ACE to Congress: Big Oil Manipulating RIN Market

ace logoIn response to the release of the fifth white paper on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Brian Jennings submitted comments showing how the RFS is working and Big Oil companies are desperate to repeal it so they can control the fuel market.

Jennings said in the comments:

With respect to a question from the Committee asking who is responsible for the rise in RIN prices: “The question isn’t what is responsible for the rise in RIN prices, rather, the questions are who is responsible for the rise in RIN prices and why. RIN prices have risen this year because oil companies don’t want to comply with the law. While oil companies were reluctantly comfortable with 10 percent ethanol in all gasoline, they prefer to control the remaining 90 percent of the gasoline market by preventing the sale of E15 and other mid-and-high-level blends of ethanol called for under the RFS.”

How the oil industry is manipulating the RIN market: “That oil companies are willing to pay $1 or more for a RIN, just to avoid buying ethanol at 70 cents per gallon less than gasoline and offering consumers safe, tested, and affordable blends such as E15 and E85, should tell Congress everything it needs to know about the RFS: it is needed now, more than ever. The lack of transparency in the RIN trading marketplace leaves open the possibility that unscrupulous traders or even oil companies could create skewed transactions for the purpose of manipulating the RIN market for financial gain or to make a political point. If Congress reduces or repeals the RFS, it rewards oil companies’ bad behavior, ensures they will control 90 percent or more of the gasoline market, and forces consumers to pay more for dirty fuel by restricting their access to more affordable and cleaner blends such as E15 and E85.”

Why the RFS was enacted and how EPA has implemented it: “The RFS wasn’t enacted by Congress to make life comfortable for oil companies or vertically-integrated food conglomerates who managed to operate quite comfortably before the RFS and continue to generate handsome profits today. The RFS was enacted to dramatically improve the way we produce and use transportation fuel, to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, to create jobs, to reduce gas prices and greenhouse gases, and to spark innovation in new technologies. In its wisdom, Congress provided EPA with appropriate authority and flexibility to implement the RFS, and EPA has judiciously and exercised that authority.”

Click here to read ACE’s full comments.

Researchers Look to Remove Algae for Biofuel

Blersch-Algae1One of the scourges of lakes during summertime is an algae bloom. While some algae serves as an important part of the food chain, other varieties can become too plentiful and kill off large amounts of wild fish. Researchers from the University of Buffalo are looking at ways to remove that slimy, green mess and turn it into useful materials, such as biofuels.

Funded by a $30,000 Rochester Institute of Technology grant, [David] Blersch, an environmental engineer at the University at Buffalo, and his students built a system that pumps water ashore down two, 40-foot-long flumes.

The water is recycled into the lake but it leaves behind microscopic cells that form miniature algae blooms. Blersch vacuums the algae and bottles samples to study. He is creating a database that will help scientists, government, industry and others gauge the algae’s potential uses.

“One element of the project is pollution recovery. By using the algae beds to remove excess nutrients from the lake, we can improve water quality,” says Blersch, PhD, research assistant professor in UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “The other aspect is studying its properties; is it viable to turn algae into biofuels, fertilizer or other commercial products?”

The technology is being looked at to help clean up and possibly collect algae to make into biofuels in other important watershed, such as the Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades. In addition, companies, such as Exxon Mobil, which has invested $100 million since 2009 in algae biofuels, are helping move the process along.

Pipelines to Iowa Could Shift Fuel Choice At Pump

According to a new study commissioned by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), a pending shift in the fuels carried in pipeline to Iowa will likely increase the cost of non-ethanol blended gasoline forcing retailers to choose between offering a relatively high priced traditional E0 (100 percent gasoline) and a lower-cost E15 (a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline). The study finds the net wholesale price difference Iowa Fuel Pricesbetween the two options could range from 34 cents per gallon to 57 cents per gallon. The study was conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions of Urbandale.

“With the price of 87-octane E0 expected to spike, retailers will need to think hard about what fuel will attract more customers,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Each retailer will need to decide for themselves and the right answer may not be the same for all, but we’re confident that E15 will look very attractive once the marketplace implications of the oil refiners’ pipeline changes are better understood.”

Starting in mid-September, regular 87-octane E0 will no longer be shipped through the pipeline systems that serve Iowa. Oil refiners will replace this product with 84-suboctane gasoline, which cannot legally be sold to the public. Boosting the fuel back to the minimum required 87-octane will necessitate blending with ethanol or with 91-octane premium gasoline. The study found that, “prices for 84 clear and 91 clear will be impacted by the decision to offer a mixed 87 clear product.”

“According to the study, historically at the wholesale level, regular 87-octane E0 has been priced at about 6 cents more than 89-octane E10, a fuel containing 10 percent ethanol,” said  Shaw. “With these pipeline changes, we could see the E10 discount grow to 30 to 52 cents per gallon, while E15 could cost 34 to 57 cents per gallon less than E0.” Continue reading

Senate Ag Committee Approves USDA Nominees

usda-nomineesThe Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee this week unanimously approved the nominations of Krysta Harden to serve as deputy secretary of agriculture and Robert Bonnie to serve as under secretary for natural resources and the environment.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) congratulated Harden on her confirmation. “Krysta Harden is the right person for the job,” said Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the RFA. “Her years as Chief of Staff at USDA, her work on Capitol Hill, and her vast understanding of value-added agriculture gleaned from years working for farmers and biofuels have all given her the knowledge and insight needed to fill this very important position as Deputy Secretary at USDA. Just as she has been confirmed in the past, we are eager to see her sweep through the approval process and look forward to her full confirmation by the U.S. Senate.”

Harden has been nominated to succeed Kathleen Merrigan in the second-highest post at USDA Bonnie, while Bonnie, who has been a senior advisor to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, would succeed Harris Sherman in the post of natural resources under secretary.

Refuel Colorado Fleets

Refuel Colorado Fleets, a pilot project to boost the use of alternative fuel vehicles in public and private sector fleets, has announced a new pilot program for several Colorado communities. The program is funded by a U.S. Department of Energy grant to the Colorado Energy Office. Counties selected for the year-long pilot are Routt, Larimer, Boulder, Jefferson, Adams, Garfield, Mesa, Montezuma and La Plata. A is funding the project.

Energy coaches employed by four community-based nonprofits will help business and government fleet owners work together with auto dealers, fuel providers, business leaders and local governments in the nine counties to pursue or expand use of alternative fuels. The program is aimed at accelerating the deployment of alternative fuels, reducing Refuel Colorado Fleets logopetroleum imports and increasing fuel cost efficiency in public and private sector vehicle fleets. Alternative fuels being considered include compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), propane, biofuels and plug-in electric vehicles.

“The Refuel Colorado Fleets energy coaches will support the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles,” said Jeff Ackermann, director of the Colorado Energy Office. “Each community will determine what makes sense for them, be that electric, natural gas, propane, or other vehicle types. Each of these provides economic and environmental benefits, making this an exciting project.”

Energy coaching will be done by Northern Colorado Clean Cities, Denver Metro Clean Cities, Garfield Clean Energy and Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency. The pilot project is being led by CLEER: Clean Energy Economy for the Region, a Carbondale nonprofit with expertise in alternative fuel vehicle technology, energy coaching and community engagement.

“Colorado has built a strong reputation as a leader in renewable energy and other innovative industries,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. “Refuel Colorado Fleets’ work on these projects in counties across the state only enhances that reputation. “There is great promise in alternative fuel vehicles and these types of programs help proliferate their use and allow communities to see how best to implement proven green technologies.”

In the coming weeks, energy coaches will work with businesses and local governments in the nine counties to analyze their fleets, including miles driven and age, vehicle type and purpose, to determine the optimal alternative fuel to focus on.

POET Plants to Add Liquefied Carbon Dioxide

POET_LogoTwo POET biorefineries in Ohio are installing liquefied carbon dioxide facilities on site.

POET Biorefining – Marion and POET Biorefining – Fostoria will be operating in the Greater Ohio Valley liquid carbon dioxide marketplace. The plants will be able to serve the traditional food freezing and beverage carbonation markets as well as secure new carbon dioxide customers.

“One of our priorities at POET is to get the most value from the corn kernel,” POET Biorefining – Marion General Manager Cliff Brannon said. “We don’t just produce biofuel here. We produce Dakota Gold high-protein animal feed, Voila corn oil and more. We’re excited to add carbon dioxide to that list.”

With the latest two plants coming online this year, nine POET plants will be producing liquefied carbon dioxide.

EWG Has No Love for Corn Ethanol

During the recent Subcommittee on Energy and Power’s hearing to review the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) as well as during a recent RFS briefing sponsored by the Advanced Biofuels Association last week in D.C., the Environmental Working Group (EWG) made it very clear that they have no love for corn-based ethanol.

rfs-hearing-faberScott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs said that to date, the RFS has failed to deliver the “good” biofuels that could help meet many of our environmental and energy challenges. “Instead, the RFS has delivered too many “bad” biofuels that increase greenhouse gas emissions, pollute our air and water, destroy critical habitat for wildlife and increase food and fuel prices.”

Faber continued, “Since it was expanded in 2007, the corn ethanol mandate has contributed to plowing up more than 23 million acres of US wetlands and grasslands to plant crops –and area the size of Indiana….Although the RFS was promoted in 2005 and 2007 as a tool to address climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency’s own analysis has since shown that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of corn ethanol were higher than gasoline last year (2012) and will be higher in 2017. All but three corn ethanol production pathways increased emissions in 2012, and only nine corn ethanol production pathways are expected to meet greenhouse gas reduction standards for corn ethanol in 2017.”

Listen to Scott Faber’s testimony: Scott Faber's Testimony

In response Growth Energy released the following statement:

Today’s testimony by the Environmental Working Group is completely devoid of facts, and shows a fundamental disconnect in their understanding of the EPA’s data. What they fail to understand is that there would be no path forward under the RFS for ethanol if it does not meet certain GHG reductions. The EPA noted under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, in which the RFS was strengthened, that the law ‘required a 20 percent reduction in lifecycle GHG emissions for any renewable fuel produced.’”

“Additionally, the EPA noted that, ‘The expanded use of renewable fuels is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 138 million metric tons when the program is fully implemented in 2022. The reductions would be equivalent to taking about 27 million vehicles off the road.’” Continue reading

NASCAR Driver Dillion Visits POET Plant

NASCAR® driver Austin Dillon visited POET-Biorefining – Portland (Ind.) as part of his American Ethanol Heartland Tour. Dillon toured the biorefinery, signed autographs and took part in a Q&A with POET team members and farmers.

Austin Dillon2Dillon’s Midwest tour takes him from Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. to Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Along the way, he is making a number of stops and touting the benefits of using clean, American-made biofuel. Fans can track his progress by following his Twitter account @AustinDillon3.

“I’m glad I can show my fans how important the environment is,” said Dillon. “Driving on, and supporting, American Ethanol, a cleaner, homegrown, renewable fuel, is a key part of our future. The road trip to Eldora Speedway in a Chevrolet Flex Fuel Tahoe, visit to the Portland, Indiana, POET Biorefining plant, social media interaction with my fans and this Wednesday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway in the No. 39 American Ethanol Chevrolet Silverado all help highlight the benefits of running E15.”

Dillon drove the No. 39 American Ethanol Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing in the Inaugural Mudsummer Classic NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway on Wednesday evening, where Dillon’s race car was fueled by Sunoco Green E15. Dillion took top honors with a win for him, and for ethanol.

“It was a real honor for us to be able to meet Austin today,” POET Portland General Manager Matt Tomano said. “He and others in NASCAR are doing a great job demonstrating that E15 is a high-performance fuel that’s good for America. We are proud to be doing our part in producing that biofuel.”

N.C. Biofuels Center To Shutter Its Windows

According to an article in the Triangle Business Journal, the N.C. Biofuels Center will close down “within weeks” as lawmakers moved to vote on a state budget that cuts off its $2 million in annual state funding. The facility is focused on conducting research on Thin BF_logo4c_URLtransportation fuels derived from cellulosic grasses and other non-food crops. In addition to state funding, the center also receives funds from out-of-state biofuel companies.

According to Wil Glenn, N.C. Biofuels Center spokesman, It’s a nominally independent nonprofit corporation, but its budget has come almost entirely from annual appropriations by the N.C. General Assembly.

However, according to Anne Tazewell, who leads the Clean Transportation Program at the N.C. Solar Center, a division within N.C. State University, a provision of the state budget would fund five new positions to conduct biofuels research at the Agriculture Department.

EPA Can Fix RFS Problems

hearing-martinThere may be some issues with the Renewable Fuel Standard that need to be addressed, but they could be done at the administrative level, rather than repealing the entire law or having Congress make changes. That according to a Senior Scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists Clean Vehicles Program.

Dr. Jeremy Martin testified at a House Energy subcommittee hearing this week that they believe the RFS is an important policy tool and should remain in place and no legislative changes should be made to it. “Fortunately the RFS was designed with a great deal of flexibility,” Dr. Martin said. “We’re not moving forward as fast as we hoped to be in 2007 but the RFS is still pointing us in the right direction.”

Martin noted that the real goal of the RFS is to move beyond corn-based ethanol into advanced and cellulosic biofuels, but that can only be achieved if the law remains in place. “The RFS is based on smart goals, not just more biofuels but better biofuels,” he said, noting that repeal or legislative changes “would lock in place the status quo of 90% gasoline and 10% corn ethanol and chill investment in cellulosic biofuels just as the first commercial facilities are starting up.”

Dr. Martin and other witnesses, including Bob Dinneen with the Renewable Fuels Association and Mike McAdams of the Advanced Biofuels Association, pointed out that several commercial advanced biofuels facilities are starting up or under construction now.

Listen to Martin’s testimony here: Dr. Jeremy Martin, UCS