sell renewable fuels including ethanol and biodiesel. Activities include hosting special events such as pump promos, creative signage, and innovative marketing campaigns.

Schlapia, DeGoey“New Century FS and Farmers Cooperative Company have made expanding access to renewable fuels a priority and invested in the infrastructure necessary to make variety of biodiesel and ethanol available to their customers. On top of that, they have worked hard to promote these home-grown fuels and educate their customers about the benefits,” Northey said.

The winners were announced and recognized during the Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Stores of Iowa Annual Meeting in Des Moines on Jan. 12th.

Northey added, “Fuel marketers are the place where customers access the home-grown, clean-burning renewable fuels we produce here in Iowa. Our state is fortunate to have many retailers that have made a significant investment to give customers greater access to renewable fuels and more choice at the pump.”

Kevin DeGoey, the Energy Department Manager for New Century FS in Grinnell is winner of the 2016 Secretary’s Ethanol Marketing Award. New Century FS offers higher ethanol blends at their sites in Grinnell and Vinton and are working to add additional ethanol blender pumps as part of the Iowa USDA Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership program. They were an early adopter of registered E15 and are now one of 40 locations statewide offering this higher blend to customers. In the second year that E15 was offered at their facility in Vinton sales jumped 93 percent and now account for 27 percent of the fuel sales at that site.

Darin Schlapia with Farmers Cooperative Company in Afton is the winner of the 2016 Secretary’s Biodiesel Marketing Award. Farmers Cooperative Company participated in the “Fueling our Future” pilot program to install one of the first biodiesel blender pumps in the state at their site in Mt. Ayr. That site offer offers #2 diesel, B11, B20, B30 and B99. As part of the “Fueling our Future” program, Schlapia and Farmers Cooperative Company worked with Iowa State University to evaluate consumer perceptions and the impact of increased assess to mid-level biofuels blending options, including impacts on improved air quality.

Governors’ Biofuels Coalition Names Leadership Team

The Governors’ Biofuels Coalition has named its 2016 Leadership Team. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will become chairman and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts will become vice chairman.

governor-biofuels“For more than 20 years, the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition has worked in a bipartisan way to strengthen American energy independence and create jobs in rural communities,” Governor Nixon said. “I look forward to working with Governor Ricketts to promote the production and use of biofuels because, in addition to diversifying our energy portfolio, they also give consumers more choices at the pump, reduce harmful emissions, and increase family incomes in rural America. I thank Governor Branstad for his outstanding leadership, and I look forward to building on his success.”

During 2016, the Coalition will continue to advocate for policies that grow the biofuel industry including working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) moves forward. Also this year, the Coalition will propose legislation that will encourage investment in the nation’s advanced biofuel industry; ask the EPA to enforce Section 202 of the Clean Air Act to limit aromatics and open the market for ethanol as a source of clean octane; ask the EPA to drop the obsolete vapor pressure restrictions on higher ethanol blends; and ask for policies that will restore the fuel economy credits (CAFE).

“I’m honored to serve as the next vice chairman of this organization, and will continue working to strengthen the energy independence of Nebraska and our country. Nebraska was one of the founding members of the Coalition, and the Coalition continues to play a major role in our nation’s energy policies, including the renewable fuel standard,” said Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts.

Governor Nixon and Governor Ricketts both thanked Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for not only his leadership of the Coalition last year but for his tireless national leadership on renewable energy policy, and making Iowa a model of renewable energy development for all our states.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s Evolution on Ethanol

Presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz has come a long way on his view of ethanol.  For the first time during a bus stop in Sioux Center, Iowa, Cruz pledged to support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) through 2022 and called for an end to oil and gas production subsidies if elected president. Former Senator Jim Talent, who is now spearheading Americans for Energy Security and Innovation (AESI), has commended Cruz for joining other Republican presidential candidates in voicing support for the RFS.

AESI logo“The RFS has been an extremely successful policy over the past decade – with 10 percent of the nation’s fuel supply now coming from cost-competitive biofuels,” said Talent. “It has helped the biofuels industry create more than 850,000 well-paying jobs in rural America and across the country.”

“The fact is, continued Talent, “that energy markets are not free markets because of the international oil cartel. Senator Cruz is correct to call for leveling the playing field by ensuring market access for biofuels. His proposal to rescind the EPA blend wall will help to promote investment in biofuels that will help to create more jobs and spur innovation.”

In response to Sen. Cruz’s statements, America’s Renewable Future (ARF) state director Eric Branstad said, “Farmers and rural communities across Iowa are going to be encouraged by Sen. Cruz’s remarks. He is clearly listening to the people of Iowa and understands the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard to America’s economy and energy independence, as he started the caucus process calling for immediate repeal. While not perfect, this is a big step forward by Sen. Cruz.”

Despite recent pro-RFS comments, Sen. Cruz has not been supportive through out his whole campaign. So much so that ARF has been campaigning with Iowans to let them know that Cruz is not a “true” supporter. However, Cruz wrote an Op-Ed this week outlining a new tone and position on ethanol and the RFS. 

ARF-Logo-Retina-AltIn addition to this new RFS position, Cruz also communicated support for breaking the artificial blendwall saying, “ethanol blends can be a win-win for automakers and consumers alike”. This, said ARF, is a far cry from Cruz’s 2013 introduction of an immediate repeal and his position that ethanol production drives “up the costs of fuel, food, and goods.” These are facts Cruz’s campaign conveniently left out of its response. Cruz’s recent comments, said ARF, come after being pressured by Iowans and are a welcome change. Continue reading

Ethanol Industry Responds to API’s State of Energy

Yesterday American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Jack Gerard delivered the 2016 State of American Energy Address. During the presentation he made remarks about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), federal energy legislation that API has been a vocal opponent of since it’s inception in 2007.

API Jack Gerard,jpgCiting impediment of environmental improvement and cost to consumer Gerard remarked, “For example, ignoring clear consumer preference and in spite of the current record levels of domestic crude oil production, EPA continues to push the Renewable Fuel Standard, a relic of our nation’s era of energy scarcity and uncertainty.

A 2014 Congressional Budget Office study projected that the RFS could raise the cost of fuel prices because “Given the design of the RFS, the cost of encouraging additional sales of high-ethanol fuel falls on the producers and consumers of gasoline and diesel.”

What’s more, there is very little consumer demand for high ethanol fuels….It is well past time that we end or significantly amend the RFS.”

The ethanol industry responding to API’s continued attack on the RFS. Tom Buis, Growth Energy co-chair said, “API’s ‘State of American Energy’ speech, brought to you by Big Oil, is nothing new. While oil companies talk about the future of energy in this country, they seem fixated on a finite resource and fail to acknowledge that renewable fuels play a critical role in meeting the nation’s growing energy needs.

growth-energy-logo1“Year after year, API attempts to drive the narrative that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) must be reformed or repealed. This argument is fundamentally flawed. The claims that renewable fuels will increase the cost of energy or that they are worse for the environment are simply ridiculous. Countless independent studies have shown that renewable fuels like ethanol help drive down the cost of fuel. Furthermore, when it comes environmental damage, no one has a worse record than oil companies. Their record of ecological disasters is extensive and deeply troubling.Between 2008 and 2014, more than 25,000 oil spills accounted for more than 217 million gallons of oil and petroleum based products being dis­charged into U.S. navigable waterways, territorial waters, tributar­ies, the contiguous zone, onto shoreline, or into other waters and land that threaten the environment. That’s an average of more than 30 million gallons spilled a year. In contrast, ethanol is biodegradable and no beaches have ever been closed due to an ethanol spill…

API notes the importance of consumers in their speech, yet seems to believe the American consumer is best served by denying them a choice. Furthermore, they attempt to distort the truth saying there is no demand for renewable fuels. Yet major retail chains like Sheetz, Kum & Go, MAPCO and others are adopting higher blends and offering them to consumers and seeing tremendous success and growing demand.

The bottom line is that API wants to kill any competition that may threaten their bottom line and record profits….The RFS is a win-win for America, as it is an essential part of a true ‘all of the above’ energy strategy needed to meet the growing energy demands of the 21st century.” (Click here for Buis’ complete remarks.)

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen soundly rejected API’s claims. “I’m not sure what reality Jack is living in, but it is clear that he believes API’s actions and policies are making our nation more energy secure when nothing could be rfalogo1further from the truth. Perhaps he has convinced himself that fracking will provide the answer to all of our nation’s energy needs. What Jack conveniently failed to mention is that as oil prices have crashed, so has the rig count. The number of active U.S. oil rigs has plunged 67 percent from its peak in 2014. Last week’s rig count was actually the lowest since May 2010, according to the oil field services firm Baker Hughes. If Jack spent time living in the real world, instead of his revisionist reality, he would find himself whistling past the graveyards of shuttered wells that have been abandoned in the bust that inevitably follows a temporary boom of an oil well. Continue reading