Huckabee Talks Energy During Debate

debate-huckabeeThe CNN Republican Presidential Candidates debate from Las Vegas this week was focused entirely on national security issues, but the word biofuels was actually uttered by one of the candidates who put forth the idea of using energy as a weapon.

“We ought to be challenging not only Russia, but the Iranians and the Saudis, on the point of energy,” said former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee during the first debate panel. “We ought to be drilling every bit of oil, getting all the coal out, we need to be going after our natural gas and biofuels, and become the energy exporter of the world.”

Huckabee argued that such an approach would “destabilize” the enemies of the United States. “We need to take an offensive approach by using our energy, the one weapon we have,” he said. “Let’s use it as an offensive weapon to change the dynamics of the entire globe and especially change the dynamics of the Middle East.”

Listen to Huckabee’s comments here: Huckabee energy comments during CNN debate

Is Cruz for or Against Ethanol?

In Iowa, presidential Republican candidates Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are leading the polls, but the two are running close. One heated area of debate: renewable fuels. With Iowa the leading state for all things biofuels, voters want a president who will continue to support clean, renewable energy and rural economic development, something Trump as been a supporter and recently called Ted Cruz out for not visiting an ethanol plant. He’s not the only one on his case – America’s Renewable Future (ARF) has launched several campaigns against Cruz for his wishy-washy ethanol policy. Yet, this month, at an event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Cruz called for the end of all energy subsidies and stated, that as president he would “take on the EPA’s blend wall that is preventing ethanol and biofuels from having a larger share of the marketplace.”

ARF-Logo-Retina-AltThis week, ARF has launched another attack on Cruz calling him a “career politician” and “doing the oil industry’s dirty work”. ARF State Director Eric Branstad, in reaction to his ethanol remarks in Cedar Rapids, noted that they want Iowans to know that, “unlike what Ted Cruz would like them to believe, he is a typical politician who will say one thing in Iowa and do another thing in Washington.”

The ad campaign focuses on his ties to Big Oil. Cruz’s campaign says he is against oil subsidies, but he told an Iowan that subsidies for the oil industry don’t exist and another that tax breaks exclusive to the oil industry, like intangible drilling costs, are not subsidies. In the Senate, says ARF, Cruz has introduced three bills to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and has consistently voted against measures that would close tax loopholes for the oil industry. The only loopholes he has supported getting rid of are “enhanced oil recovery credits for producing oil and gas from marginal wells”—in the Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act of 2014—which are inconsequential since taxpayers would see no revenue effect from them according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

“Meanwhile Cruz has failed to introduce a single bill to repeal the $4.8 billion in subsidies that the oil industry receives annually,” said Branstad, “What’s worse is that he opposes the RFS because he claims it is a subsidy. But in fact, ethanol hasn’t received subsidies since 2011.”

Branstad added, “His entire career he’s been in the pocket of the oil industry and he will continue to stand up for it against Iowa farmers and the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Grain Growers, Biofuelers to Meet at Export Exchange

exportexchange1Two industries that go hand-in-glove will meet next fall in Detroit. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) says it is joining with the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) for Export Exchange 2016, scheduled for Oct. 24–27, 2016.

“We are expecting more than 200 international buyers of coarse grains, co-products and ethanol to attend Export Exchange 2016 along with an estimated 300 producers and agribusiness representatives, making this the industry’s premiere opportunity to network with your key customers,” said USGC Chairman Alan Tiemann.

In addition to networking opportunities, Export Exchange 2016 general sessions will address critical issues facing U.S. agricultural exports, offering the customers and sellers in attendance an increased awareness of the benefits of U.S. corn, distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), ethanol and other products.

“The global demand for DDGS has increased significantly over the last several years, and Export Exchange provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to bring buyers and sellers together with the goal of promoting continued growth in the international market,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.

More information is available at or on social media using the hashtag #ExEx16. Those interested can sign up for a mailing list to automatically receive conference updates by emailing

New Officers Elected for Iowa RFA

Iowa RFA logo-newThe 2016 Board of Directors, Officer and Executive Committee have been elected for the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA). The votes took place during their annual meeting on December 10, 2015. Each producer member has a seat on the Board and votes on officers. New officers will serve a one-year term during the 2016 calendar year. Iowa is the leading producer of biofuels including ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.

2016 IRFA Board of Directors Officers:

  • President: Tom Brooks, Western Dubuque Biodiesel
  • Vice President: Eamonn Byrne, Plymouth Energy
  • Treasurer: Rick Schwarck, Absolute Energy
  • Secretary: Steve Bleyl, Green Plains, Inc.
  • Executive Director: Monte Shaw (non-voting)

The IRFA Executive Committee is comprised of the IRFA Officers and other members as elected by the Board. Elected to join the IRFA Officers on the Executive Committee for 2016 are:

  • Past President: Brian Cahill, Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy
  • At-Large: Derek Winkel, Renewable Energy Group
  • At-Large: Craig Willis, Archer Daniels Midland
  • At-Large: Bill Howell, POET – Coon Rapids

“For renewable fuels in Iowa, 2015 was both a great and challenging year,” said IRFA President-elect Tom Brooks. “I’m looking forward to leading IRFA, and continuing to build upon our progress as a leader in renewable fuels production and use.”

USDA Gives $70 Mil Loan Guarantee for Biofuel Plant

usda-logoA cellulosic biofuel plant in Georgia will get built, thanks in part to a $70 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan guarantee. This news release from USDA says the money is being made available through the agency’s Biorefinery Assistance Program.

“There is a clear consumer demand for clean, American-made, renewable fuels, which our rural communities stand ready to meet,” said [Ag Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “USDA is proud to support environmentally and technologically sound projects like this one, which will increase biofuel availability nationwide and create jobs in rural Georgia. This loan commitment is the most recent example of our support for President Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, which includes alternative and renewable fuel sources.”

Ensyn Georgia Biorefinery I, LLC (Ensyn) will construct and operate a cellulosic biofuel refinery in Dooly County, Georgia. The company will produce 20 million gallons of renewable fuel per year employing its Rapid Thermal Processing (RTP) technology. RTP uses a fast thermal process to convert non-food-based feedstocks into biobased fuels.

Ensyn will convert 440 dry tons of woody biomass into a renewable fuel oil (RFO) product. There is an abundant supply of woody biomass near the plant due to excess forest materials in the region. However, Ensyn can use a variety of other non-food cellulosic feedstocks as well.

The renewable fuel oil will be used as a heating oil replacement and as a renewable feedstock for diesel and gasoline production at refineries.

Global Groups Call on COP21 to Support Biofuels

Biofuels organizations representing multiple nations may have their differences but they have come together in a call for world leaders attending the COP21 in Paris to set a goal for increasing use of biofuels for transportation.

climate-summitThe call for a global commitment to replace at least 15 percent of the world’s total oil use in transport with sustainable biofuels by 2030 was issued by five biofuel and biotech organizations in conjunction with a joint industry event held at the World Climate Summit on Sunday in Paris during COP21. The event was organized by five biofuel and biotech organizations that collectively represent over 330 companies responsible for 90 percent of the world’s biofuels production.

At the Summit, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) released a new report showing the significant contribution that biofuels have made to greenhouse gas reduction worldwide and could make in the future. According to the report, total GHG emission reductions from biofuels for 2014 was estimated at 169 million tonnes CO2 equivalent. Projecting a conservative annual growth rate of 2.8 percent in biofuel production and use through the year 2030, the report forecasts that emission savings could increase to 264 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, a 56 percent increase.

“This report sends a clear message to policy makers around the world that while the GHG emission reductions currently being delivered by biofuels are substantial, the sector can deliver much more,” said GRFA president Bliss Baker.

The COP21 United Nations climate change conference concludes December 11.

Novozymes CEO at COP21: Biofuels Only Alternative

Novozymes_logoBiofuels are the only alternatives to fossil fuels… that was the message the head of Novozymes told attendees at COP21 in Paris.

“Solutions exist for many of the problems we face – it’s about the political courage and long-term vision to implement them,” says CEO Peder Holk Nielsen, who is leading Novozymes’ delegation at COP21, in Paris.
“We urgently need a meaningful cost on carbon emissions, designed to effectively alter our behavior, guide our decisions and incentivize solutions.”

Driving down emissions in the transport sector

One of the areas with much room for improvement is the transport sector. There are one billion cars on the planet today and transport accounts for 25% of energy-related CO2 equivalent. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be almost three billion cars on the roads.

Biofuel is the only existing liquid alternative to fossil fuels available at scale today, and holds the potential to provide 30% of all transportation fuels by 2050 – with cellulosic biofuels from waste and agricultural residues reducing emissions by 80-90% compared to gasoline.

“Stable, long-term policies such as biofuel blending mandates are critical to the successful deployment of these low-carbon fuel technologies that should be a core component of each country’s climate strategy,” says Peder Holk Nielsen. “It is critical to reduce emissions significantly within this sector to remain below the 2°C global temperature rise.”

Nielsen added that fossil fuels enjoy global subsidies to the tune of $436 billion every year. Ending those subsidies is one obvious step to cut global carbon emissions.

RFA: Revise RVP Rules to Level Playing Field

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling for more higher-level ethanol blends to enter the U.S. fuel supply. In a letter the ethanol organization called on Christopher Grundler, director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality for the Environmental Protection Agency, to update regulations to allow EPA to grant a 1-psi Reid Vapor Pressure waiver for other ethanol blends besides E10.

E15 pump Photo Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

“EPA’s current regulatory scheme creates an uneven playing field for E15 and other higher-level ethanol blends,” Dinneen said. “Many gasoline retailers have rejected E15 because EPA’s current RVP regulations make it nearly impossible for them to sell E15 to EPA-approved conventional automobiles all year-round. And most gas stations are not willing to dedicate storage space or dispensing equipment for a fuel that they can only sell for part of the year.”

In the letter, Dinneen noted that vehicle technology and emissions control systems have significantly evolved since 1989, when the 1-psi waiver was developed by EPA as a means of ensuring the availability of E10. “Ethanol availability and markets have … changed,” wrote Dinneen. “Today, E10 blends represent more than 95% of total gasoline sales in the United States. Marketers no longer are faced with the challenge of finding appropriate blendstocks for E10. Rather, marketers wishing to increase their use of renewable fuels beyond E10 are faced with the same dilemma E10 marketers faced 30 years ago.”

According to the letter: “The 1-psi RVP waiver – originally provided to expand the production and use of fuel ethanol – is now having a perverse effect of discouraging greater ethanol use in today’s gasoline market, and it is obstructing the successful implementation of important fuel and carbon reduction policies enacted since then, including the Renewable Fuel Standard (#RFS).” Dinneen encouraged EPA to use its authority to take immediate action by requiring refiners to lower the RVP of summertime conventional blendstock to 8.0 psi. He stated that such an action would allow gasoline retailers to give consumers access to a full spectrum of renewable fuel blends, and it would also clear the way for higher-level ethanol blends like E20 or E25 to meet applicable gasoline RVP requirements. Continue reading

Prez Hopefuls Learn About Biofuels

The countdown to the Iowa caucuses brings us less than two months to voting day and 15 out of 16 Presidential nominee hopefuls have either visited a biofuels plant or met with America’s Renewable Future (ARF). Who is missing? Ted Cruz, who is under fire from ARF for his wishy-washy position on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Cruz’s political team has fought back claiming Cruz wants to end all energy subsidies, but interestingly, ethanol receives no subsidies while oil has been raking them in for more than 100 years and Cruz gets millions from the oil industry in campaign donations.

Lincolnway Energy located in Nevada, Iowa. Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Lincolnway Energy located in Nevada, Iowa. Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Just last week Gov. Mike Huckabee, Gov. Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina toured ethanol biorefineries across the state. This week Sen. Rick Santorum is touring Lincolnway Energy in Nevada, IA. These candidates join Donald Trump and Gov. Martin O’Malley in seeing firsthand the benefits of the RFS at a plant says ARF.

In addition, ARF says Sec. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Gov. George Pataki, Sen. Rand Paul, and Ben Carson or their campaigns have all met with ARF co-chairs or the organization’s leadership on the RFS.

“Every candidate, good or bad, has respected Iowans and the caucus process by sitting down with us and learning about the RFS, except for Ted Cruz,” said ARF State Director, Eric Branstad, “Cruz has ignored invitation after invitation to discuss the issue. He came to Iowa with his allegiance already established to the oil industry, not Iowans and not our caucus process.”

“We’re thankful to the rest of the candidates for taking this issue seriously and listening to Iowans,” Branstad added, “and we hope to hear more from them on the RFS, which is decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, providing 73,000 jobs to Iowans, and providing consumers a choice at the pump.”

ARF is educating Iowans on the caucus process and wants voters to know where the candidates stand on renewable fuels. Caucuses take place across Iowa February 1, 2016.

Hybrid Yeast to Give Rise to Better Biofuel Production

galls_beech_tree10_4536Researchers in Wisconsin, a state already known for its good use of yeast for the brewing of beer, are developing yeast hybrids that would also help in biofuels production. This article from the University of Wisconsin says the scientists at the school continue to find more strains suited for the green fuel making.

“We can achieve hybrids at rates of one in a thousand cells,” notes William Alexander, a University of Wisconsin-Madison postdoctoral research associate and the lead author of a paper describing the new method in a special synthetic biology issue of the journal Fungal Genetics and Biology. “It is much more efficient than nature.”

There are hundreds of known species of yeasts and they occupy almost every ecological niche imaginable worldwide. They are essential to the process of fermentation, where the microbes convert sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeasts are used widely to not only make beer, wine and bread, but also cider, whiskey, cheese, yogurt, soy sauce and an array of other fermented foods and beverages. In industry, yeasts are used to produce biofuels and to make enzymes, flavors and pigments and even drugs such as human insulin.

An ability to quickly and efficiently churn out new yeast interspecies hybrids means industries that depend on yeasts will have many more organisms to experiment with to make new flavors, enhance production and produce entirely new products, explains Chris Todd Hittinger, a UW-Madison professor of genetics and the senior author of the new study…

The new yeast hybridization method uses plasmids, circles of DNA that can be built into an organism to confer a genetic quality. In the lab, plasmids are routinely used to manipulate genes in cells. Genes in the plasmids facilitate yeast hybridization by expressing a naturally occurring yeast protein that allows two distinct species of yeasts to mate.

“The advantages of the technique are speed, efficiency, and precision,” says Hittinger, a world authority on yeast genetics and a co-discoverer of the wild Patagonian yeast that formed the lager beer hybrid. “Within a week, you can generate a large number of hybrids of whatever two species you want, creating forms never seen before.”

Funding for the research comes from grants from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy through the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.