Poll Finds Biodiesel Matters

A new poll commissioned by the Iowa Biodiesel Board finds that 76 percent of voters in Iowa widely support expanding the Renewable Fuel Standard to increase biodiesel use in the U.S. The poll comes out during the Iowa State Fair where presidential hopefuls are taking the Des Moines Register Soapbox and speaking to the crowd. The majority of voters surveyed also said a presidential candidate’s view on the RFS is important to their vote.

biodiesel pumpGrant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, said a candidate’s support for renewable fuels should be a central campaign issue, both in Iowa and beyond. “Growing a diverse, domestic energy supply is one of the most critical challenges our nation faces. “There are many foreign security threats today, which only strengthen the argument for domestic fuel production. The RFS has helped us move in that direction, but it’s a policy constantly under threat. Where the next president stands on this matters to voters.”

The IBB has reached out to several campaign leaders, inviting candidates from both parties to tour one of the state’s 12 biodiesel plants. The group plans to share the voter data with the campaigns.

Kimberly added, “As a sustainable, commercially available advanced biofuel with economic and environmental benefits, biodiesel is a shining success in what America’s innovative farmers and small business community can achieve in energy production.”

Republicans Carson, Pataki on the Soapbox

Republican presidential hopefuls Dr. Ben Carson and former New York Governor George Pataki took the Des Moines Register Soapbox during the Iowa State Fair this weekend with a common message of reducing America’s debt.

Ben CarsonDr. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, focused much of his remarks on personal stories yet engaged the crowd with lessons learned. For example, he said, “The person who has the most to do with what happens in life is you.” Smart words from a smart man. His big campaign focus, though, is that the country is in the process of destroying the future of the next generation in part because both Democrats and Republicans are “blowing up the budget”. He stressed the real problem is the fiscal gap – program needs that don’t meet needed funding – or unfunded liabilities (Medicare, Social Security).

The closest he came to addressing energy was when he spoke about the importance of the arts in education and when he was growing up if he said Van Gogh, the response was, ‘add gas and the van will go’. All joking aside, in the first Republican debate he said, “I would probably be in favor of taking that $4 billion a year we spend on oil subsidies and using that in new fueling stations’ for 30 percent ethanol blends.”

Listen to why Ben Carson wants to be president here:Ben Carson at the Iowa State Fair

George PatakiPataki stood strong on both economy and the military. He was the NY Governor during 9-11 and said “we must shut down ISIS”. He wants to give “the power back to the people”. He wants to throw-out the corrupt tax codes, reduce the government workforce by 15 percent and lower tax rates for small business and families.

He also said he is the only candidate that grew up on a farm. “I don’t have a plane. I have three tractors. In fact, I was out on a tractor last week moving hay.” He spent most of his life living on a farm and he, his wife and family farm today in upstate New York. “Great, but what does that does it mean? It teaches you values,” stressed Pataki.

Pataki didn’t discuss energy so voters who care about the issue will need to keep an ear to the ground in future months to learn more about his stance on renewable energy in America.

Listen to why George Pataki wants to be president here:George Pataki at the Iowa State Fair

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

RFA to EPA: Provide Consumers Relief at Pump

In light of a refinery shutdown of the BP plant in Whiting, Indiana that produces 240,000-barrels-per-day, the Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide consumers relief at the pump. Late last week, gas prices jumped an average of 80 cents per gallon overnight in several states including Illinois, Michigan Indiana, Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin as well as other states including Iowa.

BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Photo Credit: GasBuddy.com

BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Photo Credit: GasBuddy.com

“The Whiting refinery outage demonstrates, once again, the folly of relying too heavily on one source of motor fuel. It’s worth noting that the refinery represents just 6 percent of the Midwest region’s refining capacity (and just 1 percent of national refining capacity); yet retail gas prices in some Midwest markets have spiked by 50 cents per gallon or more,” said Dinneen. “This is exactly why we need to further diversify our nation’s fuel supply and allow more renewable fuels by removing arcane barriers erected by the oil companies and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Using more low-cost ethanol would absolutely help insulate consumers from these kinds of price shocks.”

Dinneen said that the total lost gasoline output, nearly 120,000 barrels per day, could be offset by increasing ethanol blends from E10 to E15. He sourced ethanol prices in the Chicago wholesale market as around $1 per gallon lower than gas. It should be noted that during the summer months, E15 is only allowed to be used by flex fuel vehicles although the rest of the year the ethanol blend can be used by all vehicles manufactured in 2001 or newer.

“That means, Dinneen said, “if refiners and blenders serving the Midwest market immediately switched to producing E15 to blunt the impacts of this refinery outage, gas prices would instantly fall by at least 5 cents per gallon and drivers in the Midwest would save about $6 million per day. In reality, the price impacts would likely be even more significant, as ramping up ethanol blending would immediately take the pressure off tightening gasoline stocks and ease wholesale gasoline prices.”

Dinned added, “EPA and the Obama Administration have all the tools they need to help alleviate this situation quickly. We call on EPA to immediately waive RVP requirements for E15 and also allow E12 blending—based on the fact that it is substantially similar to E10—in the Midwest region to facilitate expanded ethanol blending and blunt the consumer impacts of this refinery outage.”

API Releases “Flawed Study”

A new published study from the University of Michigan and funded by the American Petroleum Institute (API) finds that when using annual basis carbon (ABC) accounting, corn-ethanol is not better than its petroleum counterpart. ABC accounting uses spatially and temporally explicit analysis of the direct greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) exchanges between the atmosphere and a physical vehicle-fuel system. LCA is the analysis of the environmental impact of a product from cradle to grave, or in the case of liquid transportation fuels, “well to wheel”.

Michigan-API biofuels studyThe study abstract states that using an ABC case study of a corn ethanol biorefinery and the farmland that supplies it shows that using the ethanol it produced instead of gasoline provided no significant reduction in GHG emissions, in contrast to an LCA result that found a 40% GHG reduction for the same facility.

In response to the recent study Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, said, “We can add this study to the ever growing pile of flawed research funded by Big Oil, who has a vested interest in protecting its monopoly on our nation’s fuel and ensuring that America stays addicted to oil. The standard life-cycle assessment tool accepted by the scientific community, Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET model, shows that ethanol reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 34 percent compared to gasoline. No amount of self-serving science will change the fact that in addition to reducing GHG emissions, ethanol also reduces our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and the price of gasoline for America’s drivers.”

Dems Webb & O’Malley Take the Soapbox

Democratic hopeful presidential candidates Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley both appeared on the Des Moines Register’s Presidential Soapbox yesterday afternoon speaking to hundreds of Iowans attending the Iowa State Fair. They have some fundamental issues in common, including both the need for better education and to bring the American dream, aka the economy, back to Americans. While Webb’s plans to do so were a bit more fluid, O’Malley pitched his 15 point plan to American prosperity. This includes tackling climate change and fostering global sustainably development.

Jim Webb at Presidential SoapboxIn terms of energy Jim Webb supports agriculture and renewable energy. He supports the pipeline and says that reports show environmentally the pipeline is neutral. He said he supports an “all above” energy strategy and that includes nuclear energy. He noted America has the safest, best managed nuclear program in the world and it is “totally” clean.

When asked if he supported the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) he replied that he supported renewable energy. He said Iowa is the perfect example of a place where it can work. He has visited a wind farm and an ethanol plant and said he was impressed with the technological advancements seen in the ethanol industry.

To learn more about why Jim Webb wants to be our next president listen to his speech here: Jim Webb at the Iowa State Fair

Martin O'Malley at Presidential SoapboxDuring the question and answer portion of the speech, O’Malley was asked about renewable energy, in particular the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan. He advocates for a clean energy grid by 2050 that he says will be “just in the nick of time”. He noted that in Iowa, 30 percent of electricity not only comes from wind energy, but highlighted the fact that multiple wind turbine components are manufactured in the state as well. He touted Hawaii’s goal of 100 percent renewable electricity and California’s 50 percent goal.

O’Malley also stressed that Renewable Energy Portfolios (REPs/RES) and the RFS should not only stay in place, but they should be expanded. He stressed that these are the drivers of American ingenuity in technology development and the next generation of clean energy technologies.

To learn more about why Martin O’Malley wants to be our next president listen to his speech here: Martin O'Malley at the Iowa State Fair

Mike Huckabee on the Soapbox

Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas (the state of the Clinton’s), took the soapbox this morning as the kick-off candidate of the Des Moines Register’s Presidential Soapbox series taking place during the Iowa State Fair. He was the winner of Iowa’s 2008 Republican Caucuses. Now back to the Clintons for a moment. Huckabee worked and fought and campaigned against them for many years and said he won, then noted, “I hear Hillary Clinton could not come. She will email in her appearances”.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee addresses the crowds on the Presidential Soapbox during the Iowa State Fair.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee addresses the crowds on the Presidential Soapbox during the Iowa State Fair.

Since this is a site about alternative energy, I will be focusing my reporting on his views (and other candidates as well) on this issue. However, I will throw in some of his campaign platform issues as well.

For Huckabee, these are getting America back on a solid economic, security and moral ground. Through his “fair tax” he wants to bring manufacturing jobs back home and enable companies to build the products that are created in our own country competitively. He wants our military to be so strong, “nobody around the globe ever wants to pick a fight with us’. He wants to dismantle the IRS and bring frugal spending back to Congress. He noted, “We spend our campaign money like you wish the government spent your tax money. We try to be frugal.”

In terms of the biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), he said he is a big supporter. Why? Because our government made a promise to the farmers and those in the biofuels industry. “The government came to American farmers and asked them to engage in a process,” said Huckabee. To pull out disrupts an economy. He said the government made a promise to farmers and the renewable fuel industry and pulling out “just messed up people who trusted their government”. He feels the same about how veterans and those on social security and Medicaid are also being treated.

In closing, Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey encourages everyone, including presidential candidates, to #GetYourAgOn at the Iowa State Fair.

To learn more about why Mike Huckabee wants to be our next president listen to his speech here: Mike Huckabee at the Iowa State Fair

Minnesota Coop to Offer E85 For 85 Cents A Gallon

pump3E85 (85 percent ethanol/15 percent gas) will be available for 85 cents a gallon at the Farmers Coop Elevator in Bellingham, Minnesota on Wednesday, August 19 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Located at 300 Railroad Road, the promotion will also offer a 30 cents per gallon discount on E30 and a 15 cents discount per gallon on E15. The fuels are only available for flex fuel vehicles (FFVs). To see if your car can run on higher blends of ethanol, visit www.MNFuels.com.

“These promotions are a great opportunity for drivers of flex fuel vehicles to give these cleaner-burning fuels a try,” said Robert Moffitt, communications director for the American Lung Association in Minnesota. “Because flex fuel vehicles can also run on conventional gasoline blends, many owners don’t realize they can also use a fuel that reduces air pollution and usually costs less than gas.”

The American Lung Association in Minnesota recognizes the role cleaner-burning fuels like E85 have in reducing harmful tailpipe emissions and reducing air pollution. Other supporters include the Bellingham Farmers Elevator, Lac qui Parle County Corn & Soybean Growers, Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Clean Air Choice Team. For more information on the ethanol and other cleaner fuels available in Minnesota, visit www.CleanAirChoice.org.

USDA Predicts Big Corn and Soybean Crops

USDAUSDA is forecasting the third largest corn crop on record and the second largest soybean crop in a new planted acreage update released today.

U.S. growers are forecast to produce 13.7 billion bushels of corn this year, according to the report from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). That is actually a four percent decrease from last year’s production, but if realized will be the third largest production on record. The numbers are up 156 million from the July projection, with the season’s first survey-based corn yield forecast at 168.8 bushels per acre, 2.0 bushels higher than last month’s projection.

Overall, the report says that growers nationwide planted 88.9 million acres to corn, unchanged from the June estimate. As of August 2, 70 percent of U.S. corn was reported to be in good or excellent condition, three percentage points below the same time last year.

U.S. soybean growers are now forecast produce the second largest crop on record although one percent less than last year. NASS forecasts U.S. soybean production of 3.92 billion bushels with a yield of 46.9 bushels per acre, which would also be the second largest on record, down 0.9 bushels per acre from the record set in 2014. Growers are expected to set new record-highs in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Virginia.

The new World Agricultural Supply Demand Estimate also released today increased usage of corn for ethanol from 5.225 million bushels to 5.250 million and lowered the average corn price estimate for the year five cents to $3.35-3.95 per bushel. “With the lower prices, domestic demand should kick up,” said analyst Jack Scoville of the PRICE Futures Group during the Minneapolis Grain Exchange call on the report. “Which will make ethanol that much more attractive in the corn … definitely should help biofuels consumption.”

MGEX Crop Call with Jack Scoville

Iowa E15 Retailer Grants Available

Iowa fuel retailers interested in adding E15 ethanol blends to their consumer fuel options have an opportunity to apply for grants through the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP). The program gives retailers financial assistance to install or upgrade fuel dispensing equipment to offer E15.

E15 at Des Moines Iowa Kum and Go station

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

“Adding E15 to the state renewable fuels infrastructure program provides a missing link to expanding mid-level ethanol blends, and providing another low-cost fuel option to more than 80 percent of the vehicles on the road today,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Managing Director Lucy Norton. IRFA was integral in getting the program passed. “We already have retailers lining up to take advantage of this new eligibility because they have customers asking for cleaner-burning E15. Iowa retailers want to provide economical fuel choices to their customers, and E15 is the lowest-cost fuel on the market for the majority of vehicles on the road, so it’s getting a lot of attention.”

Since 2007, the Iowa RFIP has provided cost-share grants to increase the accessibility of higher ethanol and biodiesel blends. The program provides monetary assistance for the installation of blender pumps and E85 and biodiesel dispensing equipment, as well as bulk biodiesel terminal storage tanks. This year, the RFIP was expanded to also provide financial assistance for the upgrade or installation of dispensing equipment for the purpose of offering E15 as a registered fuel. Qualifying projects are eligible for up to 70 percent of the installation costs, or a maximum of $50,000 per retail location.

In a recent poll when participants were asked if they would consider using E15 if they owned a 2001 and newer vehicle and it was cheaper than E10, 70 percent said yes. Additionally, 76 percent of respondents who said they would purchase E15 also said they would drive out of their way to buy E15 to save between 5 and 10 cents per gallon, if their usual station did not offer E15.

“This poll shows what we expected: an overwhelming amount of Iowans support the use of lower-cost, cleaner-burning E15,” Norton added. “For the vast majority of Iowa’s E15 retailers, E15 is often being sold 5 to 10 cents cheaper than E10, and with more than three-quarters of Iowa E15 supporters willing to drive out of their way to save with E15, fuel retailers should take notice.”

Iowa State Fair to Host Prez Soapbox

dms-register-soapboxIowa State Fair visitors have an opportunity to see what presidential candidates think about energy and agricultural issues compliments of the Des Moines Register’s Presidential Soapbox series.

A majority of the presidential candidates from both parties have confirmed they will speak from the soapbox during the fair. A total of 14 Republicans and four Democrats are on the soapbox schedule starting Thursday August 13 through Saturday August 22. Notably missing from the list are the frontrunners for both parties – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Check the schedule from the Des Moines Register for updates. Candidate speeches will be live-streamed at DesMoinesRegister.com/SoapboxLive. The ZimmComm blogging team will be following the Presidential Soapbox series as well and bring you news of relevant issues.